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.
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.
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.
There are 58 training programs accredited by the Commission for Massage Therapy Accreditation/Approval in the United States. They provide a minimum of 500 hours of massage training. Certified therapists have graduated from these programs and passed the national certification examination for therapeutic massage. They are also required to participate in continuing education programs to keep their skills current.
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.
The therapist might use Swedish massage to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids, and trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles), and stretching to increase the range of motion. Other techniques could include myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and orthopedic assessment. The therapist should also have a good foundation in hydrotherapy modalities including cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which can help with recovery, repair and healing processes.
Many types of practices are associated with massage and include bodywork, manual therapy, energy medicine, neural mobilization and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as holistice philosophies of preventative medical care, as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.
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.