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.
There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, a book by Janet Travell, David Simons, and Lois Simons. amazon.com The ultimate myofascial pain syndrome reference, the product of decades of extraordinary dedication by two doctors famously devoted to the subject of soft tissue pain. The two-volume set is also brilliantly illustrated. The introductory chapters constitute an excellent overview of the subject, albeit a dauntingly technical one. Note: although a landmark and important text, more recent information has been published in Muscle Pain: Understanding its nature, diagnosis and treatment by Siegfried Mense and David Simons.
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.
Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
Each of your feet contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Oh, and the soles of your feet have over 20,000 nerve endings. Researchers believe going barefoot keeps the information highway to your brain open and refreshed, so kick off your shoes, put your feet on the floor, and walk around to feel the full effects.
Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you're looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.
If you’re going to unwind or just to work out the kinks, make sure you find the right massage for your needs. Often they can be customized to address any concerns you may have and to make the massage perfect for you. Wear what feels comfortable to get the most out of your experience and be sure to speak up about what feels good and what doesn’t - this experience is all about you! Find out what type of massage is right for you in our comprehensive guide.
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Everything you feel isn’t necessarily correct or factual. Negative feelings bubble up sometimes with little warning. Remember fear is often F(alse) E(vidence) A(ppearing) R(eal). Remind yourself to go one step at a time. Be confident and replace the negative feelings by focusing on something you enjoy. Practice by noticing things around you that give you a sense of wonder and beauty. A painting in the hall…the cat sleeping in the sun…your dog’s cheerful greeting. Anything that creates positive feelings for you will work. Then when the negative stuff seeps up, counter it with a positive memory.
Unfortunately, such massage therapists are quite rare. Most are poorly trained and uncertified. Most work in spas or resorts and on cruise ships, doing treatments that are infamously fluffy and skin deep, with little therapeutic value other than the comfort of a quiet hour of touching (even though many patients find skin-deep massage to be more annoying than anything else). Most of these therapists are earnest and view themselves as medical semi-professionals, despite their comparative lack of training. It’s actually inappropriate to call them “therapists” at all, and in some places (here) it’s actually illegal — they have to use terms like “bodyworker” or “masseuse.”