It’s just a theory: no one knows if this is actually effective.11 However, it may explain why so many massage patients report a “gets a bit worse before it gets much better” response to quite painful treatments: motor end plates are (painfully) destroyed by strong pressures, and then that tissue is quite sensitive and a bit weak as it heals over a day or two … and then you finally feel much better after that!
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But the relief model is certainly tempting. There are many painful-but-relieving analogies in medicine and biology.15 That’s similar to what good pain in massage feels like, but it’s not the same: no one thinks that lancing a boil or popping a shoulder joint back in is anything but painful while it’s happening.16 And we can’t necessarily take the good pain sensation at face value and assume it means there’s actually going to be a positive outcome. Brains are not all-knowing. Sometimes they see danger where there is none, and sometimes they see help where there is none.
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.
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.”
As mentioned above, reflexology has been known to open neural pathways, and this sort of free-flowing neural activity results in a more relaxed state in the body. For this reason, reflexology can flood your system with relaxation, inducing a state of calmness throughout your body and mind. In this same vein, reflexology is commonly used to cure sleep disorders. Insomnia can be a very troubling condition to suffer through, but reflexology helps your body relax and get back to its normal, healthy circadian rhythms.
There’s rarely any justification for extremely painful massage, unless it clearly produces a better result than gentler treatment — which is rarely clear!1 It is possible that a few “brutal” deep tissue massages could do the trick where gentler treatment would fail — but there is no way to know this in advance, and massage is expensive stuff. If you’re going to gamble on a treatment, gamble on cheaper and less painful ones.
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Whether you work in an office, a factory, a field, a hospital, or anything in between, there is a good chance that you put a lot of weight and stress on your feet every day. It is not always the back, stress can manifest itself in the other parts of our body too. People often opt for massages, so it makes sense that there should be foot massages too, right? Reflexology is much more than a foot massage, but at its foundation, that’s the easiest way to describe the process. This specific area of massage therapy also includes hands and ears, making it a holistic massage.
A person receiving a deep tissue massage usually lays on the stomach or back in one position, while deep pressure is applied to targeted areas of the body by a trained massage therapist. The massage is beneficial mostly because it helps stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension, while at the same time lowering psychological stress and releasing “happy hormones” like serotonin and oxytocin.
Research shows that firmer massages with more pressure can result in a significant reduction in arthritis pain compared to lighter massages. Lighter massage tends to be arousing (not relaxing) because often the heart rate goes up. However, with moderate pressure, heart rate usually goes down, and this stimulates relaxation and reduced tension. (13)
The findings by a recent study have confirmed the efficacy of reflexology by recording 31% of pain reduction among the patients with back pain. Quinn et al. reported that the pain intensity score decreased to an average extent in the experimental group.23 Poole et al. demonstrated that there was a significant difference between the control and experimental groups before and after the reflexology treatment.24
You can usually choose which type of massage you’d like to receive, and you and your partner can each get a different type of massage depending on your preference and the offerings at the spa. Your partner and you will be on tables side-by-side, and you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
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In massage therapy, so much can be achieved while inflicting only good pain on patients that bad pain must be justified by vivid, quick, and somewhat lasting benefits — which is a high bar to clear. All health care practices must be justified by benefits. As risk and pain and expense increase, the benefits must also. There is simply no point in tolerating — and paying for — painful treatment without an obvious return on the investment.
“Many athletes and weekend warriors put themselves under a great deal of mental stress in preparation for a competition,” says Pietrunti. “For many amateur athletes, this is exacerbated by other day-to-day stressors from their jobs, families and life. Sometimes, just setting aside an hour to relax and unwind can be a huge step towards better performance and quality of life.”
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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.
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