Reflexology is a bodywork technique that uses pressure points in the feet and hands in an effort to stimulate organs and systems throughout the body. Reflexology practitioners claim they can treat a wide range of maladies simply by manipulating these pressure points. The general idea is similar to that of other forms of alternative and Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture: clear blockages in the flow of the body's life force (or Qi) and healing will follow.
An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.
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Swedish massage was invented by a Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling in the 1830s. When he was injured in the elbows, he reportedly cured himself using tapping (percussion) strokes around the affected area. He later developed the technique currently known as Swedish massage. This technique was brought to the United States from Sweden by two brothers, Dr. Charles and Dr. George Taylor in the 1850s. The specific techniques used in Swedish massage involve the application of long gliding strokes, friction, and kneading and tapping movements on the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes passive or active joint movements are also used.
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While there is certainly carryover between who can benefit from each type of massage, the deep tissue massage may be better suited for people who are experiencing a specific injury or who have chronic, nagging pain in a particular area. Athletes or individuals in the midst of training for a more intense event may also find this technique particularly helpful.
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The primary goal of deep tissue massage is to reduce pain and discomfort, while improving the body’s ability to heal itself. Deep tissue massages are not only relaxing — they also help “lengthen and release muscles” that frequently feel tense and get stuck in uncomfortable holding patterns. (1) Let’s explore what, exactly, deep tissue massage is and all the ways it can benefit your body and mind.
A deep tissue full body massage is a form of healing bodywork. At your first massage, your massage therapist will do a brief intake. They will ask you questions about the type of pressure you’d like to receive during your deep tissue massage, any previous massage experience you’ve had, and any injuries or sensitivities you have. You can remain clothed, or the massage therapist will provide draping so that even if you’re not wearing clothes you are always fully covered. Deep tissue massage may be a good option for people with chronic pain or muscle tension. The systematic deep tissue strokes will work to break down any scar tissue or stiff tissues and create ease in your body again. Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, fists and knuckles to knead and stroke your muscles and loosen adhesions. Although deep tissue massage work is intense, it should not be painful, so communicate clearly with your massage therapist so they know if you’re having any discomfort. The national average cost of a deep tissue massage is between $70 and $90.
Cathy Wong explains in her article “Deep Tissue Massage: Everything You Need to Know” on verywell.com that while Deep Tissue massages can be slightly uncomfortable, they have been known to reduce stress hormones and heart rate while releasing oxytocin and serotonin, which allow the client to experience a boost in mood and relaxation. Deep Tissue massages are often used to relieve chronic aches and pain, stiff necks, upper back, and lower back pain as well as muscle tightness. Therapists treat such issues by utilizing Deep Tissue massages to break up scar tissue and muscle knots and working out adhesions that might be hindering circulation and limiting movement.
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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.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
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The study involved 263 volunteers with an average age of 48.5. Overall muscle spasm/muscle strain was described as either moderate or severe for each patient prior to treatments, which consisted of a massage between 45–60 minutes in duration. Results demonstrated an average systolic pressure reduction of 10.4 mm/Hg, a diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm/Hg, a mean arterial pressure reduction of 7.0 mm/Hg and an average heart rate reduction of 10.8 beats per minute following massage treatment. (6)
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PS Ingraham. Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain: Pain itself can change how pain works, resulting in more pain with less provocation. PainScience.com. 5428 words. Pain itself often modifies the way the central nervous system works, so that a patient actually becomes more sensitive and gets more pain with less provocation. This is called “central sensitization.” (And there’s peripheral sensitization too.) Sensitized patients are not only more sensitive to things that should hurt, but also to ordinary touch and pressure as well. Their pain also “echoes,” fading more slowly than in other people. BACK TO TEXT
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Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.
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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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Pre-event massage is given shortly before an athlete competes. It consists mainly of brisk effleurage to stimulate and warm the muscles and petrissage to help muscles move fluidly and to reduce muscle tension. Effleurage is generally a relaxing stroke , but when done briskly it is stimulating. As the massage progresses, the pressure increases as the massage therapist uses percussive strokes and cupping to stimulate the muscles to contract and flex. The part of the body being massaged varies from sport to sport, although leg and back muscles are common targets for this type of massage.
Watsu, developed by Harold Dull at Harbin Hot Springs, California, is a type of aquatic bodywork performed in near-body-temperature water, and characterized by continuous support by the practitioner and gentle movement, including rocking, stretching of limbs, and massage. The technique combines hydrotherapy floating and immersion with shiatsu and other massage techniques. Watsu is used as a form of aquatic therapy for deep relaxation and other therapeutic intent. Related forms include WaterDance, Healing Dance, and Jahara technique.
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A couples massage allows partners to experience massage together in the same area as one therapist works on each person. Some spas turn this into a romantic event that can leave guests starry-eyed, setting the treatment in a special room or suite large enough for two, beachside underneath the stars, or in the couple’s guest room at a hotel or resort. For an extra-special touch, rooms reserved for side-by-side massage treatments may feature cozy spa fixtures such as fireplaces, shower facilities, Jacuzzis, and dual soaking tubs, and some spas offer irresistible amenities like champagne and strawberries as a sumptuous treat. Many spas offer treatments à deux so spa-goers can share a pampering experience with a significant other, but a couples massage isn’t just for romantics—mother-daughter duos and best friends may also enjoy side-by-side services. For couples, this form of massage can offer a double dose of benefits. The tandem treatment invites couples to get a bit closer and reconnect, and it can enhance intimacy and teach each partner how to take care of the other. Plus, select spas allow lovebirds to get in sync by offering sessions that teach massage techniques. Pampering and rejuvenating facials, massages, and other treatments in a half- or full-day increments can make up a whole spa package for couples. For more on Couples Massage, see our guide.
Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.
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Friction strokes work on deeper muscles than the techniques previously described. The friction technique is a pressure stroke and is the deepest that is used in Swedish massage. The massage therapist applies pressure by placing the weight of his or her body on the flat of the hand and the pads of the thumbs, knuckles, fingers, or the back of the forearms, and then releases the pressure slowly and gently. This movement should be a continuous sliding motion or a group of alternating circular motions.
Each type of sports massage uses different massage techniques. Effleurage is a light stroking that can be performed with the palms or the thumbs. The pressure and speed is varied depending on the muscle and the desired result. Effleurage increases blood flow to the muscle. Petrissage is a form of two-handed kneading in which both hands pick up the muscle and compress it. This technique loosens tight bunches of muscles. Percussive strokes are blows or strikes on the muscle, often performed with the little fingers. They are used to tone the muscles. Cupping involves percussing or striking the muscles with cupped hands. It stimulates the skin and causes muscle contractions that help tone the muscles. There are variations on all these strokes, such as deep cross-fiber friction to separate muscle fibers and break down scar tissue, and jostling to relieve muscle tension. A good sports massage therapist will combine techniques to achieve the maximum desired result. Sports massage sessions generally last 30-60 minutes.
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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.
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Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
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