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.
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But the relief model is certainly tempting. There are many painful-but-relieving analogies in medicine and biology.15 That’s similar to what good pain in massage feels like, but it’s not the same: no one thinks that lancing a boil or popping a shoulder joint back in is anything but painful while it’s happening.16 And we can’t necessarily take the good pain sensation at face value and assume it means there’s actually going to be a positive outcome. Brains are not all-knowing. Sometimes they see danger where there is none, and sometimes they see help where there is none.
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Plantar fasciitis. According to the JAMA Network, plantar fasciitis occurs when the fibrous band on the bottom of the foot becomes irritated and inflamed, causing pain in the heel and arch areas. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine further indicates that deep tissue massage can be an effective treatment for this particular condition as it helps “release the muscle tension, break scar tissue, and lead to its elimination.”
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.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
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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
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As for the basics of how it works, foot reflexology simply refers to the reflexes that have been mapped out in the foot. There are many different foot reflexology charts that show where the reflexes are for every part of the body. Although it is like a massage, its principles are entirely different. It is thought that reflexology works through nerve endings, while massage focuses on the muscles and soft tissue of the body. This is where the practice gets its name; it works on the reflexes, not just the skin, muscle, or tissue. It should not be painful, though like in a massage there could be stressed areas of your body that are more tender or uncomfortable. However, the applied pressure to those areas, the less tender they will become.
Another study compared the effects of foot reflexology, simple massage, and conversation on 130 patients who had undergone abdominal gynecologic surgery under full anesthesia. The patients were asked how they felt, and data were recorded on general condition, pain intensity, movement of the bowels, urination, and sleep, from the day before the operation until until the tenth day afterward. Simple massage turned out to be a relaxing, positive experience, whereas foot reflexology had various effects, some of which were negative. The researchers concluded that foot reflexology is not effective in acute, abdominal postsurgical situations in gynecology and can occasionally trigger abdominal pain .
According to research done by the American Massage Therapy Association, as of 2012 in the United States there are between 280,000 and 320,000 massage therapists and massage school students. As of 2011, there were more than 300 accredited massage schools and programs in the United States. Most states have licensing requirements that must be met before a practitioner can use the title "massage therapist", and some states and municipalities require a license to practice any form of massage. If a state does not have any massage laws then a practitioner need not apply for a license with the state. However, the practitioner will need to check whether any local or county laws cover massage therapy. Training programs in the US are typically 500–1000 hours in length, and can award a certificate, diploma, or degree depending on the particular school. There are around 1,300 programs training massage therapists in the country and study will often include anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, massage techniques, first aid and CPR, business, ethical and legal issues, and hands on practice along with continuing education requirements if regulated. The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is one of the organizations that works with massage schools in the U.S. and currently (Aug 2012) there are approximately 300 schools that are accredited through this agency.
A person receiving a deep tissue massage usually lays on the stomach or back in one position, while deep pressure is applied to targeted areas of the body by a trained massage therapist. The massage is beneficial mostly because it helps stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension, while at the same time lowering psychological stress and releasing “happy hormones” like serotonin and oxytocin.
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The Swedish massage is the foundation of the art of massage. It’s typically characterized by friction techniques, kneading, and long strokes, and can be performed using either gentle pressure or deeper pressure. The Swedish massage is the usual go-to if you’re dealing with a lot of stress from work, school, or just everyday life! It’s a soothing, relaxing massage that relaxes muscle tissue while increasing the body’s circulation, sending healthy, oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and tissues.
Burmese massage is a full body massage technique that starts from head to toes, drawing on acupuncture, reflexology, and kneading. Signature massage strokes include acupressure using the elbows, quick gentle knocking of acupressure points, and slow kneading of tight muscles. The massage is aimed to improve blood circulation and quality of sleep, while at the same time help to promote better skin quality.
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)
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Swedish massage is now gaining acceptance from the medical community as a complementary treatment. Studies have shown that massage can relax the body, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce stress and depression. It may also provide symptomatic relief for many chronic diseases. Many doctors now prescribe massage therapy as symptomatic treatment for headache , facial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, other chronic and acute conditions, stress, and athletic injuries. Many insurance companies now reimburse patients for prescribed massage therapy. As of 2000, however, Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for this form of alternative treatment.
Anyone who routinely stretches their physical limits through movement such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, tennis and other racquet sports, strength training and aerobics can benefit from a massage. There are others who does strenuous activities in a day that is not normally classified as exercise. Examples are mothers with small children, gardeners, and others who use their bodies strenuously in their work.
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Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and five Canadian provinces currently offer some type of credential to professionals in the massage and bodywork field—usually licensure, certification or registration. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia require some type of licensing for massage therapists. In the US, 39 states use the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's certification program as a basis for granting licenses either by rule or statute. The National Board grants the designation Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB). There are two tests available and one can become certified through a portfolio process with equivalent training and experience. Between 10% and 20% of towns or counties regulate the profession. The National Certification offered by the NCBTMB does not mean that someone can practice massage in any state. These local regulations can range from prohibition on opposite sex massage, fingerprinting and venereal checks from a doctor, to prohibition on house calls because of concern regarding sale of sexual services.
Research shows that firmer massages with more pressure can result in a significant reduction in arthritis pain compared to lighter massages. Lighter massage tends to be arousing (not relaxing) because often the heart rate goes up. However, with moderate pressure, heart rate usually goes down, and this stimulates relaxation and reduced tension. (13)
Clients interested in experiencing Swedish massage should seek out a reputable massage therapist to explore it. Often it takes several visits to multiple therapists to find one who is a good match with the client. Like other massage modalities, this form is most effective when undertaken at least once a month, although once every two weeks is a more therapeutically useful interval. Clients should remember to communicate clearly with the therapist for a productive session.