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
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“Massage Therapy: Riddled with quackery,” a webpage on QuackWatch.org. Scientifically unsupportable ideas are common among massage therapists, according to Dr. Stephen Barrett. He avoids a blanket condemnation of the profession, conceding that “ordinary massage and the legitimate practice of massage therapy should not be categorized as quackery.” However, “many therapists make claims that go far beyond what massage can accomplish. And even worse, massage therapy schools, publications, and professional groups are an integral part of the deception.” He provides many references to support this view. I agree with almost every detail of the article and wrote a letter of support to Dr. Barrett, which is published as an addendum to it. That said, the article does neglect some nice things that can be said about massage therapy, and it contains a few minor errors. But I applaud the intent and embrace and welcome most of the criticism. I wish it weren’t mostly true, but I believe that it is.
When you are looking for massage therapy, be sure to check which type of massage a practitioner can provide. Match that with the benefits you hope to get from the massage session. You may want to chat with several different practitioners to find the one who understands your needs and is used to working with people with similar goals. Be sure also to discuss any allergies, such as to scents or plant oils, so your massage will be relaxing and beneficial without that concern.
So presenting lactic acid as some kind of metabolic bogeyman that massage can purge from the flesh is wrong on many levels. This is another nail in the coffin of the daft notion that massage “detoxifies,” and yet another reason to be suspicious of any therapist who talks about “detoxification” — as is sometimes unethically done to rationalize adverse effects of therapy that actually have other causes, including potentially serious conditions.69
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During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.
“It is your body, your session, your outcome,” advises Rotenberger. “There’s a fine line between pain and discomfort, and it’s unique to the individual.” What’s more, deep pressure is not the same as deep tissue. It’s a common misconception, Rotenberger explains, and in reality, a therapist that is muscle-specific needs to exert little pressure to be effective.
Other people like to write down what they’re grateful for, Kaplin said. This is especially helpful for relaxing. “When we’re stressed, we tend to focus on everything that is going wrong, which makes it even harder to unwind,” said Natasha Lindor, a coach and founder of The AND Factor who helps professionals have a successful career while working less and living more. She suggested writing down the top three good things that happen to you today.
Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.
Also absent from the royal event on the morning of the 25th? Prince Philip, who was said to be relaxing at home, and Camilla Parker Bowles, who is reportedly recovering from some sort of bug. — Whitney Perry, Glamour, "Here's Why Prince George and Princess Charlotte Didn't Attend Church With the Royal Family," 25 Dec. 2018 After a day in the water, relax at the spa, beachfront bar, yoga palapa, or bonfire pits. — Michaela Bechler, Vogue, "7 Hotels That Will Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions," 14 Dec. 2018 Turn up the dial post-shampoo and pre-mask and relax, letting hair soak up as much of the good stuff as possible. — Leah Melby Clinton, Marie Claire, "Color Your Hair? Four Things You Should Never Do in the Shower," 16 Nov. 2018 Sit back, relax, and control the cooking via live video on your smart phone. — Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "This New Smart Kitchen Gadget Has Seven Appliances In One," 9 Aug. 2018 Then probably going to relax a bit at home (at his rental place in Wimbledon). — Sandra Harwitt, USA TODAY, "Rafael Nadal has big advantage vs. Juan Martin del Potro in Wimbledon quarterfinals," 10 July 2018 Bush is relaxing at his home in Kennebunkport on Tuesday, eight days after being released from a hospital where he was treated for low blood pressure. — NBC News, "Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates 94th birthday," 12 June 2018 Bush is relaxing at his home in Kennebunkport on Tuesday, eight days after being released from a hospital where he was treated for low blood pressure. — Fox News, "Former President George H.W. Bush turns 94," 12 June 2018 Bush is relaxing at his home in Kennebunkport on Tuesday, eight days after being released from a hospital where he was treated for low blood pressure. — Houston Chronicle, "Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates 94th birthday," 12 June 2018
The Thai Ministry of Public Health's Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine regulates Thai traditional massage venues and practitioners. As of 2016 the department says 913 traditional clinics have registered nationwide in Thailand. As of 2018, of the 8,000 to 10,000 spa and massage shops in Thailand, only 4,228 are certified by the Health Ministry's Department of Health Service Support (HSS).
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While this massage is designed to help ease pain, you might experience discomfort during your appointment, especially when your therapist is applying pressure to a problem area. It is best to speak up and let your therapist know if the discomfort becomes painful; even though the Deep Tissue massage is meant to apply more pressure, pain does not mean that the massage is working. You might also experience some soreness and stiffness; this is perfectly normal and should subside within 24 hours. ElementsMassage.com recommends that you drink a lot of water in order to flush out the lactic acid that will have accumulated in the tissues; this may ease some of the soreness. Bruising after your massage may also occur; keep in mind that your therapist was applying more pressure in order to reach your troubled areas, light bruising is normal. Cathy Wong also points out that “case reports have reported venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hematoma, and posterior interosseous syndrome after deep tissue massage.”
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)
There are a few “medical” massage therapists out there with some training in orthopedics and rehabilitation. My education in massage therapy here in British Columbia, Canada, was three years long — the longest massage therapy training program in the world. There are also a few other places with two-year programs. A massage therapist with this level of education is certainly the kind that patients should seek out if they want massage as a treatment.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.
I think the true situation in most areas of the world is realistically described by this passage from Laura Allen’s excellent book, Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work? Hocus pocus in holistic healthcare She reports a dizzying litany of nonsense attached to “massage therapy.” Note that hardly a stitch of it has the slightest thing to do with actual massage (hell, not even myths about massage). And note that she is describing the sort of things she used to buy into (literally). Laura Allen is a self-described reformed flake.
5. Emerging: the key in this final step is calmly reentering the world. Rather than just stopping this process and jumping back in, focus on going back to what you need to do with the same peace you might have when you wake up from a nice sleep. Just gently getting back into the flow of your day. This should keep your mind and body both staying in a more relaxed and positive state.
For instance, I tried a new young massage therapist. He introduced a pain scale right away, and asked me to use it to define an intensity I was comfortable with — a 5 out 10, say — and then actually used that scale to check with me quite a few times throughout an hour treatment. He also responded with clear adjustments to his technique when I reported that we were under or over the target I’d set. Great work! BACK TO TEXT
Thank you so much for your article The Pressure Question in Massage Therapy. I just read it all. I went for a sports massage two weeks ago as I was recommended to have one as it was suggested it might help with tight calves, a side effect of some other injuries I have. I’ve been for sports massages many, many times before over the years. This one was one of the most painful experiences of my life — when I got home I was almost sick and felt in shock. My right achilles tendon was raging and it’s been bad ever since. It hurt so much when it was done (like someone was sticking knives in) and I kept asking if it was meant to hurt. I wish I’d just stopped the session or objected but I didn’t. It used to be a bad injury that affected me walking for about 6 months so I’m just devastated about this. I can hardly bear to put shoes on and its all this time on. I know there are good practitioners out there but experiences like this just make me want to stay away. I wish I’d gone to a “gentle” one.
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).
Some procedural notes: swelling was measured all fancy-like, “using bioimpedance spectroscopy and volume.” All patients “followed the standard rehabilitation program of the department,” including ice, passive motion, strengthening, and getting walking. And the MLD treatments were done by therapists we have every reason to have confidence in: “five physiotherapists with experience in MLD who completed two training sessions for standardization. The same therapist performed all of the study treatments for a given patient. The treatment was standardized according to the recommendations of Földi and Kubik.”
Several mechanisms for deep massage’s natural stress-relieving effects include its ability to dilate blood vessels and also lower activity of the limbic system (including the hypothalamus), which is responsible for autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion. Massage has been shown to improve relaxation by boosting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by heart rate, blood pressure and heart rate variability. (8, 9)
Note that this study compares a more vigorous sports massage style with more common Swedish petrissage techniques. Vigorous massage did indeed show significantly increased circulation! However, this technique is rarely used — the vast majority of Registered Massage Therapists in British Columbia rarely treat their clients with vigorous sports massage techniques, yet they still have a habit of claiming that massage increases circulation.
When you get off the table, your calves may be screaming at you, but don’t get upset and run home to your foam roller, says Denunzio. Soreness is normal and can even help reveal areas of weakness that should receive future attention. Within 48 hours, the tightness should dissipate, and if the massage was administered correctly, you may even feel like you’re in a new body.
This study compared the effects of massage and minimal exercise therapy on poor circulation (venous insufficiency) in post-menopausal women. Superficially it looks like a good news story for massage, and in some ways it is. Massage did have a statistically significant positive effect and seems to have “increased circulation” in one sense (something I have often called a myth). But there’s a lot to consider here.
I stayed there as the administrator and an instructor for five years after I graduated, and during that period of time, I could not possibly even name all the things I went through. I had a lot of psychic readings. I availed myself of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), an invention of Dr. Mercola, [sic]84 which basically consists of tapping on meridian points in order to relieve emotional negativity, food cravings, and pain. I tried Aura Soma, which is described as “color healing.” I got tuned up with tuning forks, and crystal bowls. I participated in one workshop called Matterspeak, which consisted of sitting around chanting random words, letters, and numbers for 8 hours, as in “1263supercalifragilisti789.” I don’t remember what the purpose of that was and frankly doubt that it had any purpose, other than to enrich the teacher’s pocketbook. If memory serves, she had “channeled” that information from the Atlanteans. I also used the chi machines, the detox foot baths and pads, biofeedback and all kinds of computer programs designed to balance your body, mind and spirit, and most New Agey-sounding things in existence at the time. If it was out there, I tried it. All kinds of “healers” came and went through the school.
Trigger point masssage is still 100% experimental. It has rarely been directly tested and it has never been done well (and never for back pain specifically, which is probably of the greatest interest).78 If you squint optimistically, you could call the best of the evidence “promising.” You could say that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But it’s like the smoke from last night’s campfire — more of a smokey smell than a smoke where any fire might be hiding. Dial up even a mild cynical impulse, and the evidence collectively looks more like a damning failure to produce any clearly good news.
“If your hands and fingers start to scream while you're working, you need to modify what you're doing,” says Bykofsky. “Also, if you notice that you’re sore at the end of your work day, Bykofsky also recommends that you “do the things you suggest to your clients: ice, apply something to help, perhaps take an anti-inflammatory, and, the hard one, rest!”
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.
Negative thoughts and feelings usually stay away when you are a good time. Schedule some time with your closest friend(s) or family regularly. Go out to dinner, listen to music, take a walk or just sit and have a cup of coffee. The activity is not as important as the shared experience. Such activities often help you take your mind off your worries!