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
The first study I know of was supervised by William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., a professor who taught research methods to graduate students at Loma Linda University. Using questionnaires, 70 subjects were asked to state whether they had had health problems during the previous two years in any of 43 anatomical areas. These data were then compared with the findings of a reflexologist as recorded on a report form. The results did not differ from what would be expected by blind guessing. To prevent the reflexologist from asking questions or observing subtle clues, the experimental subjects were asked to remain silent and a curtain was placed so that their feet were the only part of their body visible to the reflexologist [12].
Similar to Thai massage, in a Swedish massage the client’s joints and muscles are compressed and stretched. This can cause an immediate release of energy that might cause the skin to flush. Clients might also experience a few temporary aches as the body readjusts itself, depending on their level of flexibility and any current physical ailments. For example, a person who arrives at a practitioner’s office with an ultra-tight muscle that has been traumatized may experience some pain while the trauma is massaged out and worked through. In massage, areas of stress and pain can act as blockages to the body’s circulation, energy flow, and overall well-being.

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With possible benefits such as improved fitness endurance and performance, increased flexibility and recovery time, and injury prevention, sports massage is way more than just a massage for athletes! Traditionally, sports massage is a deep tissue massage that targets the deepest layers of muscle in order to stimulate blood flow. It is best done before or after the event as a means to later restore or rehabilitate. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
Deep Tissue massage is much more muscle-tissue focused. Specifically for pain relief, deep tissue massages are characterized by much deeper pressure. They’re great for removing knots and breaking up scar tissue, making them a favorite of athletes, as well as those who do manual labor like heavy lifting, farming or repair work. Unlike the Swedish massage that just works on the top layer of muscle, a deep tissue massage works through to get to the deeper layers of muscle tissue.

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Beyond the feel-good effects of the treatment, the practice and purpose go deeper than the skin and muscles by taking specific reflex points on the foot to induce a healing response in corresponding organs and areas of the body, as seen in the chart to the left. Kneading the soft fleshy ball of the foot, pulling on the toes, tracing around the heel and pushing deep into the arch are just a few of the many small, intense movements you’ll experience during a reflexology treatment.

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Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery.
Couples massage takes place in a room that is, at the very least, large enough for two massage tables, which is the typical set-up in a day spa. On the other hand, resort and hotel spas often create elaborate environments where couples can not only have side-by-side spa treatments, but also take a bath together, get pedicures, spend time in a steam shower, or lounge by a fire after the treatment. 

Somatoemotional release. Mental and emotional context is a major factor in how we experience pain. Painful sensations are unusually good at stimulating catharsis — the expression of strong or repressed emotion. — because physical pain often strongly “resonates” with emotional pain.12 For instance, the pain of an injury may blur together with the emotional frustrations of functional limits and rehab. That’s a basic example, and much more complex interactions between emotional and physical pain are obviously possible. Whether it is the clear goal of therapy, or simply a natural side benefit, experiencing very strong sensations can certainly be a meaningful part of a personal growth process “just” by changing your sense of yourself, how it feels to be in your skin, and perhaps bumping you out of some other sensory rut.13 

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Some research has shown that massage therapy can be effective during pregnancy due to its anxiety-lowering effects, and women who receive massages before and during labor tend to experience decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Results from one study found that women who received massages prior to and during labor had significantly less pain, plus their labors were on average three hours shorter and required less need for medication.
Stroking in smooth movements, kneading to loosen muscles, rubbing or friction with the practitioner using both hands back and forth in opposite directions, and striking (tapping or chopping the body with fingers or hands) are all used in combination. These movements help relax the body, increase circulation, and improve drainage in the lymphatic system.

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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.

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“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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The reason the Pressure Question exists is that it’s hard for patients to tell the difference between nasty pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive. Not everything that hurts is therapeutic, but not every therapeutic procedure is painless! How can we tell if an intense massage technique is therapeutic or not?

Until recently, reflexology was mostly ignored by science and relied on anecdotal evidence to buoy its good name. Today, though, there are many associations and organizations promoting and supporting the work of reflexologists from around the world. There is even an International Council of Reflexologists which has produced a Research Analysis Document that contains over 300 reflexology research studies, mainly from such places as China, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Even in North America, a study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Some of this research studies examined the effects of reflexology upon certain health conditions such as: asthma, back pain, cancer, chest pain, childbirth, PMS, heart disease, constipation, gout, migraine, headaches, multiple sclerosis, and nervous exhaustion.

There are many systems of reflexology, some with very different approaches and points. This is the system we use the most. The therapist will use many of the points below during your session. If you are interested in self care between visits, feel free to ask your therapist how to apply pressure to certain points at home, and how often you should do so.

Superior communication skills: Massage therapy is not just about using your massage skills to improve a client’s physical condition. As a therapist, you must be able to clearly and effectively communicate with them to make sure you are being receptive to their needs and creating a comfortable environment for them. Massage therapy appointments should begin with a consultation that discusses what the client expects from you and what you can help provide. It is important that you discuss any health issues clients might have or if they are experiencing pain or discomfort in any part of their body. This will help determine the types of massage techniques you can use during the session.

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Deep tissue and trigger point massages are very similar. The difference is that deep tissue massage uses various traditional massage techniques to work the tissue, whereas trigger point massage is literally looking to manipulate or press on that one point that relieves tension in an entire area (perhaps not even nearby). For both, consider this contraption, which is an invaluable tool for torturing soothing sore muscles all over your body. This is a great guide on doing trigger point therapy for yourself. 

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Thai Massage is a popular massage therapy that is used for management of conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Thai Massage involves a number of stretching movements that improve body flexibility, joint movement and also improve blood circulation throughout the body. In one study scientists found that Thai Massage showed comparable efficacy as the painkiller ibuprofen in reduction of joint pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.[69]

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Aquatic bodywork comprises a diverse set of massage and bodywork forms performed in water. This includes land-based forms performed in water (e.g., Aquatic Craniosacral Therapy, Aquatic Myofascial Release Therapy, etc.), as well as forms specific to warm water pools (e.g., Aquatic Integration, Dolphin Dance, Healing Dance, Jahara technique, WaterDance, Watsu).[33]

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There is absolutely a time and a place for DTM, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what this means. Some therapists go after deep fascial layers, some therapists think this means trigger point work, and some just increase pressure as much as they can. If the client and therapist don’t have an open dialogue with clear instructions of when ‘enough is enough’, the client can experience a lot of discomfort and we don’t want that.
Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.

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