Scientists theorize that things in our environment compete for the brain's attention. Essentially, the brain can only focus on a certain amount of input at once. Focusing on sensations other than tension and pain, or even introducing new sensations, can "close the gate" to pain. The pain doesn't go away, it just drops into the background. De-stress and counteract the downward pain spiral with these eight relaxation tips.
Our massage is a full-hour Swedish style, unless otherwise requested, and can be enhanced with these signature elements: essential oil inhalation, warm stones used to massage neck and shoulders, and warm towel wraps for feet and face. Pressure can be gentle to medium to firm. Please specify requested massage style (i.e., deep tissue) at time of booking.
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Traction is a great example — pulling on the spine. Often used by massage therapists to treat low-back pain and neck pain, it might be an effective technique for a few patients, but I wouldn’t count on it, or advise anyone to spend much money on it. Like many popular therapies, the evidence is a mess.30 The absence of conclusive evidence is significant: if traction worked well, it probably would have shown up clearly by now. If traction works at all, it’s certainly not reliable. I discuss traction in considerable detail in both my neck pain and back pain tutorials.
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.
And it was really a lot of massage (expensive in the real world). And the pure “kinesiotherapy” treatment was super basic — this control group barely did more than wiggle their toes and clench their thighs, so it’s hardly surprising that they didn’t improve much. I wish the study had included a third group doing more exercise, perhaps a half hour of brisk walking per day. I think there’s an excellent chance walkers would have performed as well or even far better than massage. And walking is notably a lot cheaper than massage.
Specialized massage tables and chairs are used to position recipients during massages. A typical commercial massage table has an easily cleaned, heavily padded surface, and a horseshoe-shaped head support that allows the client to breathe easily while lying face down and can be stationary or portable, while home versions are often lighter weight or designed to fold away easily. An orthopedic pillow or bolster can be used to correct body positioning.
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Another commenter complains that the infographic makes massage sound too much like an “indulgence” and not enough like “health care.” It’s clear that he wants to make grander claims for massage, regardless of the evidence. Irony fail! If there was stronger evidence to cherry-pick in service of promoting massage as medicine, it would have ended up on this infographic.
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Thai massage has been practiced in America since the 1990s when Westerners began practicing it. Thai massage is more commonly found than it used to be at American spas, but you can't find it everywhere for two reasons. First, the spa needs a room with a large, padded mat in order to offer Thai massage. It's easiest if the room is always set up for Thai massage, and yet it is more of a specialty request. It just makes more economic sense to have the room set up with a table for a Swedish massage.
Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported findings of a positive trend for deep tissue massages in regard to improved athletic recovery and performance. The most beneficial type of deep tissue massage for athletes is considered to be “sports massage,” which is commonly performed prior to athletic events to help warm the body and prevent injuries or immediately after to improve recovery.
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.
So the imperfect evidence shows that massage can maybe help low back pain, and yet the world has certainly not been saved from back pain. What’s wrong? Why isn’t massage immediately, completely, and permanently fixing lots of back pain clients? Because there are many kinds of both massage and back pain. Results of therapy vary widely with the skills of therapists, and with the specific kinds of back pain brought to them. And so, on average:
Number 10 across: Anxious, overwhelmed, or freaking out (seven letters). If you guessed “Stressed,” you’re in good shape to try some crossword puzzles. Brain games that require lots of concentration can help take our mind off whatever’s worrying us Trait anxiety and impoverished prefrontal control of attention. Bishop, S.J. Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California Berkley, Berkley, CA. Nature Neuroscience 2009;12(1):92-8..
In ashiatsu, the practitioner uses their feet to deliver treatment. The name comes from the Japanese, ashi for foot and atsu for pressure. This technique typically uses the heel, sesamoid, arch and/or whole plantar surface of foot, and offers large compression, tension and shear forces with less pressure than an elbow, and is ideal for large muscles, such as in thigh, or for long-duration upper trapezius compressions. Other manual therapy techniques using the feet to provide treatment include Keralite, Barefoot Lomi Lomi, Chavutti Thirumal.
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)
I think it is more that they are circumspect than pessimistic. Speaking as a scientist, we are very careful to guard against declaring a finding if there is even a small risk of it being a false positive. We never want to say ‘we’ve found something’ and later have it turn out we were wrong when more data comes in. So, I think they are hewing to scientific norms in this regard, and I do not fault them for that; it is important to be careful in science.