AD 1878: Dutch massage practitioner Johan Georg Mezger applies French terms to name five basic massage techniques, and coins the phrase "Swedish massage system". These techniques are still known by their French names (effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles), friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements), tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements), and vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)).
I’m on a padded floor mat wearing loose pants and a T-shirt (standard Thai-massage garb) while Pailin Winotaka uses her fingers, palms, elbows, knees, feet, indeed her whole body as ballast, slowly getting me into such familiar yoga positions as “bridge” (a backward arch) and “bow” (on my stomach, reaching back to grab her wrists rather than my own ankles for a deeper stretch). I actually feel taller when she’s done.
During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes. Until the 1970s, nurses used massage to reduce pain and aid sleep. The massage therapy industry is continuously increasing. In 2009, U.S. consumers spent between $4 and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists. In 2015, research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry.
AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion."
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.
Massage developed alongside athletics in both Ancient China and Ancient Greece. Taoist priests developed massage in concert with their Kung Fu gymnastic movements, while Ancient Greek Olympians used a specific type of trainer ("aleiptes") who would rub their muscles with oil. Pehr Ling's introduction to massage also came about directly as a result of his study of gymnastic movements.
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.
Tests of overall effectiveness (clinical trials) are not difficult to cook up in principle: just take a hundred people with a certain kind of problem, give some kind of reasonably appropriate massage to fifty of them, give a neutral treatment to the other fifty, record the results, and report them. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to detect what should be a reasonably strong effect — if those massaged 50 people aren’t better off, how good can massage be? A great deal more precision is required to answer exactly what kind of massage works how well for what — more on that in a moment — but in broad strokes, it’s not a difficult problem. Not in principle. BACK TO TEXT
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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.
The massages are geared towards athletes and their sports. For instance, working on a runner will require doing a lot of leg work, but the upper body work will be minimal. Moreover, massages will target those areas that tend to become injured. For example, a massage session with a tennis player will involve a forearm massage that is preventive in the development of tennis elbow. If necessary, a whole session could be spent only on important areas, and skip completely muscles that are not overused in a particular sport.
Speaking to Grunfeld and Andrew, and hearing their advice (see ) on how to identify different occupations that might relax and reinvigorate me, I begin to feel optimistic. I think back to how I liked to pass the time when I was young; the quiet times sitting reading a book, the rowdier times baking with friends. I resolve to make more time to do the adult versions of these things over the next year – then realise I am making excuses. If I could redirect the evenings I am already wasting on screens, that would be a good start.
Job’s body: a handbook for bodywork, a book by Deane Juhan. amazon.com If you can manage the density of the language, Job’s Body is thick with creative insights into physiology and healing. Perhaps too many of them, and perhaps too creative — but very stimulating! Juhan tries to explain why bodyworkers often seem so uncannily effective. This is a job that certainly needed doing. In trying to explain bodywork, Job’s Body is a philosophical introduction to the science of the human body — a physiology textbook with a heart. Many chapters are devoted to pure science — just barely accessible to the hard-reading layperson, and mainly offering perspective for the health care professional. Still more chapters are devoted to pure philosophy. Juhan frequently dares to ask (and answer) the hardest questions in the health sciences: why and so what? I took a workshop with Juhan many years later. I’m sorry to say that he seemed cocky and jaded. My main impression was that he was bored and had drunk to much of his own Kool-Aid. And the introductory chapters of this book do a better job of explaining some of the possible subtle benefits of massage therapy than anything else I’ve ever read. Read an excerpt.
Because Thai massage is done fully clothed, some people recommend it if you feel uncomfortable with the nudity. However, Thai massage is not the best choice for first-time spa-goers. Why? First, you're going to be lying on a futon with a therapist crouched over you, pressing on your legs, just to start. They might use the weight of their body to move your body into various positions to achieve passive stretching.
The ultimate massage experience combines a full body massage with additional time spent working on your tired feet. Using an integrative method of Reflexology, the therapist utilizes a whole-hand technique that works with the body meridians, opening pathways for better circulation and stimulation helping to create a calming effect to the whole body, mind, spirit, and soul!
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Continuing education is important to stay abreast of the evolving field of sports medicine. In addition, sports massage therapists must have a strong understanding of the demands that sports put on the body, both physically and mentally. Because I also train and race, I feel better able to understand body mechanics—including common injuries and performance goals—which gives me the opportunity to communicate and share my experience as well as my skills to help athletes reach their
Whenever athletes exercise heavily, their muscles suffer microtraumas. Small amounts of swelling occur in the muscle because of tiny tears. Post-event sports massage helps reduce the swelling caused by microtraumas; loosens tired, stiff muscles; helps maintain flexibility; promotes blood flow to the muscle to remove lactic acid and waste build-up; and reduces cramping. In addition, post-event massage helps speed the athlete's recovery time and alleviates pulls, strains, and soreness.
In this particular study, published in Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, therapeutic massage included techniques of tapping and friction, while DTM used “oblique pressure and a combination of lengthening and cross-fiber strokes.” All sessions were 30 minutes long and preformed daily, and all participants did not receive any other treatments during the course of the study. After 10 days, participants treated with DTM reported significant improvements in pain (lower back pain in this case) compared to those treated with therapeutic massage, based on scores using the Modified Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Index, Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale and Visual Analog Scales. (4)
Compile a list or collect a box of things that make you feel happy and proud. It may be photos of your friends and loved ones or your pet. It may be memorable items or gifts. Did you go to a concert or movie that you enjoyed? Add the ticket stub to your collection. Look at your list or pick up items in your collection when you feel anxiety building. Realize that you have a lot to live and fight for in this world.
Unsurprisingly, there are almost no comments questioning or challenging anything about the image. Julie Onofrio chimed in with one of the only genuine criticisms: “a few of the things on there are not correct — massage has not been proven to increase endorphins or decrease cortisol.” Agreed: most of the infographer features common scientific myths about massage.
“When I’m wound up, I sit down and free write for a few minutes on 750words.com. It’s supposed to help with creativity or something. After you write out all your thoughts, it sort of groups them into different categories based on your language, tense, etc. It’s extremely relaxing to see all of your thoughts categorized that way and it helps me to organize what I’m actually freaking out about.”
In Myanmar, massage is unregulated. However, it is necessary to apply for a spa license with the government to operate a massage parlour in major cities such as Yangon. Blind and visually impaired people can become masseurs, but they are not issued licenses. There are a few professional spa training schools in Myanmar but these training centers are not accredited by the government.
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You’d hope this sort of thing would be rare, but it’s not. Readers regularly tell me about massage therapists who do not ask them what they want, who dismiss their patients’ concerns about pressure, and who ignore signs that their clients are in pain. They display a “doctor knows best” arrogance — ironic for an alternative health care professional — imposing their own idea of the “right” intensity.
According to the Neuromuscular Therapy Center, NMT is one type of deep massage technique that focuses on applying manual therapy to soft tissue with “quasi-static pressure” in order to stimulate skeletal striated muscle. (17) In addition to massaging a painful or inflamed muscle, the area around the affected muscle that normally supports it is also massaged in order to release tension. NMT therapists often focus on several factors that can add to muscle or tissue dysfunctions, including joint pathologies, postural positioning, disruptive habits of use, nutritional components, emotional well-being, allergies and neurotoxins.
As of late 2017, I’m aware of just 16 studies worth knowing about — if you keep your standards low — and all of them have serious flaws, all show signs of a high risk of bias, all claim to be positive while being contradicted to at least some degree by their own actual data. Most report only minor effects, a couple are clearly negative, and just one (Aguilera) reports a more robust effect … but based only on a single measurement taken immediately after treatment, which could evaporate within seconds for all we know. BACK TO TEXT
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.”
Sports Massage is a no-nonsense massage that helps stretch tight muscles, stimulates inactive muscles and improves soft tissue condition. Sports Massage will help you move your body more freely with more flexibility and in time can improve your posture. As the name suggests it is popular with athletes, as it enhances performance, assists recovery and prevents injury – benefits we can all enjoy.
The benefits of a sports massage are numerous: improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and a boosted circulatory system, just to name a few. But bodywork isn’t a one-size-fits all tool, and there are certain things to consider before booking an appointment. Here, three runner-trusted massage therapists impart important pre-massage knowledge.
It is hard to study what you can’t define … and it is extremely difficult to define massage precisely. Many possible questions arise! What kind of massage therapy? What methods? Could a combination of methods be effective where another combination fails? How well trained is the therapist? Are “advanced” techniques better than relaxation and Swedish techniques? Or maybe the basics are the basics because they really work? How much massage therapy? Could five sessions succeed where two would fail? Is one appointment “massage therapy,” or does it really need more? Could nine sessions actually be better still? Or perhaps counterproductive? Can anything be done with short sessions, or are long ones needed? If massage works, how much of the benefit can be attributed to non-massage elements like bedside manner, relaxation, and reassurance? How much do those factors define massage? What if massage didn’t work at all, or very poorly, without them? Would that mean “massage” works because it’s a great way of delivering a nice experience? Or that nice experiences “work” and the massage is irrelevant? What if massage therapy of a certain type for a specific condition was only effective 20% of the time? 60%? 80%? At what point is it “worth a shot”? (And worth the expense?)
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.
People think of massage therapy as a “safe” therapy, and of course it mostly is. But things can go wrong. Serious side effects in massage therapy are rare, however, and common side effects are minor. A 2007 survey of 100 massage patients49 found that 10% of 100 patients receiving massage therapy reported “some minor discomfort” in the day following treatment. This would mainly be a familiar slight soreness that is common after a massage — I’m surprised only 10% reported it. The massage must have been quite gentle.
An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.
No question: actually boosting performance would be a big deal, a humungous deal! But the cited evidence doesn’t remotely substantiate such a mighty claim. Even if we take that evidence at face value, it’s a huge and oversimplified reach to conclude that “a little increased range of motion” constitutes a meaningful effect on athletic performance as a whole. I can increase my ROM with a few seconds of stretching, too … and stretching does not enhance performance (look it up).
Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.
“What is an ice cream walk? Great question. The process is pretty simple. Step one: exit your abode to go for a walk. Step two: walk toward an ice cream shop — any ice cream shop. Step three: order an ice cream. Step four: eat ice cream. Impromptu walks are one of my favorite ways to clear my head, but adding ice cream into the mix makes it feel like an intentional way of treating myself, literally and figuratively. I recommend Van Leeuwen if you happen to be ice cream-walking in NYC.”
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.
The constipation claim is another good example of something that’s probably as clinically trivial as it is certain. Who the hell thinks, “I haven’t had a crap in days: I guess I’d better buy a professional massage!” (I might rub my own belly.) In ten years working as an RMT, I think I did that kind of abdominal massage maybe a half dozen times — demand for the service was rather low. I’ve been writing about the science of massage even longer, and this is literally the first time the word “constipation” has ever appeared on this website — because who cares?
Put your feet up—against the wall, of course. The Vipariti Kirani yoga pose involves lying on the floor and resting the legs up against a wall. Not only does it give the body a good stretch, but it helps create peace of mind, too The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Li, A.W., Goldsmith, C.A. St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Brighton, MA. Alternative Medicine Review 2012;17(1):21-35..
A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point. If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.
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What do the best studies say? One of the best, a Canadian experiment conducted by Michele Preyde way back in 2000,40 was a test of “comprehensive massage therapy” as delivered by well-trained Ontario therapists,41 in six sessions in a month for 25 cases of sub-acute low back pain (non-chronic, but not brand new cases either). This treatment regimen was compared to massage alone, remedial exercise and posture education alone, or some useless laser therapy. Massage alone had “considerable benefit,” just enough to be considered clinically significant; adding exercise prescriptions (and posture education, but that probably wasn’t a difference maker) improved on those results even more, pushing them comfortably into clinical significance.
I saw a few chiropractors and acupuncturists. But despite some initial short relief, their work seemed to lose effectiveness after a few visits. I went to a massage therapist, whose treatment actually was the opposite of my experiences with neurologists: It was enjoyable. This was the beginning of what I called a foray into “recreational medicine.”
Deep Tissue massages are designed to focus on a specific problem, usually something along the lines of chronic muscle pain, limited mobility, tennis elbow, etc. Cathy Wong explains that according to Consumer Reports magazine, at least 34,000 people claimed that Deep Tissue massages were more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or over-the-counter drugs. It is also especially effective in easing fibromyalgia pain, usually giving clients an improved range of motion immediately following a treatment.
A 2004 systematic review found single applications of massage therapy "reduced state anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate but not negative mood, immediate assessment of pain, and cortisol level", while "multiple applications reduced delayed assessment of pain", and found improvements in anxiety and depression similar to effects of psychotherapy. A subsequent systematic review published in 2008 found that there is little evidence supporting the use of massage therapy for depression in high quality studies from randomized controlled trials.
Low back pain is a huge health problem, and massage therapists claim to get good results when treating low-back pain. Indeed, low back treatments are the bread and butter of the profession. I’d guess that about 70% of massage purchases are for back pain. The amount of money that patients around the world spend on massage for back pain must be simply huge, at least in the tens of millions annually, and probably much more. As with chiropractic care, massage therapists might not have much of a business model if people didn’t have low back pain.
Sports massage is a form of bodywork geared toward participants in athletics. It is used to help prevent injuries, to prepare the body for athletic activity and maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes recover from workouts and injuries. Sports massage has three basic forms: pre-event massage, post-event massage, and maintenance massage.
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For Pietrunti, an interest in sports massage began as part of his military experience. Serving as a Navy Chief Petty Officer where he was a fitness leader at various naval commands, Pietrunti says, “I began to look into corrective exercise to help my sailors and clients with athletic performance and pain management, but I felt that something was missing.”
Massage is not a detox treatment. If anything, it’s the opposite! Post-massage soreness and malaise (PMSM) is probably caused by mild rhabdomyolysis (“rhabdo”). True rhabdo is a medical emergency caused by muscle crush injuries. But milder stresses cause milder rhabdo — even just intense exercise can do it. And massage! We know this from a good formal case study, several informal ones, common exertional rhabdo, and the similarities between PMSM and ordinary exercise soreness. A rhabdo cocktail of waste metabolites and by-products of tissue damage is probably why we feel cruddy after any intense biological stress or trauma — but they can’t be “flushed” away by massage (or by drinking water). See Poisoned by Massage: Rather than being DE-toxifying, deep tissue massage can probably cause a slightly toxic situation in the body. BACK TO TEXT
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.
“I drew habitually growing up and minored in art in college, but when I graduated, my practice began to slip away. Because I’m rusty now, I get a sort of performance anxiety about the whole thing, so I try to do it in as casual a manner as possible. I typically call a friend who I’ve been neglecting or put music on, get out a pad and doodle. (A really satisfying pen works best. It has to feel like velvety-butter.) I let my pen do all sorts of weird things: make strange shapes, draw people I don’t know who don’t have hands. There are no rules, no expectations of perfection, no product to produce. And when I’m done with it, I’m done with it. It’s very un-precious and so, so relaxing.”
BC 500 Jīvaka Komarabhācca, also known as Shivago Komarpaj, the founder of Traditional Thai massage (Nuad Boran) and Thai medicine. According to the Pāli Buddhist Canon, Jivaka was Shakyamuni Buddha's physician. He codified a healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures. Traditional Thai massage is generally based on a combination of Indian and Chinese traditions of medicine. Jivaka is known today as "Father Doctor" in Thailand.
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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