The first study I know of was supervised by William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., a professor who taught research methods to graduate students at Loma Linda University. Using questionnaires, 70 subjects were asked to state whether they had had health problems during the previous two years in any of 43 anatomical areas. These data were then compared with the findings of a reflexologist as recorded on a report form. The results did not differ from what would be expected by blind guessing. To prevent the reflexologist from asking questions or observing subtle clues, the experimental subjects were asked to remain silent and a curtain was placed so that their feet were the only part of their body visible to the reflexologist .
The significant difference in the two approaches is their effect on these layers. A Swedish technique uses lubricant to glide over the layers – whether that be on a superficial layer (light pressure) or a deeper layer (firm pressure). There may also be kneading of the muscles, vibration or percussion to stimulate the muscles, and passive and/or active joint movements. All of these techniques serve to increase circulation of blood and lymph, soften and relax the tissues, reduce cortisol levels in the body (the stress hormone), and provide a generalized sense of relaxation for the client.
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.
Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research, which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage, and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials, which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.
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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.
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.
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Reflexology (or foot reflexology) is a therapy based on the principle that there are small and specific areas of innervation in the hands and feet that correspond to specific muscle groups or organs of the body. In this system, the nerve endings in the extremities provide a “map” of the rest of the body. Examples are the base of the little toe representing the ear, or the ball of the foot representing the lung. Through the application of pressure on particular areas of the hands or feet, reflexology is said to promote benefits such as the relaxation of tension, improvement of circulation, and support of normalized function in the related area in the body.
Hair loss: Massaging several acupressure points will “stimulate and energize the nerves that are causing the problem.” The Paihui is important. “The Paihui is located right in the middle of your scalp. Most of the pressure points related to the hair re-growth are present near this area. Take ten toothpicks and wrap them in a rubber band. Use them to gently poke the paihui, be very careful not to hurt yourself. This action improves the blood circulation in the scalp, which reduces hair fall.”
To put it bluntly, it’s not clear that massage has any musculoskeletal benefits at all. It probably does, but mostly quite temporary and highly unpredictable. There’s not nearly enough science, and therapists are hopelessly biased assessing their own efficacy. See Does Massage Therapy Work? A review of the science of massage therapy … such as it is. BACK TO TEXT
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.
A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people's blood pressure fell after a single 45 to 60 minute deep tissue massage. Additionally, a 2010 meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that massage modalities like deep tissue reduce stress hormone levels and heart rate while boosting mood and relaxation by triggering the release of oxytocin and serotonin.
Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so), and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel. In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.
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Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. One benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This is thought to contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection may also help facilitate better physical health.
Sometimes you're not intimate partners, just traveling with someone you don't get to see often enough — a sister, mom or best friend — and you want to spend as much time together as possible. All of these scenarios are fine, really, because you make the rules up. If you want to talk to each other during the massage, you can. If you want to quietly commune, that's good, too. The therapists will follow your lead.
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Deep-tissue massage can be an effective treatment for injured muscles. Because it facilitates the movement of toxins from the muscles and helps stretch tight or twisted muscle mass, deep-tissue massage can help promote healing. Because massage also helps relax muscles, it can reduce the pain caused by injuries, too. Deep-tissue massage is frequently used to rehabilitate sports injuries.
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In broad terms, reflexology is intended to reduce generalized stress and help the body achieve a state of deep relaxation and homeostasis (that is, optimal balance of the body’s biochemical and other systems). Yet efficacy studies are few, and a 2009 systematic review of randomized controlled trials conducted by researchers at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, concluded that “the best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.”
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.
Deep tissue and trigger point massages are very similar. The difference is that deep tissue massage uses various traditional massage techniques to work the tissue, whereas trigger point massage is literally looking to manipulate or press on that one point that relieves tension in an entire area (perhaps not even nearby). For both, consider this contraption, which is an invaluable tool for torturing soothing sore muscles all over your body. This is a great guide on doing trigger point therapy for yourself.
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