Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from about 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.
Flushing. If massage can “improve” any tissue — unknown — one way it might do it is through simple hydraulics: physically pumping tissue fluids around, and/or stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph. I won’t get into the evidence about it here. Suffice it to say that it might be true, and if it’s true then it may not much matter if the process is uncomfortable. While gentler massage may feel pleasant and satisfying, it is possible that more biological benefits can only be achieved hydraulically — whether it’s comfortable or not. This is even more plausible because of trigger points: it’s likely that the tissue fluids of a trigger point are quite polluted with waste metabolites, and the need for flushing is greater, but it’s especially uncomfortable to squish those polluted patches of tissue.
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Maintenance sports massage is done at least once a week as a regular part of athletic training programs, although professional athletes who have their own massage therapists may have maintenance massage daily. Maintenance massage increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles. It also keeps the tissues loose so that different layers of muscle slide easily over each other. Maintenance sports massage also helps reduce the development of scar tissue while increasing flexibility and range of motion.
Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
Clients interested in experiencing Swedish massage should seek out a reputable massage therapist to explore it. Often it takes several visits to multiple therapists to find one who is a good match with the client. Like other massage modalities, this form is most effective when undertaken at least once a month, although once every two weeks is a more therapeutically useful interval. Clients should remember to communicate clearly with the therapist for a productive session.
Using a wide variety of tools including bands, combs, electricity, hooks, light energy, probes and stainless steel instruments to stimulate various pain-killing responses in the hands and feet, FitzGerald’s work was first brought to the public by Edwin Bowers in his 1915 article, “To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe,” which was published in Everybody’s Magazine. (15)
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.
Since deep tissue massage is designed to work on the deep layers of tissue in the body, it also has an impact on your blood flow. In 2008, a study was conducted with 263 volunteers with an average age of 48.5 years who were suffering from moderate or severe muscle strain. Each patient was given a deep tissue massage for 45-60 minutes. Blood pressure readings showed a dip when compared to readings taken before the massage indicating that deep tissue massage has a positive impact on lowering blood pressure.1 Though the exact mechanism of how this happens needs more study, you could use deep tissue massage as part of a holistic approach to treating hypertension.
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According to practitioners, foot reflexology is a simple, non-invasive method to help balance the body. It has been described as a natural therapy that requires the application of a specific type of pressure on particular areas of the feet. It gets its school of thought from the principle that there are reflexes in the feet which correspond to every part of the body, so by understanding the “maps,” you can do anything from relaxation to improved circulation, and also add a general feeling of wellness. It’s like a massage for your feet…that affects your whole body!
The most widely recognized and commonly used category of massage is the Swedish massage. The Swedish massage techniques vary from light to vigorous. Swedish massage uses five styles of strokes. The five basic strokes are effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber or with the fibers) and vibration/shaking. Swedish massage has shown to be helpful in reducing pain, joint stiffness, and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee over a period of eight weeks. The development of Swedish massage is often inaccurately credited to Per Henrik Ling, though the Dutch practitioner Johann Georg Mezger applied the French terms to name the basic strokes. The term “Swedish” massage is actually only recognized in English and Dutch speaking countries, and in Hungary. Elsewhere the style is referred to as “classic massage”.
Deep tissue massage is a stronger massage method and is not recommended for clients with sensitive skin or who are sensitive to strong pressure. The skin can become bruised after a deep tissue massage. Clients should always make therapists aware of their desired pressure and alert therapists if their massage is too strong. This method can also be integrated with other massage techniques.