People do have clear pressure preferences: they often fire massage therapists who give treatments that are too painful or too fluffy. Pressure that’s fine for you may cause severe pain, emotional distress, “sensory injury” (sensitization) in others, or even physical injury, so pressure should be customized but often isn’t. Brutal massages might be appreciated or even helpful, but most people can’t tell the difference between the kind of pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive and dangerous.
Even if you do yoga, meditate and perform other stress-reducing activities, calm may allude you. Instead of getting a prescription for Xanax, try a natural supplement to relax. There are several herbs you can take in a nice cup of tea that could give you the sedative effect you need during times of hardship. Examples of such herbs are Chamomile, Valerian, and Kava. Generally, one teaspoon of dried herbs or three tablespoons of fresh herb to one cup of water is a beneficial amount. Most herbs should steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing hope to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and thoughts of suicide. It also invests directly into treatment and recovery. TWLOHA connects people to treatment centers and resources such as websites, books and support groups. It also helps people share their experiences and have honest conversations with each other. It’s a community that can help each other in so many ways.
We usually need to relax when we are feeling tense, anxious, or angry. Part of these feelings are due to an activation of something called the sympathetic nervous system, which includes parts of your brain that detect and respond to threats and stress. Without getting too deep into the physiology, when you are tense, anxious, or angry, your sympathetic nervous system is activated, and your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your blood pressure increases, your digestion stops, your muscles tense, your circulation changes, stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline, among others) are released in your blood stream, and your thoughts speed up and focus on a target (read more about that in Three Frames of Mind). When this is happening, our bodies feel unpleasant and we look for ways to feel better.
Massage reduces cortisol. This is a much more specific idea than “massage reduces stress.” Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is justifiably perceived as a villain, and reducing it is often touted as a meaningful rescue from being run-down, chronically anxious or depressed, or in pain. Unfortunately, the evidence that massage actually does anything helpful to cortisol production is conflicting and inconclusive at best, and commonly cited research to support it has major flaws.63 Even in the unlikely event that massage actually does reduce cortisol levels, the phsyiology of stress is much too complex to assume cortisol reduction is in itself a meaningful, good thing. Cortisol levels after a massage do not give a meaningful picture of the organism, and there is no direct relationship between a temporary cortisol reduction and any health benefit. What matters is cortisol levels over time, but even that isn’t exactly straightforward: stress and cortisol have a complex and chaotic relationship regulated by many variables out of our control.
In the Thai language it is usually called nuat phaen thai (Thai: นวดแผนไทย; lit. 'Thai-style massage') or nuat phaen boran (Thai: นวดแผนโบราณ, IPA: [nûət pʰɛ̌ːn boːraːn]; lit. 'ancient-style massage'), though its formal name is nuat thai (Thai: นวดไทย, lit. 'Thai massage') according to the Traditional Thai Medical Professions Act, BE 2556 (2013).
Sports Massage can be characterized two ways: pre-activity and post-activity massage. Pre-activity uses dynamic stretching to allow the connective tissue to work through a full range of motion, thereby reducing possible injury. Post-activity massage focuses on recovering the muscle tissue that may have been impacted doing the particular sport. It involves long strokes to flush out the toxins that causes soreness in the muscles and joints.
One risk is clearly neurological and complex: some people are basically sitting ducks for the well-documented and nasty phenomenon of “central sensitization,” and indeed may already be in pain and seeking help because of it. A strong massage can severely aggravate that situation, with long term and extremely unfortunate consequences. It’s rare, but it happens. The typical clinical scenario here is a gung-ho under-trained therapist over-treating someone in, say, the early stages of fibromyalgia. Bad, bad, bad.
Really, stop and smell ’em. Certain odors can change our mood, and it’s hard to feel angry or upset with a nose full of roses The impact of natural odors on affective states in humans. Weber, S.T., Heuburger, E. Department of Clinical pharmacy and Diagnostics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Chemial Senses 2008;33(5):441-7.. Keep a fresh jar of your favorite flowers near your workspace or in the living room, and take a whiff whenever anxiety strikes.
I love this series by Thich Nhat Hanh. Great size and good for gifting, as its a small, compact book. I bought it to give to my dad but ending up holding on to it for a while to read myself! Very easy to read and great mantras and thoughts inside. Good intro for mindfulness for anyone not familiar with the author's other works. I am not a fan of 'how to' books but I am hooked on this series. Highly recommend.
On the other hand, hands-on experience is valuable too, and anyone who’s had a good massage is certainly familiar with the seemingly magical way that a therapist can find the perfect spots and “good pain.” An inability to reliably find something does not mean it can’t be done. And the main reason no treatment has ever been proven effective is mostly a lack of good science on the subject — it’s just unknown.
Many studies done by the Touch Research Institute19 — although almost certainly of generally low quality and strongly biased in favour of massage20 — show many other broadly defined modest benefits to massage therapy in many circumstances — everything from rheumatoid (bad) arthritis21 to cancer22 to autism.23 In a recent study in Annals of Internal Medicine, both massage and ordinary, simple touching have been shown to help cancer patients — indicating that massage was helpful and yet unremarkable at the same time.24 (A more recent and better-designed Korean study was even more encouraging, showing that massage was quite a bit more helpful for patients with the deep, grinding pain of bone cancer than simply receiving compassionate attention.25)
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.
“Light a candle or two by your bed. Turn off the other lights. Stretch across your bed, taking your time, exaggerating your movements. Feel the cool sheets against your body. Moving slowly, open a book of poetry (or an uplifting…book), and slowly read a page. Allow the wisdom and beauty of what you are reading to enter your mind. Put the book aside. Take a minute to concentrate on the candle flame. Blow out the candle, and curl into peaceful sleep.”
Your brain listens to you. So talk to yourself even though you may not feel completely convinced on what you are talking about. Like affirmations, you can trick the brain into believing positive things and what works for you. This ‘fake it until you make it’ tactic takes a while to get used to, but could prove to be very beneficial in the long run.
Manual therapists routinely claim that their services are much safer and more effective than drug therapies. Yet this data pretty clearly shows that the difference is really not great. Depending on how you look at it, drugs are only a little worse in some ways, or maybe a little better in other ways. But no matter how you slice it, 20-40% is a pretty unpleasant rate of harm — especially at $60–120/hour!
It’s a fair question. Despite the lack of direct evidence, massage has often gotten a stamp of approval from medical experts. For instance, back pain expert Dr. Richard Deyo: while openly skeptical about most other back pain therapies, but acknowledges that “promising preliminary results of clinical trials suggest that research on massage should be assigned a high priority.”45
Stressed? Me? Ha! Laughter’s one of the sillier ways to beat stress, but there’s science behind it Humor and Laughter May Influence Health. Bennett, M.P., Lengacher, C.A. Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine 2006;3(1):61-3.. A fit of hysterics can increase blood flow and boost immunity. Keep a book of jokes handy in the desk drawer or check out a hilarious YouTube video (maybe a piano-playing pug?) for a quick pick-me-up.
Perspective cuts both ways here. On the one hand, it’s not as bad as it sounds: these “events” are minor and moderate in severity; only 1 or 2 per thousand visits causes a serious problem; and drugs are actually relatively worse. That is, you are modestly more likely to have an “adverse event” if you are given a pill. This just refers to typical side effects, such as ibuprofen’s tendency to cause indigestion.
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Massage therapists who have received specialized training and are certified in prenatal massage know how to position and support the woman's body during the massage, modify techniques, and avoid certain areas and techniques during pregnancy. Most will have a special table that allows the woman to rest comfortably and safely during the massage. Ideally, you should seek out a practitioner who is experienced and licensed in prenatal massage.
It is frequently asserted that massage therapy (MT) reduces cortisol levels, and that this mechanism is the cause of MT benefits including relief from anxiety, depression, and pain, but reviews of MT research are not in agreement on the existence or magnitude of such a cortisol reduction effect, or the likelihood that it plays such a causative role. A definitive quantitative review of MT's effect on cortisol would be of value to MT research and practice.
One study found that listening to music before a typical stressful situation made it easier for the nervous system to recover when compared to not listening to music before the event. This was measured by monitoring cortisol hormone levels, heart rates, as well as reported levels of stress and anxiety. In fact, there's a whole area of treatment, called music therapy, that's dedicated to using music as a way to supplement other medical treatments.
2. Grounding: the second step helps shift your attention to how you are connected to your environment. Since relaxation is a physiological process, it is important to direct your attention to your senses. So for this step, intentionally notice ways you are connected to your surroundings. For me right now, that would mean I intentionally notice my feet on the floor, my back against the chair, and how my sweater feels on my arms.
We often forget to focus on the simplest, shortest (and one of the most restorative) activities available to us: our breath. Yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley suggested taking five deep breaths. “As you do, notice the natural pause between your inhale and exhale, and then between your exhale and your next inhale. Your body has a built-in break — how great is that?!”
The therapist might use Swedish massage to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids, and trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles), and stretching to increase the range of motion. Other techniques could include myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and orthopedic assessment. The therapist should also have a good foundation in hydrotherapy modalities including cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which can help with recovery, repair and healing processes.
Meditation in its purest form involves focusing on one thing to clear your mind. Usually done in a quiet room, it calms the mind and the body — and can get your mind off your pain. Meditation sounds easier than it is, however, and distraction is usually a problem for beginners. Try following a recorded guided meditation, or seek the guidance of an experienced meditation teacher.
Researchers compared the effects of garden-variety relaxation massage — classic Swedish — with allegedly more advanced “structural” massage, consisting of an assortment of typical treatment methods. The results were the same, showing clearly that a typical selection of structuralist massage techniques was not one stitch more effective than simple relaxation massage.
But logistics, economics, and devilish details get in the way. Not many scientists are interested in studying massage, while massage therapists don’t have scientific training. It’s an expensive and overwhelming challenge for a massage therapist to make room in their career for some research — few do it, and hardly any have ever done it well. Even when they do, you’d be amazed how hard it is to even find 100 people with the same problem, so studies of that size are almost never done: instead you get studies of 20 or 30 patients, which isn’t generally enough to prove much. Another challenge is that “massage” can mean so many things that it’s hard to know what is even really being studied (lack of standardization of treatment).4
Traditionally designed to apply pressure to layers of muscle, tendons and other tissues deep under the skin, deep tissue massage can be very effective in relieving problem areas and is highly therapeutic. Deep tissue massage is generally a modality to consider for athletes as well as the eight-to-five desk job. Muscles easily become tense and deep tissue massage can relieve some chronic patterns of pain and tension, specifically in the back, shoulder and neck areas.
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Practice meditation, or try rejoicing, meditative prayer. This is the process of clearing your mind by focusing on a specific thought, place, word(s), color or object. To meditate, sit (kneel or lie) in a comfortable position and think (or pray) about one specific thing. It may take upwards of ten minutes in order to completely clear your mind, but that is normal.
The owner of the school collected (and sold) crystals, and used them for healing purposes. I ended up amassing quite a collection of my own, using them to do chakra balances on people, performing psychic surgery with them, and any number of woo procedures. I also purchased magnetic pads for my massage table. I attended homeopathy workshops. I got heavily into essential oils, which I still love and use today—with the caveat that while I think many of them are useful as folk remedies for various simple ailments, I’m not going to advise someone with cancer that they can cure it with an oil, which unbelievably, I notice massage therapists doing all the time—and worse—on social media.