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 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.
Athletes tend to know their bodies fairly well, so information presented to the therapist seems to be better. Compared to the general client, the athlete is also in good shape and is concerned about getting back to the field of play as soon as possible. Some athletes have an obsessive compulsive behavior about their sport. This generally makes them very compliant with the therapists’ recommendations.
In Swedish massage, the person to be massaged lies on a massage table and is draped with a towel or sheet. It is a full-body massage treatment, except in areas that are contraindicated or where the client requests not to be touched. Aromatic or unscented oil or lotion is used to facilitate the massage movements. Each session usually lasts 30-60 minutes. Depending on the client's preferences, a massage session may involve the use of several or all of the following basic techniques: effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration, and tapotement.
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Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported findings of a positive trend for deep tissue massages in regard to improved athletic recovery and performance. The most beneficial type of deep tissue massage for athletes is considered to be “sports massage,” which is commonly performed prior to athletic events to help warm the body and prevent injuries or immediately after to improve recovery.