Reflexology is a practice in which different amounts of pressure are applied to specific points on the feet or hands. These points are believed to match up with certain other parts of the body. Reflexology is claimed to cause relaxation and healing in those parts of the body, but this has not been proven. In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, women with advanced breast cancer who received reflexology treatments showed improvement in a few symptoms, such as shortness of breath, but not others, such as nausea or pain. In this study, reflexology was safe even for the most fragile patients.

There’s rarely any justification for extremely painful massage, unless it clearly produces a better result than gentler treatment — which is rarely clear!1 It is possible that a few “brutal” deep tissue massages could do the trick where gentler treatment would fail — but there is no way to know this in advance, and massage is expensive stuff. If you’re going to gamble on a treatment, gamble on cheaper and less painful ones.
You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries.  

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Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.)

AD 1878: Dutch massage practitioner Johan Georg Mezger applies French terms to name five basic massage techniques,[13] and coins the phrase "Swedish massage system". These techniques are still known by their French names (effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles), friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements), tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements), and vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)).

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“The number one thing therapists should do to protect themselves from injury is avoid doing too much work,” says Bykofsky. She also recommends not over-scheduling, working too many hours, or holding too many deep massage sessions a week. Also, take advantage of other “tools” at your disposal, such as different parts of your hands and arms, using them for leverage to take some of the pressure off your thumbs.

Traditional Thai massage is a different experience if you’ve only ever had a Swedish or deep tissue massage. In Thai massage, you wear loose-fitting clothing (often provided by the massage therapist) and start by lying on a mat. Throughout the massage, the therapist moves your body into various seated and prone positions, which stretch and release your muscles and soft tissue. Although your body is moving, the therapist is doing all the work, making it feel similar to supported yoga. The massage therapist will bend, stretch, and compress and lengthen your body using their hands, forearms, elbows and even feet. Don’t be alarmed by the feet! Many studios have overhead supports that allow the practitioners to safely walk on your back, releasing tight adhesions and promoting ease. Thai massage can be both invigorating and relaxing. It is an excellent option for keeping your muscles in good health if you regularly work out, or if you want to overcome a lack of flexibility. Studies show that Thai massage can increase blood circulation, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension and enhance mental well-being. 

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Proprioceptive studies are much more abundant than massage and proprioception combined, yet researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact mechanisms and pathways involved to get a fuller understanding.[94] Proprioception may be very helpful in rehabilitation, though this is a fairly unknown characteristic of proprioception, and "current exercises aimed at 'improving proprioception' have not been demonstrated to achieve that goal".[95] Up until this point, very little has been studied looking into the effects of massage on proprioception. Some researchers believe "documenting what happens under the skin, bioelectrically and biochemically, will be enabled by newer, non-invasive technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and continuous plasma sampling".[93]

Lomilomi is the traditional massage of Hawaii. As an indigenous practice, it varies by island and by family. The word lomilomi also is used for massage in Samoa and East Futuna. In Samoa, it is also known as lolomi and milimili. In East Futuna, it is also called milimili, fakasolosolo, amoamo, lusilusi, kinikini, fai’ua. The Māori call it romiromi and mirimiri. In Tonga massage is fotofota, tolotolo, and amoamo. In Tahiti it is rumirumi. On Nanumea in Tuvalu, massage is known as popo, pressure application is kukumi, and heat application is tutu. Massage has also been documented in Tikopia in the Solomon Islands, in Rarotonga and in Pukapuka in Western Samoa.[46]
The effects and benefits of Swedish Massage have been well researched and documented with controlled studies.  Research performed by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine and International Journal of Neuroscience shows that 45-minute massage increases serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin that help to balance and elevate the mood.  Serotonin and dopamine are both neurotransmitters.  Lowered levels of either serotonin and dopamine have been linked with depression, anxiety and overall lethargy.  Increased levels,  as with massage, will bring about a feeling of emotional well-being and balance. Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “cuddle hormone,” has been shown to release while cuddling, as well as while in massage.  While it is technically a hormone, it tends to act like a neurotransmitter making a sweet little neuropeptide that makes you feel warm and soft on the inside.   

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Post-event massage is usually given 1–2 hours after the competition is over in order to give dilated blood vessels a chance to return to their normal condition. Post-event massage is light and gentle in order not to damage already stressed muscles. The goal is to speed up removal of toxic waste products and reduce swelling. Very light effleurage will decrease swelling while light petrissage will help clear away toxins and relieve tense, stiff muscles. Post-event massage can be self-administered on some parts of the body, such as the legs.

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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")[27] 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.
No, there are several medical conditions that would make massage inappropriate. That’s why it is necessary that you fill out the health history forms and before you begin your session. The massage therapist will ask general health questions to rule out if you have any contraindications to massage. It is very important that you inform the practitioner of any health problems or medications you are taking. If you are under a doctor’s care, it is strongly advised that you receive a written recommendation for massage prior to any session. Your massage therapist may require a recommendation or approval from your doctor.

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Certain massage therapists have specialized training in techniques that help treat people with injuries, inflammation, tears and limitations. Although more than one massage session is usually needed to provide relief and see improvements in pain, well-trained therapists can usually recommend practices or stretches for you to try at home that can further help improve healing.
Injury: in the case of an injury, the recovery treatment will adapt to the healing process of the injury. At the beginning of an injury, massages are more frequent, short and focused on the area. For example, a sprained ankle may need light but bi-weekly work after the acute phase is over. As the injury recovers, massages are more intense, and less frequent. The ankle will receive deeper massages and deeper stretches as it heals. Once the injury is recovered, only one or two check-up massage sessions will be required.

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Practices resembling reflexology may have existed in previous historical periods. Similar practices have been documented in the histories of China and Egypt.[9] Reflexology was introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872–1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Edwin F. Bowers. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body.[16][17] It was modified in the 1930s and 1940s by Eunice D. Ingham (1889–1974), a nurse and physiotherapist.[18][19] Ingham claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into "reflexes" on the feet, renaming "zone therapy" reflexology.[20] "Modern reflexologists use Ingham's methods, or similar techniques developed by the reflexologist Laura Norman."[9]
Connective tissue stimulation. A lot of therapists are keen on stretching connective tissues — tendons, ligaments, and layers of Saran wrap-like tissue called “fascia.” I’m not a huge fan of this style, but certainly it’s a way of generating many potent and novel sensations, which may be inherently valuable to us — another form of touch. Although “improving” the fascia itself is implausible and unproven, perhaps fascial manipulations affect bodies indirectly, just as a sailboat is affected by pulling on its rigging. People have written whole books full of speculation along these lines. So, as long as the sensations are not like skin tearing (that’s an ugly pain for sure), you might choose to tolerate this kind of massage if it seems to be helping you.

Beyond the feel-good effects of the treatment, the practice and purpose go deeper than the skin and muscles by taking specific reflex points on the foot to induce a healing response in corresponding organs and areas of the body, as seen in the chart to the left. Kneading the soft fleshy ball of the foot, pulling on the toes, tracing around the heel and pushing deep into the arch are just a few of the many small, intense movements you’ll experience during a reflexology treatment.


Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.

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Deep Tissue Massage also has incredible health benefits.  The release of habitually tight muscles relieves chronic pain and speeds the healing of injuries.  Balanced posture improves organ function and athletic performance.  Overall, it relieves the stress and energy drain of chronically tight muscles improving general health and well-being for long term wellness.
Swedish Massage is the “original” western style massage and is the foundation for other western massage techniques.  Swedish style massage uses long strokes, kneading and friction with the primary purpose of increasing circulation and promoting relaxation.  Pressure can be light to firm, but is not as detailed as Deep Tissue Massage.  It’s important to remember, that deeper isn’t always better.  Sometimes what the body needs is to simply relax and de-stress so it can heal itself. The health benefits of regular full-body Swedish massage are plentiful.  Benefits include increased circulation, lowered blood pressure, improved immune function and reversal of the effects of stress.  People who receive regular Swedish massage find that they feel healthier, more energetic, less stressed and are less susceptible to illness.
Thai Massage is a popular massage therapy that is used for management of conditions such as musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. Thai Massage involves a number of stretching movements that improve body flexibility, joint movement and also improve blood circulation throughout the body. In one study scientists found that Thai Massage showed comparable efficacy as the painkiller ibuprofen in reduction of joint pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.[69]

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.
Your massage or bodywork session will take place in a warm, comfortable, quiet room. Soft music may be played to help you relax. You will lie on a table especially designed for your comfort. Each guest will have their own Licensed Therapist, as well as individual massage therapy table. Your pain & area(s) of concern are individually treated while in the comfort of your loved one in the same therapy room.

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A satisfying sensation doesn’t necessarily imply successful treatment, unfortunately. Scratching mosquito bites feels great… but it’s not helping them! Trigger points may be like mosquito bites: it may feel terrific to massage those mysterious sensitive spots in soft tissue, but it may not be doing much to actually “release” or resolve them. It may be a purely sensory experience, the satisfaction of dealing with an “itch” that we cannot easily reach on our own.
The massages are geared towards athletes and their sports. For instance, working on a runner will require doing a lot of leg work, but the upper body work will be minimal. Moreover, massages will target those areas that tend to become injured. For example, a massage session with a tennis player will involve a forearm massage that is preventive in the development of tennis elbow. If necessary, a whole session could be spent only on important areas, and skip completely muscles that are not overused in a particular sport.

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Injury: in the case of an injury, the recovery treatment will adapt to the healing process of the injury. At the beginning of an injury, massages are more frequent, short and focused on the area. For example, a sprained ankle may need light but bi-weekly work after the acute phase is over. As the injury recovers, massages are more intense, and less frequent. The ankle will receive deeper massages and deeper stretches as it heals. Once the injury is recovered, only one or two check-up massage sessions will be required.

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