A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people's blood pressure fell after a single 45 to 60 minute deep tissue massage. Additionally, a 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that massage modalities like deep tissue reduce stress hormone levels and heart rate while boosting mood and relaxation by triggering the release of oxytocin and serotonin.
Before you and your partner book your appointment, be sure to brush up on your spa etiquette. For many, a couples massage may be your significant other’s first visit to the spa. And while a trip to the spa should be a relaxing experience, if it’s your first spa-going encounter, it can be anything but if you don’t know what to expect. To calm those nerves, note the following spa protocol tips: For many, nudity may very well be the most nerve-wracking aspect of spa-going. Bear in mind, though, that maintaining guest modesty is a key priority for most therapists in the U.S. Male or female therapist? It’s your call. Spas make every effort to accommodate guest wishes in this regard, but it’s recommended to make advance reservations, particularly during peak hours. Speak up (if you wish). Couples can feel free to converse during their massage, or stay silent. It’s entirely your preference. For more on Couples Massage, see our guide.
No one really knows how a painful massage can also feel so good at the same time. This is a sensory phenomenon mostly beyond the reach of science — not entirely14 — all we can do is speculate. A main question is whether good pain is good because we expect relief to follow pain, or because positive and negative qualities are being produced simultaneously. My bet is on the latter.
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Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
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.
Many types of practices are associated with massage and include bodywork, manual therapy, energy medicine, neural mobilization and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as holistice philosophies of preventative medical care, as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.
To put it bluntly, it’s not clear that massage has any musculoskeletal benefits at all. It probably does, but mostly quite temporary and highly unpredictable. There’s not nearly enough science, and therapists are hopelessly biased assessing their own efficacy. See Does Massage Therapy Work? A review of the science of massage therapy … such as it is. BACK TO TEXT
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.
These improvements are achieved via a range of techniques. When analyzing and treating a person’s injury or symptoms, a Sport Massage Therapist studies root causes carefully as an injury to one part of the body may be connected to another. Some of these areas can seem strange to work on given the specific case scenario, however a Sport Massage Therapist will explain the reasons to you.
Swedish massage therapy can be helpful with a number of other physical challenges, such as reduction in scar tissue by physically manipulating the fibers of the tissue, allowing the scar tissue to be successfully reabsorbed into the skin. Additionally, it can aid with lymphatic drainage, where the long strokes of the therapist help move fluids successfully out of clogged areas.
In its Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals, The Official Handbook, updated in August 2000, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) suggests massage therapy can be used successfully in pain management. Some hospitals are including massage therapists in patient care teams to fight pain. Their teams may include a physician, nurses, a nutritionist, a yoga instructor, and a massage therapist. Hospitals are now including massage due to public demand. More research needs to be done to evaluate not only the effectiveness of such teams but to determine which combination of therapies works best for different types of patients and different types of pain.
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Bastian B, Jetten J, Hornsey MJ, Leknes S. The Positive Consequences of Pain: A Biopsychosocial Approach. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Apr;18(3):256–279. PubMed #24727972. Bastian et al. write about “pain’s capacity to produce positive consequences, thereby decoupling the experience of pain from the experience of suffering” — pain’s silver linings, basically. BACK TO TEXT
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.
The Swedish massage can also be used as therapy for people who suffer from any type of debilitating joint disorder that causes them pain. This benefit of the Swedish massage works to increase the elasticity in the tissues, flexibility, and to reduce the paint that they feel. After the Swedish massage many of these people will find that they are able to use their joints more than before and with little to no pain.
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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.
The purpose of the practice of massage is to enhance the general health and well-being of the recipient. ‘Massage’ is used as a general term to describe manual manipulation of the muscles and joints to help relieve pain and stress in the body. This generalized term can be broken down into many subcategories such as: deep tissue, trigger point, prenatal/pregnancy massage, hot stone, sports massage, Thai massage, myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, crainiosacral, lomilomi, shiatsu, reflexology, Hellerwork, looyen work, polarity therapy, tui na, and connective tissue massage, just to name a few.
In 2015 the Australian Government's Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; reflexology was one of 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found. Accordingly In 2017 the Australian government named reflexology as a practice that would not qualify for insurance subsidy, saying this step would "ensure taxpayer funds are expended appropriately and not directed to therapies lacking evidence".
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Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
Biomechanical stimulation (BMS) is a term generally used for localised biomechanical oscillation methods, whereby local muscle groups are stimulated directly or via the associated tendons by means of special hand held mechanical vibration devices. Biomechanical oscillation therapy and training is offered in a variety of areas such as competitive sports, fitness, rehabilitation, medicine, prevention, beauty, and used to improve performance of the muscles and to improve coordination and balance. It is often used in the Myofascial trigger point therapy concept to invoke reciprocal inhibition within the musculoskeletal system. Beneficial effects from this type of stimulation have been found to exist, the efficacy of the BMS Matrix therapy was proven in an independent study. carried out by TÜV-Süd which was commissioned by German health insurer BKK Gesundheit.
While this massage is designed to help ease the pain, you might experience discomfort during your appointment, especially when your therapist is applying pressure to a problem area. It is best to speak up and let your therapist know if the discomfort becomes painful; even though the Deep Tissue massage is meant to apply more pressure, pain does not mean that the massage is working. You might also experience some soreness and stiffness; this is perfectly normal and should subside within 24 hours. ElementsMassage.com recommends that you drink a lot of water in order to flush out the lactic acid that will have accumulated in the tissues; this may ease some of the soreness. Bruising after your massage may also occur; keep in mind that your therapist was applying more pressure in order to reach your troubled areas, light bruising is normal. Cathy Wong also points out that “case reports have reported venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hematoma, and posterior interosseous syndrome after deep tissue massage.”
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