Craniosacral therapy is another classic example — popular for decades, it is a touch therapy, not “massage,” and it has never enjoyed any respect from the majority of doctors or scientists. It has even been criticized by many alternative health professionals.36 And yet it is sold with overconfidence by countless manual therapists as though it were proven effective.
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I am also a triathlon coach and personal trainer, so I mix and match my appointments every week in between massage sessions and coaching and training sessions with my clients. I typically have between five and eight massage sessions per day, four to five days per week. There are typically two sports massage sessions per day. Most massage sessions include corrective exercise review so the client knows what self-care they should perform.
A satisfying sensation doesn’t necessarily imply successful treatment, unfortunately. Scratching mosquito bites feels great… but it’s not helping them! Trigger points may be like mosquito bites: it may feel terrific to massage those mysterious sensitive spots in soft tissue, but it may not be doing much to actually “release” or resolve them. It may be a purely sensory experience, the satisfaction of dealing with an “itch” that we cannot easily reach on our own.
It is hard to study what you can’t define … and it is extremely difficult to define massage precisely. Many possible questions arise! What kind of massage therapy? What methods? Could a combination of methods be effective where another combination fails? How well trained is the therapist? Are “advanced” techniques better than relaxation and Swedish techniques? Or maybe the basics are the basics because they really work? How much massage therapy? Could five sessions succeed where two would fail? Is one appointment “massage therapy,” or does it really need more? Could nine sessions actually be better still? Or perhaps counterproductive? Can anything be done with short sessions, or are long ones needed? If massage works, how much of the benefit can be attributed to non-massage elements like bedside manner, relaxation, and reassurance? How much do those factors define massage? What if massage didn’t work at all, or very poorly, without them? Would that mean “massage” works because it’s a great way of delivering a nice experience? Or that nice experiences “work” and the massage is irrelevant? What if massage therapy of a certain type for a specific condition was only effective 20% of the time? 60%? 80%? At what point is it “worth a shot”? (And worth the expense?)
There is always classical music. Some classical music can be rather intense, especially full symphonic music that was made in the 20th century such as Shostakovitch. To relax, it is best to listen to solo instruments or smaller ensemble classical music, such as music from the Baroque and Classical periods (for example Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi).
Specialized massage tables and chairs are used to position recipients during massages. A typical commercial massage table has an easily cleaned, heavily padded surface, and a horseshoe-shaped head support that allows the client to breathe easily while lying face down and can be stationary or portable, while home versions are often lighter weight or designed to fold away easily. An orthopedic pillow or bolster can be used to correct body positioning.
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Dr. Stephen Barrett is a prominent anti-quackery activist. In an article on his popular website, QuackWatch, Barrett condemns common non-massage practices in massage therapy, but not massage itself: “ordinary massage and the legitimate practice of massage therapy should not be categorized as quackery.”47 That’s surprising tolerance from such a fierce critic of questionable health care.
A great may of the massage modality empires are based on a basic guiding principle or school of thought I call “structuralism” — an excessive preoccupation with biomechanical and postural factors in pain problems, AKA the biomechanical bogeymen. Structuralist techniques are all fixated to some degree on straightening or improving your meat, because they believe that you are crooked or unbalanced in some way. This notion is easy to sell, but the entire school of thought has little merit. It is debatable at best — and debunked nonsense at worst. This is another topic I have covered in (great) detail in another article: Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment: Debunking the obsession with alignment, posture, and other biomechanical bogeymen as major causes of pain.
Is there any simpler way to relax? Slow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate Efficacy of the controlled breathing on stress: biological correlates. Cea Ugarte, J.I., Gonzales-Pinto Arrillaga, A., Cabo Gonzales, O.M. Universidad Pais Vaso, Escuela de Enfermeria. Revista de Enfermeria 2010;33(5):58-54.. For the fancy noses out there, try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique’s supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body (and possibly eliminating the need for a tissue).
Many training programs are now available throughout the world that require a minimum of 500 hours of basic massage therapy training, in addition to continuing education credits that can require up to another 400–500 hours. (19) Always make sure you’re “in good hands” by first checking that a therapist has proper qualifications and experience, specifically asking about training in NMT, trigger point therapy, sports massage, pain management, myofascial release and orthopedic massage.
I’ve often said that massage therapy research is in its early stages. And after thinking about that more today, I’ve realized it’s worse than that. Massage therapy research is stunted, and not showing signs that it is ready to progress. Some might disagree, and would point to the increasing number of massage therapy studies. (I’ve charted it myself in at least one paper I’ve published, and there is no doubt that the number of papers on the subject is increasing.) But I would counter by noting that there is no discussion in the field. The studies are conducted and published in isolation. They are not often being critiqued, and researchers with different theories and perspectives are not addressing each other in the literature or even at conferences.
A boyfriend or girlfriend is okay, but they’re (usually) not furry enough. After a rough day, snuggle up with a pet for an instant slobbery smile, since pets can boost self-esteem and even ease the sting of social rejection Friends with benefits: on the consequences of pet ownership. McDonnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M. Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, OH. Journal of Personaality and Social Psychology 2011;101(6):1239-52..
Provided for mommies-to-be from 14 weeks to labor. Pre-natal massages are a wonderful way to relieve the aches and pains and stresses of pregnancy. Given in a safe and comfortable side-lying position, this session allows you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of every day life and focuses on YOU. *High risk pregnancies will require a doctor's release.
Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length.
At certain times during the massage, you may feel some discomfort or even some pain as the massage therapist works on areas where there are adhesions or scar tissue. Pain isn't necessarily good, and it's not a sign that the massage will be effective. In fact, your body may tense up in response to pain, making it harder for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.
An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.
Surround yourself with positive affirmations and inspiration. Find quotes that help you feel better by inspiring you and post them where you can see them easily. Watch motivational videos and listen to inspirational music. Find (or create!) your own favorite positive affirmations. Hang them on your mirror or your workstation and read and repeat them several times a day. Or just make them your desktop or phone’s wallpaper to keep yourself inspired and motivated at all times.
And it was really a lot of massage (expensive in the real world). And the pure “kinesiotherapy” treatment was super basic — this control group barely did more than wiggle their toes and clench their thighs, so it’s hardly surprising that they didn’t improve much. I wish the study had included a third group doing more exercise, perhaps a half hour of brisk walking per day. I think there’s an excellent chance walkers would have performed as well or even far better than massage. And walking is notably a lot cheaper than massage.
4. Erase Optional Stressors. Some experiences that cause anxiety can't be avoided. For instance, if you don't get along swimmingly with your boss or if you're struggling to deal with a medical condition, there isn't too much you can do about that. Some stress, on the other hand, is purely optional. So identify things that rile you up that you can nix. Does Facebook—or even a certain “friend”— always spike your blood pressure? Ban yourself from logging in, or at least un-follow friends whose political rants always make your shoulders get tense. Say no to coffee with that toxic frenemy. Don’t watch the evening news. You get the idea!
In Germany massage is regulated by the government on a federal and national level. Only someone who has completed 3,200 hours of training (theoretical and practical) can use the professional title "Masseur und Medizinischer Bademeister" or Medical Masseur and Spa Therapist. This person can prolong his training depending on the length of professional experience to a Physiotherapist (1 year to 18 months additional training). The Masseur is trained in Classical Massage, Myofascial Massage, Exercise and Movement Therapy. During the training they will study: Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Gynecology, Podiatry, Psychiatry, Psychology, Surgery, and probably most importantly Dermiatry and Orthopedics. They are trained in Electrotherapy, and Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy includes: Kneipp, Wraps, underwater Massage, therapeutic washing, Sauna and Steambath. A small part of their training will include special forms of massage which are decided by the local college, for example: Foot reflex zone massage, Thai Massage etc. Finally a graduate is allowed to treat patients under the direction of a doctor. He is regulated by the professional body which regulates Physiotherapists. This includes the restriction on advertising and oath of confidentiality to clients.
Thinking about something other than your stress or your pain can help you feel better. Guided imagery takes us to a happy place, but you don’t need to take a 30-minute journey to get there. When you feel stressed, stop what you are doing and picture yourself doing something relaxing, like taking a bath, swimming in the ocean or resting on a hammock. Imagine the scene as vividly as you can. Go there anytime you need to “escape.”
When you think of a massage, you probably think of soothing music, a gentle brush of hands softly kneading the stress from your shoulders, maybe even of a loved one offering to rub your back after a long day at work. While some massages can be soothing, and rely on gentle touches to work out a client’s stress or anxiety, there are other massages that have a little more grit to them. For example, the Deep Tissue massage, which is very similar in style to the Swedish massage, utilizes some of the same techniques as its much gentler cousin; Deep Tissue massages, however, are designed to focus on the deeper layers of muscle tissues and fascia, the protective layer that surrounds muscles and joints. Working out these harder to reach muscles will require more pressure, making the Deep Tissue massage slightly uncomfortable, gritty and highly effective.
The constipation claim is another good example of something that’s probably as clinically trivial as it is certain. Who the hell thinks, “I haven’t had a crap in days: I guess I’d better buy a professional massage!” (I might rub my own belly.) In ten years working as an RMT, I think I did that kind of abdominal massage maybe a half dozen times — demand for the service was rather low. I’ve been writing about the science of massage even longer, and this is literally the first time the word “constipation” has ever appeared on this website — because who cares?
In short, yes. An athlete’s medical condition and history should not be discussed with anyone except other trainers or coaches. There is nothing the media likes more than to hear a high profile athlete is sick or injured, so those discussions don’t happen outside of closed doors. The athlete is the only person who should be deciding what information they want to share.
Although a lot of Bastian 2014 is certainly relevant to the concept of “good pain,” strictly speaking I don’t think they are writing about the good pain paradox, which is defined by simultaneous pleasure and pain. They are writing about pleasure following pain (relief from pain). This is more comfortable scientific ground: it’s pretty straightforward that relief from pain might be “associated with positive consequences” or lead to “activation of the brain’s reward circuitry,” for instance. Lance a boil, then feel better, right? Of course. But that’s definitely not what we mean by “good pain” in massage. BACK TO TEXT
When the body is experiencing pain, it reacts with tension. During a deep tissue massage, discomfort is normal and will be felt if there are inconsistencies within the tissues. Discomfort is described as a "good hurt", the kind that feels good at the same time. On the other hand, pain can be described as being uncomfortable and not tolerated well by the body.
Shoulder pain. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reports that shoulder pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, affecting as many as 66.7 percent of the population. The study goes on to say that massage therapy can often help reduce this type of pain, sometimes in a matter of days, though 36 sessions appeared to offer the greatest level of relief.
I have been talking about this error for years, and have even published a paper on it. I critiqued a single example of it, and then discussed how the problem was rampant in massage therapy research. Based on the Nieuwenhuis paper, apparently it’s rampant elsewhere as well, and that is really unfortunate. Knowing the difference between a within-group result and a between-groups result is basic stuff.
Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.
While this is practically a no-brainer, it’s still important to note that exercising is an excellent way to get rid of stress. Find the type of exercise that suits you and makes you happy doing it. Some people find walking or jogging very relaxing while others like to dance or lift weights. Find a physical exercise that suits you and raise your heart rate around 20-30 minutes every day. Simple ways to increase exercise are to take the stairs, and park farther away so you have to walk further. Look for opportunities to walk and move at home, school or on the job.
Good massage therapists are the ones with more training and a bigger toolkit. They do what they can with the tools they judge to be the most useful, and they candidly discuss risks, benefits, evidence, and controversies. They don’t just pay lip service to humility as a general principle of alternative medicine — they make it a centerpiece, recognizing that they really are not trained enough to know much.
While there are numerous benefits to this branch of massage, elementsmassage.com reminds you that it is important to keep your expectations for the treatment reasonable. While Deep Tissue massages use more pressure to reach deeper muscle tissues and often yield immediately noticeable results, asking your therapist to apply more pressure and gritting your way through pain will do more damage than good. If you are in pain, your muscles will begin to contract, making the therapist’s efforts moot. Applying more pressure will not speed up the process. Like any treatment, Deep Tissue massages need time to be effective. Keep in mind that the injury or muscle tension that you are hoping to get resolved has had a great deal of time to form; it will take time to undo the damage. Like any treatment, often the therapy will not be enough; including other changes to your life style, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or working on posture in addition to your massage appointments will help move the process along and help you see faster and longer lasting results.