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.


A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.
Swedish massage helps the body heal itself by physically manipulating and stimulating the body’s circulatory and lymphatic systems. This works to energize and help eliminate toxins in the body. Also, through Swedish massage, a high level of relaxation can often be achieved, and this relaxation can help prepare the body to act as an open, receptive vessel in which healing can more rapidly occur.

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The Emory University announcement reads: "Previous research… has already shown that massage therapy can boost the immune system and decrease anxiety for people who do not have cancer... We believe that there are many positive effects to be gained by therapeutic massage and we hope to prove that, among other biological advantages, massage may diminish the incapacitation that cancer-related fatigue can cause for our patients." 

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No one really knows how a painful massage can also feel so good at the same time. This is a sensory phenomenon mostly beyond the reach of science — not entirely14 — all we can do is speculate. A main question is whether good pain is good because we expect relief to follow pain, or because positive and negative qualities are being produced simultaneously. My bet is on the latter.

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An aromatherapy massage is a Swedish massage with scented plant oils (known as essential oils) added to the massage oil. Extracted from flowers and other plant parts, essential oils offer a pleasing scent and are believed to have healing properties. Lavender and rose, for instance, are known to promote relaxation. Although oils may be selected to address specific needs, the therapist typically uses pre-blended oils to relax, energize, or uplift.

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“If your hands and fingers start to scream while you're working, you need to modify what you're doing,” says Bykofsky. “Also, if you notice that you’re sore at the end of your work day, Bykofsky also recommends that you “do the things you suggest to your clients: ice, apply something to help, perhaps take an anti-inflammatory, and, the hard one, rest!”  
Relieve stomach tension. If you tend to feel stress in your stomach, which many might describe as having "the jitters," press the reflex points on your instep (the non-weight bearing area on the bottom of your foot) to relieve discomfort to your abdominal organs. This is the area you would want to work on if you are feeling "gut-wrenching" emotions, or if you wake up with a feeling of heaviness in the pit of your stomach.

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The standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centers, Swedish massage is virtually synonymous with massage therapy. Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology, compared to the energy-centric style more common in Asian forms of massage. Using lotion or oil, massage therapists typically begin with broad general strokes and then transition to specific strokes to address problem areas.
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.

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For instance, I tried a new young massage therapist. He introduced a pain scale right away, and asked me to use it to define an intensity I was comfortable with — a 5 out 10, say — and then actually used that scale to check with me quite a few times throughout an hour treatment. He also responded with clear adjustments to his technique when I reported that we were under or over the target I’d set. Great work! BACK TO TEXT
Another institute that offers a short course of reflexology is Karisma Institute which is a specialist training institute. This institute is registered with the Ministry of Human Resource and Ministry of Tourism Malaysia. This institute offers many courses that are geared towards meeting the market needs. For those who registered as participants at this institute, they are supplied with registration kits which consist of foot reflexology book, reflexology zone poster, massage cream, and towel. This institute offers 10% lecture class on theory and 90% practical session with demonstration. The overall contents of this short course are introduction to reflexology, human physiology, organs function, consultation, treatment, and entrepreneurship.16

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Reflexology careers have been gaining in popularity for the past 25 years and continue to grow today. With the current wellness boom in the United States, reflexology has earned a place at the forefront of alternative therapies for its effectiveness in reducing stress and relieving a number of common health problems, including chronic pain, allergies and digestive issues.

Due to this techniques harsher pressure, there are certain individuals who should seek pain relief elsewhere. Deep Tissue massages can be dangerous for clients who have blood clots, as the pressure and movements might cause the clots to be dislodged. If you have had blood clots in the past, currently have blood clots or are at risk of forming blood clots, you should consult a doctor before pursuing a Deep Tissue massage. If you are currently recovering from recent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or are suffering from osteoporosis you too should speak with a doctor before experimenting with Deep Tissue massages. As this is particularly high pressure massage, you should not allow rashes, wounds, tumors, hernias, etc. to be massaged directly. Expecting mothers should also avoid Deep Tissue massages; instead, ask your doctor about therapists that specialize in pregnancy massage techniques.

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A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).

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Deep tissue technique uses very little to no lubricant so that the muscles can be hooked or grabbed, thereby stretching and lengthening them, and to separate adhered muscle compartments. Strokes will be considerably slower and possibly shorter as the therapist waits for a slow release of tension. Some areas may be skipped so more time can be spent on specific areas of need. Doing this provides better alignment of the muscles and less restriction in the joints, thereby improving their movement and function. It is a massage in which the primary goal is less about general relaxation and more about promoting change in the actual structure of the body.
Neuromuscular therapy is a form of soft tissue manipulation that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This medically oriented form of massage addresses trigger points (tender muscles points), circulation, nerve compression, postural issues, and biomechanical problems that can be caused by repetitive movement injuries.

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Practice applying pressure to reflex points. When you identify which zone you want to engage, find the correct reflex spots on your foot by looking on a chart or consulting with a reflexologist. Apply gentle pressure to the area. The pressure you apply to these spots will stimulate your body to create endorphins that interrupt the pain cycle and relieve stress.

People do have clear pressure preferences: they often fire massage therapists who give treatments that are too painful or too fluffy. Pressure that’s fine for you may cause severe pain, emotional distress, “sensory injury” (sensitization) in others, or even physical injury, so pressure should be customized but often isn’t. Brutal massages might be appreciated or even helpful, but most people can’t tell the difference between the kind of pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive and dangerous.

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Stroke is the condition where the blood supply to the brain is interrupted because of some reasons that may cause many health problems.27 It usually occurs due to blood vessels ruptures. Many patients have tried reflexology as the alternative therapy in order to recover from strokes. The practitioners believe that pressure that they exerted on a particular point on reflex areas may induce a positive outcome and physical changes to the body.28

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Area of focus. Deep tissue massage targets the inner layers of your muscles. It’s used to treat muscle and tendon injuries, pain, and stiffness in your major muscle groups and joints. Swedish massage targets the superficial layers of muscle and focuses on the parts of your body that tend to hold the most tension, such as your neck, shoulders, and back.
Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff "trouble spots" in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage may be therapeutic -- relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.

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The study involved 263 volunteers with an average age of 48.5. Overall muscle spasm/muscle strain was described as either moderate or severe for each patient prior to treatments, which consisted of a massage between 45–60 minutes in duration. Results demonstrated an average systolic pressure reduction of 10.4 mm/Hg, a diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm/Hg, a mean arterial pressure reduction of 7.0 mm/Hg and an average heart rate reduction of 10.8 beats per minute following massage treatment. (6)

How are NMT and Sports Massage treatments different from a basic massage Treatment? While each system uses a hands-on approach to soft tissue manipulation, NMT and Sports Massage are extremely specific. Like massage therapy, NMT and Sports Massage address the muscle bellies, but they also go to work with the entire length of the muscle from origin to insertion. Instead of a general approach, Sports Massage identifies postural and biomechanical distortions that are involved with pain patterns. These systems also go on to strategically manipulate specific soft tissue components to facilitate structural change and balance.


“I decided to go into sports massage when I experienced its effects on me as an athlete,” says McElroy. “Despite having no experience as a competitive runner in high school or college, I joined a team and realized I was pretty good. I trained while working full-time and ran my first marathon, missing the Olympic trial qualifying time by 21 seconds.

In 2015 the Australian Government's Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; reflexology was one of 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[5] Accordingly In 2017 the Australian government named reflexology as a practice that would not qualify for insurance subsidy, saying this step would "ensure taxpayer funds are expended appropriately and not directed to therapies lacking evidence".[6]
In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.

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Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff "trouble spots" in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage may be therapeutic -- relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain.

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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.

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The researchers also note there are psychological benefits for athletes receiving massages, which other research shows can include improved focus and confidence. Although more research is still needed on a long-term scale, both tissue healing and the psychological effects of massages are areas that seem promising for both professional and recreational athletes.
One of the most well-known and verified benefits of reflexology is an improvement in circulation throughout the body, which means that blood and oxygen are being cycled through the body more effectively. This means more oxygen reaches vital organs, thereby optimizing their functioning and further increasing the metabolism. This also results in faster healing and re-growth of damaged cells.

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Many training programs are now available throughout the world that require a minimum of 500 hours of basic massage therapy training, in addition to continuing education credits that can require up to another 400–500 hours. (19) Always make sure you’re “in good hands” by first checking that a therapist has proper qualifications and experience, specifically asking about training in NMT, trigger point therapy, sports massage, pain management, myofascial release and orthopedic massage.

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Learn about qi and other conceptsAnother theory that may also explain how reflexology can produce pain relief is the gate control theory, or, more recently, the neuromatrix theory of pain. This theory suggests that pain is a subjective experience created by your brain. The brain does this in response to the sensory experience of pain, but it can also work independently of sensory input and create pain in response to emotional or cognitive factors. Thus things that influence the brain, such as your mood or external factors like stress can also affect your experience of pain. According to this theory, reflexology may reduce pain by reducing stress and improving mood.
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When travelling with USA Swimming, a typical day for Olympic Trials, which is a 10-day trip, usually looks like the following: Arrive at pool by 9 a.m. to start 20-minute massage sessions for athletes. Break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch and return to pool by 4 p.m. for finals at 6 to 8:30 p.m. Massage athletes after finals at pool from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
An intimate couples massage will make a memorable birthday or anniversary gift for the person you love. Massage therapies for two are offered in several of Dallas’ best spas. From the Koffee Day Spa to the spa in the Riviera, couples massages are a mainstay on Dallas’ spa menus. Some of the best couples massages in Dallas are offered at the Green Lotus Spa & Retreat, Massage Felax, and Elite Massage.

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Elementary Reflexology™ is a form of reflexology incorporating energy balancing with point specific work. Integrating the ancient art of Ayurvedic reflexology with the modern energetic principles of Polarity, and is based on the concept of the inter-relationship of the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. What sets Elemental Reflexology™ apart is its foundation in the assessment and balancing of these five elements. Elemental Reflexology™ is focused exclusively on the feet, because in polarity, they are the most negative pole in the body-the place where energy is the most dense and tends to crystallize and become blocked. Working on the feet frees up this stagnant energy, allowing it to be released and flow freely throughout the body. This process is suited for all ages and many conditions.
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.

As we age, our nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body, particularly in our extremities. That being said, reflexology has been connected with stimulating more than 7,000 different nerve endings in a single session, thereby increasing their function and reactivity. Opening and cleaning out neural pathways can help improve functionality and flexibility in many areas around the body. Neural pathways are like muscles, so it is good to work them once in a while to keep them sharp!
There are maps for the feet, hands and the outer ears (see Reference section). For example, in the feet, the left foot corresponds to organs on the left side of the body, while the right side of the foot corresponds to the right side of the body. More specifically, the gallbladder is on the right side of the body, and therefore the reflex point is on the right side of the foot. 

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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
A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.
Their website seems to conflate reflexology with acupuncture and acupressure. There are five tabs at the top of the home page: (1) Store, which links to a single Amazon.com page selling a reflexology foot massager, (2) Acupressure Points and (3) Reflexology Treatment, both of which have multiple articles on acupuncture and acupressure, (4) Reflexology Machines – foot massagers and acupressure mats, and (5) Courses. Notable by its absence is a tab for scientific studies showing that any of this stuff works.

The foundation course provides the student with comprehensive training to begin working as a Professional Reflexologist. Dedicated students wishing to extend their skills are recommended to continue their studies with our Advanced Reflexology course. The advanced course will expand your knowledge in the specialised areas of this truly effective therapy.


Finding time for each other, let alone massages, can be difficult for couples with busy schedules. By pairing massage sessions with quality bonding time, couples can accomplish two goals at once and emerge relaxed, refreshed and reconnected. A couple’s massage is a wonderfully relaxing, personal experience. Leave the ‘real world’ behind the walls of Le Reve Rittenhouse Spa.

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Pedro is a graduate from The Florida School of Massage, one of the oldest schools in the country, where he learned a variety of techniques. He specializes in giving relief to chronically tight muscles, as well as clients who experience headaches and postural dysfunction. He is proficient in deep tissue, trigger points, and Swedish massage, favoring different stretches and myofascial techniques in his sessions to best facilitate a melt and soft release effect in muscle tissue, and support gentle structural shifts to the body's alignment. Pedro has experience working in chiropractic offices, salt room spas and as a mobile therapist. ... View Profile
DTM can be useful to those that are recovering from an injury (once the client/patient is out of the acute phase), for athletes, for people with postural strains, or people with chronic pain. Typically there is an area or a few areas where this type of work is needed. For example, a person who has chronic postural pain/tightness from sitting at a computer, might need DTM to their shoulders, chest, and upper back/neck. They likely, do not need DTM on their whole body. Some therapists might disagree with me here, but I rarely think a full-body, DTM, is needed. It can simply be too much. I would rather see a client more often, for less-intense sessions. It is simply more effective. It is the same as Physical Therapy- it is more effective to do it regularly.
“The number one thing therapists should do to protect themselves from injury is avoid doing too much work,” says Bykofsky. She also recommends not over-scheduling, working too many hours, or holding too many deep massage sessions a week. Also, take advantage of other “tools” at your disposal, such as different parts of your hands and arms, using them for leverage to take some of the pressure off your thumbs.

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