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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Some possible justifications for painfully intense massage (these aren’t endorsements) include the destruction of motor end plates to “de-activate” trigger points; somatoemotional release (pain often strongly “resonates” with strong emotions like grief); moving tissue fluids; or just creating a strong, novel sensory experiences (which may have many subtle benefits).
AD 1150: Evidence of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen, can be found in one of the bas reliefs decorating the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It depicts a demon performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld. This is the oldest known visual representation of abortion.
Headaches. Severe headaches and migraines are the second most common pain conditions in the U.S. (15 percent) according to the AAPM, and Everhart says that massage therapy can oftentimes help in these cases. The Migraine Relief Center (MRC) indicates that the reason this modality works is that it eases muscle spasms, improves blood flow and circulation, relieves tension, and increases relaxation. The MRC shares that it is also especially helpful when it comes to tension and vascular headaches.
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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.
Sports massage has become an integral part of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college training rooms, to professional locker rooms to Olympic training. Growing number of trainers believe that massage can provide an extra edge to the athletes who participate in high performance sports. Massage has become a necessary ingredient for a complete workout. More and more people are realizing that a complete workout routine includes not only the exercise itself, but also caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement. The physiological and psychological benefits of massage make it an ideal complement to a total conditioning program.
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Completely new to massage? Book your first appointment either well before a race—at least a few weeks out—or wait until the day after. “Just like you wouldn’t test out new socks or shoes on day of race, you shouldn’t experiment with any pre-race bodywork,” says Denunzio. Those who are familiar with massage can benefit from a pre-race rubdown in the seven to two-day window prior to an event. Getting treatment less than 48-hours prior puts all runners—even those who are massage veterans—at risk of race day soreness.
This may come as a surprise, but in fact there is no therapeutic benefit to stretching skin so hard that it feels like it is going to tear! And it is a completely different and uglier sensation than how fascial stretching can feel and should feel (more like a good massage). When I complained about this (politely), the therapists made no distinction between skin-tearing and fascial stretching, and more or less tried to tell me that I was objecting to perfectly good therapy. Needless to say, I never returned to those therapists.
Manipulative approaches to naturally treating pain and other health problems have been utilized for over 3,000 years, dating back to Ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations. Pressure massages were used to improve “Qi” (life force or energy), detox the body and promote better liver function — which today can be explained through the process of activating the lymphatic system.