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)
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Maintenance sports massage is done at least once a week as a regular part of athletic training programs, although professional athletes who have their own massage therapists may have maintenance massage daily. Maintenance massage increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles. It also keeps the tissues loose so that different layers of muscle slide easily over each other. Maintenance sports massage also helps reduce the development of scar tissue while increasing flexibility and range of motion.
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Post-event massage is usually given 1–2 hours after the competition is over in order to give dilated blood vessels a chance to return to their normal condition. Post-event massage is light and gentle in order not to damage already stressed muscles. The goal is to speed up removal of toxic waste products and reduce swelling. Very light effleurage will decrease swelling while light petrissage will help clear away toxins and relieve tense, stiff muscles. Post-event massage can be self-administered on some parts of the body, such as the legs.
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!
You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries.
Pre-event sports massage is done to help prevent serious athletic injury. It helps to warm up the muscles, stretching them and making them flexible for optimal athletic performance. A pre-event massage stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles, reduces muscle tension, loosens the muscles, and produces a feeling of psychological readiness.
There are many types of massage therapy, from classics like Swedish and deep tissue to more exotic styles like shiatsu. Whether you'd like to branch out a bit or have a health condition or injury, choosing a style of massage can be confusing if you're not quite sure what it involves. Here is a list of the most popular types of massage (including some that may be new to you).
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.
Massage-StLouis.com [Internet]. Sanvito A. How Does Massage Work?; 2016 December 31 [cited 17 Feb 28]. While the skin is indeed “the surface of the brain,” there are of course many sensory receptors in deep tissues as well. Massage therapy mainly interacts with the nervous system via the skin, which is extremely richly innervated, and the importance of this is often underestimated or discounted entirely … but it’s not limited to that. For instance, I’ve always particularly loved having my joints moved passively, which creates a flood of proprioception — movement/position sensation — that my brain didn’t initiate, which feels weird in a delicious way. BACK TO TEXT
This alternative medicine form is a component of Chinese medicine involving thin needles inserted into the body at certain points known as meridians. This is an ancient healing modality that can be used solely or in conjunction with other treatments. There’s ample research evidence to indicate that Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for anxiety.
Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension. You can get a massage at any time during your pregnancy. However, many facilities, especially in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage during this time.
Yes, certainly it is a bit exaggerated. It could be a lot worse — hey, at least it’s got references! But it could be a lot better. Citing single cherry-picked studies to support broad treatment claims is weak sauce, even if the picks are good (and clearly not all of these are). The evidence and claims here that are stronger are also less important … and those that are more clinically important are also less sound.
Doctors think looking up health information online can be problematic because the computer doesn’t have the same diagnostic skills as a healthcare professional. Physicians determine whether an issue is serious by considering personal factors like a patient’s family history and age. (Wrinkles at age five isn’t normal— sorry, Benjamin Button.) On the other hand, when someone searches for “headaches” online, they may find several sources suggesting they are suffering from something much worse…
For instance, basic research has shown that touch is neurologically complex and probably has many physiological effects. Skin is fantastically rich in nerve endings — up to about 10,000 per square centimetre9 — and in 2009, Swedish researchers identified specialized nerve fibers that respond only to light stroking of a certain speed.10 This reinforces the obvious: massage can provide people with a rich and novel sensory experience, which could be a major mechanism for pain relief and other therapeutic benefits. If massage works, it’s mainly because of the neurology of touch (as opposed to, say, changing tissues).11
Many students at my school were actually angry that things like therapeutic touch were even being taught. I recall some heated debates between skeptical students and more “open-minded” instructors and school officials. It may surprise you to hear that I was not one of the skeptics back in those days — it was only just starting for me then. BACK TO TEXT
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In the US, licensure is the highest level of regulation and this restricts anyone without a license from practicing massage therapy or by calling themselves that protected title. Certification allows only those who meet certain educational criteria to use the protected title and registration only requires a listing of therapists who apply and meet an educational requirement. It is important to note that a massage therapist may be certified, but not licensed. Licensing requirements vary per state, and often require additional criteria be met in addition to attending an accredited massage therapy school and passing a required state specified exam (basically the certification requirements in many states). In the US, most certifications are locally based. However, as of March 2014, some states still do not require a license or a certification. However, this is thought to change eventually as more regulatory bodies governing the profession of massage are established in each state. Furthermore, some states allow license reciprocity where massage therapists who relocate can relatively easily obtain a license in their new state. Not all states provide this option.
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Two general effects [of massage, MT] are well-supported by scientific data and widely agreed-upon by MT researchers. Quantitative research reviews show that a series of MT treatments consistently produces sizable reductions of depression in adult recipients. The effects of MT on anxiety are even better understood. Single sessions of MT significantly reduce state anxiety, the momentary emotional experiences of apprehension, tension, and worry in both adults and in children, and multiple sessions of MT, performed over a period of days or weeks, significantly reduce trait anxiety, the normally stable individual tendency to experience anxiety states, to an impressive degree in adults.
Therapeutic massage is expensive but popular and pleasant, with obvious subjective value, and proven benefit for anxiety and depression … but no other clear biological or medical effects. Most notably, the evidence that massage can help back and neck pain is sketchy, and there is no reason to believe that massage can help much with any other common musculoskeletal pain problem.
In any case, the whole notion that you want or need to get rid of lactic acid in the first place is just bogus. Lactic acid is not the cause of muscle pain at any time except the immediate aftermath of intense exercise (and probably not even then). Research has shown that muscle fatigue and the “burn” that you feel as you exercise intensely is probably caused by calcium physiology, not an accumulation of lactic acid.67 In particular, lactic acid does not cause soreness the day after exercise — yet another myth, and a particularly bad one that will just not die!68
Sports massage can be an interesting career choice for therapists who want to do it full time. Professional sports teams often have massage therapists on staff to keep athletes' bodies working at their very best. It helps to have a keen interest in anatomy and physiology, advanced training and experience in sports massage, an interest in sports, and a desire to work with athletes.
Water is life. While dehydration may affect anxiety in a variety of ways, the clearest link is that when the body is dehydrated, it starts to function improperly. Hormones are unable to reach their destined locations because of poor blood flow. Muscles may tense up and at the same time, your brain may experience weakness or changes as a result of water loss. In other words, stay hydrated!
Commit to a regular enjoyable activity, like a monthly racquetball game or cooking class, with your partner or friends. "You're more likely to follow through on a commitment to someone else than to yourself," notes Schulte. "It leaves you no choice but to relax!" One of the rare times when I truly unwind: my bimonthly girls' game night, where we play Scattergories, snack extensively, and laugh our heads off. But thanks to all this inspiration, I no longer have to wait weeks to relax for real.
It seems like relaxing is something everyone should be able to do, but those of us who are constantly stressed, are workaholics, or have certain health issues don't have an easy "off" switch. Relaxation is something we actually have to learn and practice, much like happiness. And, like happiness, learning to relax is extremely important for your health and well-being. Let's take a look at the ways we can beat chronic tension and finally slow down.
A 2014 Chinese review of studies by Li et al48 is a good example of what a shabby state massage therapy research is in. Let me be clear up front: I don’t think this paper actually proves anything one way or the other. I think it’s straightforwardly inconclusive. It has a positive sounding conclusion that isn’t really justified and there are major caveats. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go get me some massage if I had fibromyalgia. I probably would! But that’s another story. This is about the science, so here goes:
Thai massage typically works with compression — rhythmic pressing movements directed into muscle tissues by either the hand or fingers. Thai massage usually takes place on a futon mat on the floor, with the client wearing loose or stretchy clothing like yoga gear. The therapist is also on the mat and moves your body into various stretches and positions, without any work on your part. This is why it is sometimes called "lazy man's yoga". Thai massage can be both relaxing and energizing, so it is a good choice if you want to be active after your massage.
The Touch Research Institute has conducted about many dozens of small studies showing the positive effects of massage and touch therapies on many conditions. It’s all a little too good to be true (or all true). I think the Touch Research Institute designs studies in such a way that a positive spin on touch therapy is inevitable. For instance, many of their papers are particularly afflicted by two statistical errors: confusing statistical and clinical significance (or just ignoring the difference when convenient), and comparing the wrong things to arrive at so-called “significance” (see Statistical Significance Abuse: A lot of research makes scientific evidence seem more “significant” than it is.) Also, conclusions in the abstracts of these papers are often so broadly stated as to be uninteresting: one of their studies concludes, for instance, that the subjects “report satisfaction.” Satisfaction is not a meaningful outcome. People are often satisfied with snake oil — that doesn’t mean it works! Some of these scientific papers seem more like press releases, produced by a professional association to promote the profession of massage therapy. I no longer take TRI studies seriously. BACK TO TEXT
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Most other evidence about massage benefits is indirect and/or so weak it’s meaningless. For instance, there are a few scraps of evidence — not nearly enough, but better than nothing — that rubbing and stretching soft tissue can reduce joint pain and stiffness.8 (Note that stiffness is a symptom, a sensation of discomfort with movement that may or may not involve any actually limited movement. See Why Do Muscles Feel Stiff and Tight?.)
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)
Beyonce, Blondie, or the Biebster, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If you’re in a public place (that isn’t the opera), just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood Relaxing music prevents stress-induced increases in subjective anxiety, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate in healthy males and females. Knight, W.E., Rickard, N.S. Monash University, Victoria, Australia. Journal of Music Therapy 2001;38(4):254-72.. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
Thai massage also enhances the circulatory system. It increases the circulation in the body. With increased circulation, more oxygen will be brought to the brain. This will lower the number of migraines and headaches the individual suffers from. Increased circulation will lower the chances of blood clotting in the arteries. Thai massage will rejuvenate and refresh you. It will help you think clearer because you will feel better after it.
Sports massage has become an integral part of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college training rooms, to professional locker rooms to Olympic training. Growing number of trainers believe that massage can provide an extra edge to the athletes who participate in high performance sports. Massage has become a necessary ingredient for a complete workout. More and more people are realizing that a complete workout routine includes not only the exercise itself, but also caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement. The physiological and psychological benefits of massage make it an ideal complement to a total conditioning program.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies. Because deep-tissue massage increases the flow of blood through through the body, it helps reduce the inflammation that causes pain. Deep-tissue massage can also help alleviate muscle tension that is often a side effect of chronic pain by loosening the tight tissue clusters.
Unsurprisingly, the conclusions here are superficially positive: massage “significantly improved pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with FM.” But that’s statistical significance only, not a clinically significant degree of improvement: the size of the effect is trivial (much smaller than amplitude of the noise in the data). As usual, using the word “significantly” this way is technically correct and defensible, but otherwise misleading to all but the most alert readers.
When travelling with USA Swimming, a typical day for Olympic Trials, which is a 10-day trip, usually looks like the following: Arrive at pool by 9 a.m. to start 20-minute massage sessions for athletes. Break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch and return to pool by 4 p.m. for finals at 6 to 8:30 p.m. Massage athletes after finals at pool from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
Everyone I know, including myself, is busy and distracted on an infinite loop. It’s a curious conundrum, considering we’re all armed with more than enough information on how to de-stress. But the “surprising benefits” of exercise, meditation and work-life balance, documented ad nauseam, are beginning to feel like drawn-out humblebrags. Sometimes, they just seem insurmountable. And try as we might to convince ourselves that binge-watching TV helps, I don’t know anyone who feels refreshed after two+ episodes.
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