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!
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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.
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 .
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The physiological effects are a bit of a moot point: if the pressure doesn’t suit you, you’re not likely to continue with the therapy. The exception is the patient who is willing to put up with intense pain long enough to find out if there appears to be a therapeutic effect afterwards, which there may be. But that judgement call is often made without much knowledge of whether or not the pain is really justified. BACK TO TEXT
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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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.
Swedish massage is given to increase blood circulation, easing the tension in the body’s muscles and improving the muscles’ flexibility. It stimulates the skin as well as the nervous system to soothe the nerves, reducing both emotional and physical stress. In fact the massage is a staple in most stress management programs. A Swedish massage is given to help with increasing the flow of oxygen in the blood, releasing toxins from the body’s muscles flushing the lactic acids, uric acids, and other type of metabolic wastes out of the body tissues. It can really shorten the recovery time for a muscular strain!!
My massage therapist has been doing massages for 30 years. He is really aggressive. I thought that I was going to die. The pain was so intense that I honestly feel that it was worse than having children. When the massage was complete, I felt relaxed. When I got home I felt exhausted, like I had been in a major accident. Truthfully I feel like crap. I ache from head to toe, what the heck is this? I feel absolutely horrible. I had a bath before bed and it did help somewhat. But this morning I still feel like hell …
Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery.
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Hepatic hematoma. Hepatic hematoma is a painful liver condition, which The New England Journal of Medicine says has been instigated by deep tissue massage. In this case, a 39-year-old woman received a deep tissue massage, which included the abdomen and right upper quadrant. Within 24 hours, she developed abdominal discomfort, nausea, and pain in her right shoulder. A large hematoma was found in her right hepactic lobe, causing the woman to feel nauseous and have a fever for the following six months.
There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
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There is absolutely a time and a place for DTM, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what this means. Some therapists go after deep fascial layers, some therapists think this means trigger point work, and some just increase pressure as much as they can. If the client and therapist don’t have an open dialogue with clear instructions of when ‘enough is enough’, the client can experience a lot of discomfort and we don’t want that.
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It seems like people who call to get a massage fall into 2 camps: those who want a deep tissue massage, and those that are afraid of it. I have heard a lot of interesting stories of people getting a massage on vacation and barely being able to move the next day. Or people who think they should be sore for a week after a massage “if it’s a good one”. Well I think it is time we went over what Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is, and when it is indicated.
At certain times during the massage, you may feel some discomfort or even some pain as the massage therapist works on areas where there are adhesions or scar tissue. Pain isn't necessarily good, and it's not a sign that the massage will be effective. In fact, your body may tense up in response to pain, making it harder for the therapist to reach deeper muscles.
Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in in this form, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in it before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as classic massage.
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Deep tissue massage is best suited for people who engage in highly physical activities, such as running, or those who have an injury or chronic pain. If you have a low pain threshold or are looking for relief of tense muscles, Swedish massage is gentler and may be a better option. Speak to your doctor before trying deep tissue massage if you have an underlying medical condition.