Reflexology and acupressure are both "reflex" therapies in that they work with points on one part of the body to affect other parts of the body. While reflexology uses reflexes that are in an orderly arrangement resembling a shape of the human body on the feet, hands, and outer ears, acupressure uses over 800 reflex points that are found along long thin energy lines called meridians that run the length of the entire body.
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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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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.
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Most deep tissue massages normally focus on major muscle groups — such as the neck or lower back — along with joints and tendons that are susceptible to straining or injuries. Certain areas of the body that tend to tense up in times of stress, including the shoulders, neck and hips, can often benefit the most from this type of deep manipulation. Many people consider “sports massages” to be a form of deep tissue massage, which involves physical treatment primarily to neuromusculoskeletal systems to treat pain and disability, improve muscle recovery and joint mobilization, and prevent injuries.
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A dry-water massage table uses jets of water to perform the massage of the client's muscles. These tables differ from a Vichy shower in that the client usually stays dry. Two common types are one in which the client lies on a waterbed-like mattress which contains warm water and jets of water and air bubbles and one in which the client lies on a foam pad and is covered by a plastic sheet and is then sprayed by jets of warm water, similar to a Vichy shower. The first type is sometimes seen available for use in malls and shopping centers for a small fee.
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Empathy: Most people opt for massage therapy because they are in pain or because they are stressed out and need to calm down. As a massage therapist, it is imperative that you are empathetic to the needs of your clients, regardless of your day is going. If you appear or feel anxious or stressed, you are not going to be able to make your client feel calm and relaxed. Create trust with your patients by being personable and communicating effectively. Be receptive to their needs.
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Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed depending on your comfort level. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.
The pressure from Swedish massage is ideal for relieving muscle tension, like the kind that builds up from hunching over a computer all day. This tension can sometimes result in knots: trigger points of extremely tense muscle fibers that form tiny nodules. Massage therapists are trained to feel for these knots, and Swedish-massage techniques are ideal for gently coaxing them away.
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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
Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.
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The benefits of a sports massage are numerous: improved flexibility, reduced risk of injury, and a boosted circulatory system, just to name a few. But bodywork isn’t a one-size-fits all tool, and there are certain things to consider before booking an appointment. Here, three runner-trusted massage therapists impart important pre-massage knowledge.
Reflexology is primarily used by many people as a method of eliminating pain. As an analgesic treatment, reflexology can reduce the severity of a migraine and headache, simply by relieving tension in the muscles that can often result in these conditions. A headache induced by stress can also be eliminated since stress and psychological factors often manifest in the physical symptoms of a migraine.
Detoxification: 7 best acupressure points for complete detoxification of the body include the Great Rushing point on the webbing between the big and second toes, the Three Yin Crossing on the ankle, the Shu Mansion just below the collarbone, Union Valley on the hand, Inner Gate on the arm, Upper Sea of Qi on the sternum, and Lower Sea of Qi below the umbilicus. They claim that pressing on these points will flush out toxins, improve the immune system, reduce weight, prevent chronic diseases, and improve mental clarity.
Deep tissue massages are usually “cross-grain,” moving against the muscles to relieve aches or pains rather than moving with them. This can sometimes feel a bit more painful as a result compared to standard “relaxation massages.” However, the pressure involved in deep massages is actually a good thing. It provides many of the benefits that this type of therapeutic massage has to offer. Deep tissue massages also tend to be slower-paced and longer than many other massages, ideally about 1.5 hours long, which gives bodily tissue enough time to warm up and then relax.
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Forty-three states, the District of Columbia and five Canadian provinces currently offer some type of credential to professionals in the massage and bodywork field—usually licensure, certification or registration. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia require some type of licensing for massage therapists. In the US, 39 states use the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's certification program as a basis for granting licenses either by rule or statute. The National Board grants the designation Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB). There are two tests available and one can become certified through a portfolio process with equivalent training and experience. Between 10% and 20% of towns or counties regulate the profession. The National Certification offered by the NCBTMB does not mean that someone can practice massage in any state. These local regulations can range from prohibition on opposite sex massage, fingerprinting and venereal checks from a doctor, to prohibition on house calls because of concern regarding sale of sexual services.
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Obviously, open sores to the hands and/or feet would be a reason to avoid reflexology. Acute injuries also must be handled with care. Anyone with active blood clots should avoid rubbing near the area of the clot. Burns, wounds, gout and infections to the hands or feet should also limit the use of reflexology. Lower extremity swelling or chronic skin changes that are a result of vascular problems to the feet should also limit this form of therapy. Recent removal of a cancerous tumor or other surgical procedures, such as wart removal, also make reflexology inadvisable. There is some evidence that rubbing of the feet during pregnancy might stimulate contractions, and so should be avoided in the later stages of pregnancy.
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Earliest discovery of reflexology was found in Egypt based on the observation of daily life activities including the medical practices.1 Other studies have reported that reflexology emerges from China for the last 5000 years ago but there is no documentation found, so with the finding of hieroglyphic mural in the pyramid located in Saggara, reflexology is considered as a part of Egyptian culture from 2330 BC.3 At the late of 14th century, reflexology was already applied throughout the Europe with another name; zone therapy.9 Father of modern reflexology, Dr. William Fitzgerald (1872–1942) has discovered that zone therapy has been used by Aboriginal American.9 Jenny Wallace from North American Indians tribes used pressure at the feet as one of the sources of healing process.9 Fitzgerald study has brought reflexology practice to be widely used in the United States.3 The discovery of zone therapy was developed from the finding of pressure applied on many parts of body such as hands, nose, ears, and many more can relieve pain sensation.10 Dr. Joe Shelby Riley from Washington has conducted many studies of therapy including reflexology and has used this therapy for many years.9 Eunice Ingham (1879–1974) has worked together with Dr. Riley in 1930's as the therapist and work greatly to help people understand reflexology.8 She shared the technique of reflexology with others by writing many books such as “Stories the Feet Can Tell, Stories the Feet Have Told, and Stories the Feet Are Telling”.9 Reflexology has greater recognition after the emergence of another eminent woman in this therapy world with her book; “Helping Yourself with Foot Reflexology” which reached more than 500,000 copies sold.9