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)
Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects.
This seems like a fairly straightforward bit of good-news science about stretching. It’s not a surprising idea that movement would have some systemic regulatory effects (motion is lotion, use it or lose it), but it’s nice to see some corroboration of that common sensical notion, and it’s also nice to know that perhaps just stretching did this (to the extent we can learn anything from a single study). If true, it makes for nice evidence to support a general stretching habit, yoga, mobilizations, really any kind of “massaging with movement,” and probably even massage itself.
Trust and pain. Bear in mind that feeling safe is critical to the experience of good pain. Tiny differences in trust and comfort can make the difference between an intense pain being good or bad. Much of the “goodness” of good pain comes from mental context, from knowing that a pain is not dangerous or pointless, that it will not increase suddenly, or anything else yucky or shocking.
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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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You can usually choose which type of massage you’d like to receive, and you and your partner can each get a different type of massage depending on your preference and the offerings at the spa. Your partner and you will be on tables side-by-side, and you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
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Massage treats delayed onset (post-exercise) muscle soreness. Supposedly, massage therapy can stop that awful soreness that develops after an intense workout, known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — which is ironic, because massage is also well-known to cause a little next-day soreness. Although some studies have shown that massage can take the edge off DOMS, that’s about as good as it gets59 — perhaps a 30% temporary pain reduction when the planets align. It certainly doesn’t restore your strength any sooner. As with increasing circulation, it’s important to maintain perspective: it wouldn’t matter much even if massage did cure DOMS. Although DOMS can be pretty unpleasant, it’s one of the most trivial of all pain problems, guaranteed to solve itself within three days. On a closely related note …
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.
Have you ever spent time in the sun during the summer time and felt so happy? That’s because the heat helps reduce anxiety through releasing stress in your brain and muscles. Find ways to warm up regularly and this will have a great effect on your anxiety problem. Use a sauna, go to the beach, dip in a hot tub or spend some time by the fireplace. The warmth will instantly boost your mood.