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.

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Ugly pain in massage therapy is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that are not going to offer even minimal, delayed benefits, and may even be dangerous. It’s important to be able to spot ugly pain for what it is and completely eliminate it from any therapy you’re receiving. What kinds of handling may cause “ugly” pain?


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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I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.
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.
Craniosacral Craniosacral therapy induces a deep relaxing calm and sense of well-being. The Practitioner uses a gentle, light touch to relax the soft tissues surrounding the Central Nervous System which enhances the body’s natural healing processes. This unique therapy may help alleviate a wide range of issues including chronic pain, migraines, physical dysfunction, fatigue, emotional imbalance and nervous tension. 60 Minutes          $11890 Minutes           $154  
Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects. 
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.[54] 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.[55]

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.[115] As of 2011, there were more than 300 accredited massage schools and programs in the United States.[116] 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.[117] 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.[10] 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.
The pressure from Swedish massage is ideal for relieving muscle tension, like the kind that builds up from hunching over a computer all day. This tension can sometimes result in knots: trigger points of extremely tense muscle fibers that form tiny nodules. Massage therapists are trained to feel for these knots, and Swedish-massage techniques are ideal for gently coaxing them away.
People do have clear pressure preferences: they often fire massage therapists who give treatments that are too painful or too fluffy. Pressure that’s fine for you may cause severe pain, emotional distress, “sensory injury” (sensitization) in others, or even physical injury, so pressure should be customized but often isn’t. Brutal massages might be appreciated or even helpful, but most people can’t tell the difference between the kind of pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive and dangerous.
Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on "reflex areas" on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body's natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.

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A couple’s massage is a massage that you do with your partner, friend, or family member in the same room. It brings all the benefits of a regular massage and sometimes provides you with access to the spa’s hot tubs, saunas, and other facilities. Other treatments such as pedicures, facials, and body scrubs are sometimes offered as part of a package.

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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Another alarmingly common example is the sensation of skin tearing. This has been inflicted on me personally on at least three occasions, and not by poorly trained therapists — quite the opposite, the perpetrators were all well-trained massage therapists doing a kind of “fascial release” therapy that they clearly thought of as an “advanced” technique.7
“Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform,” says Gammal, who recommends incorporating regular massage—even if it’s just a 30-minute session once a month—so as to prevent injuries and the overtraining of muscles.  Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout stretching. “Massage isn’t a luxury, Gammal says. “It’s an investment.”

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