Lymphatic drainage is an interesting example of a specific massage technique, allegedly good for one thing and not much else: its purpose is to reduce swelling. By reputation, it’s the best treatment option for patients suffering from lymphoedema, a serious complication of mastectomy and other surgical procedures. But it’s also obscure, technical, and practiced by no more than a few hundred therapists globally. It’s not “massage therapy” per se; just a specialized tool that a tiny group of professionals specialize in, some of whom happen to be massage therapists. Oh, and bad news: there’s also recent evidence that it does not work,28 or not nearly as well as we’d like.29
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.
In massage therapy, so much can be achieved while inflicting only good pain on patients that bad pain must be justified by vivid, quick, and somewhat lasting benefits — which is a high bar to clear. All health care practices must be justified by benefits. As risk and pain and expense increase, the benefits must also. There is simply no point in tolerating — and paying for — painful treatment without an obvious return on the investment.
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).
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:
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“When I need to rest and restore, I tend,” said Rachel W. Cole, a life coach and retreat leader. She defines tending as “care with intention.” And it can take many forms. Cole tends to her home by cleaning the sheets, washing windows and “getting rid of unused and unloved items.” She tends to her body with a “hot bath, self-massage and a dab of perfume.”
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.
This article thoroughly discusses massage therapy in a way that is quite unusual in the profession: a skeptical, critical-thinking sort of way. This is normal in modern medicine, where critical self-appraisal is a formal part of the professional culture.85 And yet there are some skeptical massage therapists! We do exist! For instance, the Skeptical Massage Therapists Facebook group has quickly grown into the best discussion group available — although there’s not much competition! — for massage therapists who also happen to be scientific skeptics. Founder and moderator Brantley Moate:
This energy-based, traditional Thai massage, focuses on feet and reflexology, up to the knees, using a wooden therapy stick, massage oil from Wat Po in Thailand and massage cream. reflexology points on the soles of the feet are associated with particular body organs. Pressure on specific points helps stimulate activities of the inner organs, promotes deep relaxation and improves blood circulation. $80/1hr. $115/1.5hr
Training and certification standards for massage therapists are all over the map, and most practitioners have barely scratched the surface of musculoskeletal medicine. The profession is rife with pseudoscience like crank theories about the causes of pain, the myth that massage detoxifies, or that painfully “deep tissue” massage is needed to “release” tissues (which is stressful or even harmful for many patients).
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.
Due to this techniques harsher pressure, there are certain individuals who should seek pain relief elsewhere. Deep Tissue massages can be dangerous for clients who have blood clots, as the pressure and movements might cause the clots to be dislodged. If you have had blood clots in the past, currently have blood clots or are at risk of forming blood clots, you should consult a doctor before pursuing a Deep Tissue massage. If you are currently recovering from recent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or are suffering from osteoporosis you too should speak with a doctor before experimenting with Deep Tissue massages. As this is particularly high pressure massage, you should not allow rashes, wounds, tumors, hernias, etc. to be massaged directly. Expecting mothers should also avoid Deep Tissue massages; instead, ask your doctor about therapists that specialize in pregnancy massage techniques.
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)
Massage is reputed to be helpful, and certainly many fibromyalgia patients seek it out (while others avoid it, finding it too intense and exacerbating). Like low back pain, it seems like massage “should” be able to help with fibromyalgia. Surely massage can help soothe the frazzled nerves of a uninjured patient whose primary symptom is pain? And if it can’t, what good is it?
One narrative review in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine explains that the impact of using these two modalities combined are somewhat inconclusive, mainly due to research limitations; however, after looking at 21 randomized controlled trials, the author ultimately concluded that “the effects of cold and static compression are clearly better than no treatment.”
“Resonate” in this context means that physical pain may transmogrify into emotional pain and vice versa. Emotional and physical pain readily create and reinforce each other. I assume that catharsis is inherently valuable, and I think that’s a fairly safe assumption. I discuss the relationship between pain and emotions in from many angles in several articles, like Pain is Weird, Pain Relief from Personal Growth, The Anatomy of Vitality, Why Do We Get Sick?, The Art of Bioenergetic Breathing, Insomnia Until it Hurts, and Anxiety & Chronic Pain. Whether catharsis is medically helpful for pain obviously depends on many factors, but it’s certainly possible — just as they can reinforce each other, relief from one may also be coupled to relief from the other. BACK TO TEXT
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Massage is to work and act on the body with pressure. Massage techniques are commonly applied with hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, feet, or a device. The purpose of massage is generally for the treatment of body stress or pain. A person who was professionally trained to give massages was traditionally known as a masseur (male) or a masseuse (female), but those titles are outmoded, and carry some negative connotations. In the United States, the title massage therapist has been recognized as a business norm for those who have been professionally trained to give massages.
Know when to cut ties. If you value your relationships, as do most people, it can be challenging to realize that there are people who are just too toxic or too needy to keep in your inner circle because they sap your energy and stress you constantly. Sometimes it's best to let go, provided you do so after thinking it through carefully. Avoid being judgmental, hurtful, or blunt; just move on as you need to. The following articles might help you work out what could be wrong with a relationship that's getting you down, and what to do about it:
Take a tropical vacation without leaving the desk chair. Use a five-minute break to peel, slice, and bite into a juicy mango, which packs a compound called linalool that helps lower stress levels Stress repression in restrained rats by (R)-(-)-linalool inhalation and gene expression profiling of their whole blood cells. Nakamura, A., Fujiwara, S., Matsumoto, I., et al. Technical Research Center, T Hasegawa Co, ltd, Kawasaki-shi, Japan. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009;57(12):5480-5.. Don’t fret about the juice dripping down your chin—the stress relief is worth the mess.
Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.
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.
Sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm up, to enhance circulation, and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming up the major muscles to be used and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete; others can be stimulating. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly focused on recovery. It is geared toward reducing 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 can range from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours in length. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
That is, regardless of all other considerations, a massage therapist must talk to you about pressure, respect your preferences (they are more important than any treatment ideology), and be careful about stumbling into areas that need much less pressure (for comfort) or much more pressure (for satisfaction). Far too many therapists make the mistake of setting a “default” pressure for a client early on, and then using roughly that much pressure everywhere.
Deep tissue massages are often utilized following injuries to help break up newly forming scar tissue that can make recovery more difficult and lead to stiffness. Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation and muscle spasms by stimulating blood flow, loosening up muscles to allow for more oxygen and also helping reduce the nervous system’s automatic stress response.
Panic attacks have certain patterns. Time how long it takes to build up, the duration of the panic attack, how long it takes to calm down and at what point you are finally able to resume your normal activity. It may not be easy doing this, but timing your panic attacks will enable you to have better control over it the next time it happens. You will also be able to tell those around you before an attack occurs, how long it is liable to last, and how they can help you.
Like your closet, your mind can fill up with unnecessary and unwanted stuff, so it’s important to get things straight and organized. Practice mindfulness by focusing your attention on the present. Slow down, breathe to a slow count of 5, make a to-do list, keep a journal, take a walk, or immerse yourself in a favorite pastime. Do less and focus on only one thing at a time as much as possible. Delegate when you can, ask for help if you need it.
It's hard to sink into a state of zen if you're one big ball of knots. "When you live a life full of demands, your body regularly releases adrenaline and cortisol, increasing energy expenditure that can result in muscle tension," says Gregory Fricchione, MD, director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Try progressive muscle relaxation: Tense the muscles in your toes for at least five seconds, relax for 30, and repeat, working your way through the muscle groups up to your neck and head.
Anxious? Just squeeze, release, and repeat. Progressive relaxation involves tensing the muscles in one body part at a time to achieve a state of calm Effects of progressive relaxation on anxiety and quality of life in female students: a non-randomized control trial. Dehghan-Nayeri, N., Adib-Hajbaghery, M. Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Nursing and Midwifery Care Research Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Tehran, Iran. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2011;19(4):194-200.. The method (also used by actors) is a great way to help fall asleep.
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.