The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are certain points or "reflex areas" on the feet and hands that are connected energetically to specific organs and body parts through energy channels in the body. By applying pressure to reflex areas, a reflexologist is said to remove energy blockages and promote health in the related body area.
^ Miller BF, Hamilton KL, Majeed ZR, Abshire SM, Confides AL, Hayek AM, Hunt ER, Shipman P, Peelor FF, Butterfield TA, Dupont-Versteegden EE (January 2018). "Enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodelling in massaged and contralateral non-massaged hindlimb". The Journal of Physiology. 596 (1): 83–103. doi:10.1113/JP275089. PMC 5746529. PMID 29090454.

I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com


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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Middle-Ages: Medical knowledge, including that of massage, made its way from Rome to Persia in the Middle Ages.[citation needed] Many of Galen's manuscripts, for instance, were collected and translated by Hunayn ibn Ishaq in the 9th century. Later in the 11th century copies were translated back into Latin, and again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when they helped enlighten European scholars as to the achievements of the Ancient Greeks. This renewal of the Galenic tradition during the Renaissance played a very important part in the rise of modern science.
During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes.[10] Until the 1970s, nurses used massage to reduce pain and aid sleep.[22] The massage therapy industry is continuously increasing. In 2009, U.S. consumers spent between $4 and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists.[23] In 2015, research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry.[24]

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Bastian B, Jetten J, Hornsey MJ, Leknes S. The Positive Consequences of Pain: A Biopsychosocial Approach. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Apr;18(3):256–279. PubMed #24727972. Bastian et al. write about “pain’s capacity to produce positive consequences, thereby decoupling the experience of pain from the experience of suffering” — pain’s silver linings, basically. BACK TO TEXT
One theory is that muscle knots may be caused by something that goes wrong at the “motor end plate” — where a nerve ending attaches to a muscle cell.9 We don’t know why this happens, or what exactly goes wrong, but there is circumstantial evidence that motor end plates are the “point” in trigger point. That evidence is too complex and controversial to review properly here. It is explored in detail in my book. Some research has suggested that it may actually be possible to physically destroy the motor end plate with strong massage, thereby inactivating the trigger point.10 When it regrows — these are microscopic structures, it doesn’t take them long to heal — the trigger point may be gone.

Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It is a free-flowing and gliding movement towards the heart, tracing the contours of the body using the palm of one or both hands. Oil is applied with this stroke to begin the first stage of massage. The therapist applies a light or medium constant pressure. This stroke is used to warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm the nerves, improve blood circulation and heart function, and improve lymphatic drainage.

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Plantar fasciitis. According to the JAMA Network, plantar fasciitis occurs when the fibrous band on the bottom of the foot becomes irritated and inflamed, causing pain in the heel and arch areas. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine further indicates that deep tissue massage can be an effective treatment for this particular condition as it helps “release the muscle tension, break scar tissue, and lead to its elimination.”

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We recently received an email from a representative of Modern Reflexology asking if they could advertise their website on ours and offering to pay. Of course, we don’t accept advertising. But I was puzzled as to why they approached us and what they thought was science-based about reflexology. I was intrigued enough to visit their website to learn what “modern” reflexology was all about. I learned about a lot of specific claims I hadn’t heard before, but I found no science whatsoever. By writing this article, I am in a sense giving them the advertising that they asked for; but it will be negative publicity, not positive. Old adage: Don’t wish too hard for what you want; you might get it.
With possible benefits such as improved fitness endurance and performance, increased flexibility and recovery time, and injury prevention, sports massage is way more than just a massage for athletes! Traditionally, sports massage is a deep tissue massage that targets the deepest layers of muscle in order to stimulate blood flow. It is best done before or after the event as a means to later restore or rehabilitate. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
Sports Massage can be characterized two ways: pre-activity and post-activity massage. Pre-activity uses dynamic stretching to allow the connective tissue to work through a full range of motion, thereby reducing possible injury. Post-activity massage focuses on recovering the muscle tissue that may have been impacted doing the particular sport. It involves long strokes to flush out the toxins that causes soreness in the muscles and joints. 
There is not necessarily a hard line between these two techniques, and many sessions often incorporate both depending on your needs. It is usually the case that not all the muscles in your body need deep tissue techniques applied. Rather than being overly concerned with choosing the “right” session, make sure you communicate to your therapist the goals for your session so that he or she can customize the right blend of techniques for you. One massage style is often the foundation of the session, with other techniques used as needed. Due to the slow pace of deep tissue massage it is necessary to schedule a 90-minute session if you would like your full body addressed. Use these guidelines for communication based on your primary goal for the session:
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the "Flying Finn," was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.

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.
So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Following injury, and especially if it’s also a very stressful time, inflammation can prevent proper blood flow from reaching damaged tissue and can cut off vital nutrients and oxygen. This can cause toxins to accumulate around damaged tissue, which only increases swelling and pain. Some studies have found that even self-administered massage can help reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis and other injuries. (10)
Research studies regarding perceived fatigue and recovery showed that subjects felt they were less fatigued and felt like they recovered faster after sports massage. Decreased anxiety, improved mood, better sleep, and enhanced feelings of well-being were also noted. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is reduced by sports massage, according to a wide variety of studies.

Sports massage is a type of massage that can alleviate pain occurring in certain parts of the body, which can be caused by too much physical activity. This type of massage was originally developed to serve athletes as a way to prevent and relieve injuries, but both athletes and non-athletes can gain physiological and psychological benefits from receiving sports massage therapy.

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I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.

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Thai massage – or Nuat Thai – combines both physical and energetic aspects. It is a deep, full-body massage progressing from the feet up, and focusing on sen or energy lines throughout the body, with the aim of clearing blockages in these lines, and thus stimulating the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body. It draws on yoga, acupressure and reflexology.

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This short course only takes about 60 min to learn the routine of classic Thai Foot Reflexology, which is originated from Chiang Mai, Thailand, together with an instructor who teaches body mechanics and proper techniques. A basic knowledge of Thai Medicine theory, ancestors, well-known influential figures in Thai healing, and the history of Thai foot reflexology are also taught.20
A high attention to detail is important to be successful in sports massage. I also feel my professional communication with clients and other practitioners assists with this process. It’s vital to get all the necessary facts about the client and follow up with them after each session. I also feel it’s important that I have experience in endurance training and racing to help with the rapport with my clients.
RCTs have a vital role in the assessment of efficacy in reflexology. However, they only address the effect of reflexology in which other pertinent issues are unexplored such as the mechanism of reflexology, psyche, and the experience of participants receiving reflexology. Nursing research has long used qualitative research to explore various health care phenomena. Similarly, qualitative approach can provide further understanding about the patient's perception and belief towards reflexology.4, 36 Qualitative research also assists in understanding the impact of the context and the process of reflexology intervention. A greater understanding of reflexology intervention has the potential to enhance the delivery of health care. Thus, it is argued that qualitative explorative methods combined with RCTs could potentially reveal the contributing factors of reflexology effect.
Reflexology is one of the most used alternative therapies in Denmark. A national survey from 2005 showed that 21.4% of the Danish population had used reflexology at some point in life and 6.1% had used reflexology within the previous year.[14] A study from Norway showed that 5.6% of the Norwegian population in 2007 had used reflexology within the last 12 months.[15]

One of the greatest Persian medics was Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, who lived from 980AD to 1037AD. His works included a comprehensive collection and systematisation of the fragmentary and unorganised Greco-Roman medical literature that had been translated Arabic by that time, augmented by notes from his own experiences. One of his books, Al-Qānūn fī aṭ-Ṭibb (The Canon of Medicine) has been called the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. Avicenna excelled in the logical assessment of conditions and comparison of symptoms and took special note of analgesics and their proper use as well as other methods of relieving pain, including massage.

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Deep tissue massage is a focused, therapeutic massage that targets muscle knots (also known as "adhesions") and specific problem areas in the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Using deliberate, slow strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, the therapist addresses chronic tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or injuries.
Shoulder pain. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reports that shoulder pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, affecting as many as 66.7 percent of the population. The study goes on to say that massage therapy can often help reduce this type of pain, sometimes in a matter of days, though 36 sessions appeared to offer the greatest level of relief.

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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
“Resonate” in this context means that physical pain may transmogrify into emotional pain and vice versa. Emotional and physical pain readily create and reinforce each other. I assume that catharsis is inherently valuable, and I think that’s a fairly safe assumption. I discuss the relationship between pain and emotions in from many angles in several articles, like Pain is Weird, Pain Relief from Personal Growth, The Anatomy of Vitality, Why Do We Get Sick?, The Art of Bioenergetic Breathing, Insomnia Until it Hurts, and Anxiety & Chronic Pain. Whether catharsis is medically helpful for pain obviously depends on many factors, but it’s certainly possible — just as they can reinforce each other, relief from one may also be coupled to relief from the other. BACK TO TEXT
Medical Massage is a controversial term in the massage profession.[50] Many use it to describe a specific technique. Others use it to describe a general category of massage and many methods such as deep tissue massage, myofascial release and triggerpoint therapy as well as osteopathic techniques, cranial-sacral techniques and many more can be used to work with various medical conditions.[51]
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