Reduced stress. Swedish massages are meant to maximize relaxation—you’ll be on a massage table, in a peaceful environment, with a professional spending an extended time (between 60 – 120 minutes) giving you a massage. The combination of the hands-on attention and the environment should relax you, lowering the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Lowering your stress level offers a surprising number of additional benefits, including reducing or eliminating tension headaches, giving you more energy, and allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.
Thai massage, also called Thai yoga massage, combines acupressure and assisted yoga postures. Thai massage is based on the flow of energy through the body and focuses on energy lines called “sen.” It doesn’t use oils or lotions and, instead of rubbing muscles, the massage therapist compresses, pulls, stretches and rocks the recipient’s body to promote the flow of energy through these sen. In this form of massage therapy, practitioners use their hands, knees, legs and feet to apply deep muscle compression and stretch the body. It’s often performed on a mat on the floor instead of on a massage table. Like most forms of massage, Thai massage is used to relieve stress, improve range of motion and enhance flexibility. Some people also use Thai massage to address a range of health issues, including:
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Deep Tissue Massage, is a deeper more intense massage than our popular Swedish Massage. This massage uses slow, deep-guided strokes and firm pressure to relieve severe tension and reach below the superficial muscles. Deep Tissue Massage is often recommended for individuals who experience consistent pain and soreness in both large and small muscle groups.
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Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.
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Interestingly, many patients and therapists swear by massage as a way to reduce constipation or digestive upset, since the increased circulatory benefits and relaxation of the abdominal and lower back muscles can help relieve symptoms. In fact, a 2014 study from the British journal Nursing Standard highlights a number of the ways abdominal massage encouraging muscle contraction, nudging the gut to move things along.
Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer. (2)
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Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from about 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.
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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.
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Following injury, and especially if it’s also a very stressful time, inflammation can prevent proper blood flow from reaching damaged tissue and can cut off vital nutrients and oxygen. This can cause toxins to accumulate around damaged tissue, which only increases swelling and pain. Some studies have found that even self-administered massage can help reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis and other injuries. (10)
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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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Empathy: Most people opt for massage therapy because they are in pain or because they are stressed out and need to calm down. As a massage therapist, it is imperative that you are empathetic to the needs of your clients, regardless of your day is going. If you appear or feel anxious or stressed, you are not going to be able to make your client feel calm and relaxed. Create trust with your patients by being personable and communicating effectively. Be receptive to their needs.
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This is not only an inaccurate and potentially harmful picture of this type of therapy, but such misguided practices can bruise muscles, elicit a defensive reaction in a client’s body, and worsen pain cycles. Properly executed deep tissue work should not cause the client to grit their teeth in agony as the therapist coerces the body into submission! If you find yourself clenching, shortening or holding your breath, or gritting your teeth, then it’s TOO DEEP. Even when it gets intense, it should not go above about a 7 on the pain scale: enough to “hurt so good,” but not enough that you want to leap off the table (and never come back).
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Some reflexologists who deny that they diagnose or treat disease claim that the majority of health problems are stress-related and that they can help people by relieving the "stress" associated with various diseases or body organs . This type of double-talk is similar to chiropractic claims that "subluxations" lower resistance to disease and that "adjusting" the spine to correct subluxations will improve health. All ten of the books I have inspected mention scores of health problems that reflexology has supposedly helped.
Quick muscle knot orientation: Muscle knots — myofascial “trigger points” — are a factor in most of the world’s aches and pains. Their biology is still mostly mysterious: conventional wisdom says they are tiny spasms, but they might also be a more pure neurological problem. Regardless, they can cause strong pain that often spreads in confusing patterns, and they grow like weeds around other painful problems and injuries, making them quite interesting and tricky. Although they are well known to many specialists and researchers, most doctors and therapists know little about them, so misdiagnosis is epidemic. For more information about how trigger points might be involved in your own medical history, see PainScience.com’s best-selling tutorial:
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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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Reflexology (or foot reflexology) is a therapy based on the principle that there are small and specific areas of innervation in the hands and feet that correspond to specific muscle groups or organs of the body. In this system, the nerve endings in the extremities provide a “map” of the rest of the body. Examples are the base of the little toe representing the ear, or the ball of the foot representing the lung. Through the application of pressure on particular areas of the hands or feet, reflexology is said to promote benefits such as the relaxation of tension, improvement of circulation, and support of normalized function in the related area in the body.
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“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.”