The Swedish massage is the foundation of the art of massage. It’s typically characterized by friction techniques, kneading, and long strokes, and can be performed using either gentle pressure or deeper pressure. The Swedish massage is the usual go-to if you’re dealing with a lot of stress from work, school, or just everyday life! It’s a soothing, relaxing massage that relaxes muscle tissue while increasing the body’s circulation, sending healthy, oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and tissues.

Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific[1] system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.[2]
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)
The light-touch, free massages often offered at finish line festivals can help calm the nervous system by allowing the body to commence its natural repair state quicker, explains Rosemarie Rotenberger, an orthopedic massage therapist in Mertztown, Pennsylvania. And  Denunzio says that racers can schedule a recovery-focused sports massage within several hours up to 48 hours after an event, although she recommends massage newbies wait three to four days, as they may be too sore within the first few days fully benefit from (and appreciate) the experience.

Most people feel very relaxed. Some experience freedom from long-term aches and pains developed from tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people often experience increased energy, heightened awareness, and greater productivity which can last for days. Since toxins are released from your soft tissues during a massage, it is recommended you drink plenty of water following your massage. Massage therapists sometimes recommend a hot Epsom salt bath that encourages the release of toxins that may have been stirred up from the massage treatment.


For example, I worked on the Indiana Sports Massage Team starting in 1989, as well as the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships and National Championships. I coordinated massage for the 1992 Olympic Trials and was on the 1996 Olympic Massage Team for the Atlanta Olympics—the first time massage therapy was part of the medical staff for the Olympics. These were all volunteer positions, but I loved it!

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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


People generally refer to the tension they feel as tightness. This tightness is caused by adhesions (scar tissue) or knots that slowly developed in your muscles, tendons and ligaments over time. The adhesions will often block blood circulation leading to inflammation that builds up toxins in the muscle tissue. This potentially limits your movement, causes pain along with inflammation.
Reflexology is a practice in which different amounts of pressure are applied to specific points on the feet or hands. These points are believed to match up with certain other parts of the body. Reflexology is claimed to cause relaxation and healing in those parts of the body, but this has not been proven. In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, women with advanced breast cancer who received reflexology treatments showed improvement in a few symptoms, such as shortness of breath, but not others, such as nausea or pain. In this study, reflexology was safe even for the most fragile patients.

Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on "reflex areas" on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body's natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.
In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.
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.
You’d hope this sort of thing would be rare, but it’s not. Readers regularly tell me about massage therapists who do not ask them what they want, who dismiss their patients’ concerns about pressure, and who ignore signs that their clients are in pain. They display a “doctor knows best” arrogance — ironic for an alternative health care professional — imposing their own idea of the “right” intensity.
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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Somatoemotional release. Mental and emotional context is a major factor in how we experience pain. Painful sensations are unusually good at stimulating catharsis — the expression of strong or repressed emotion. — because physical pain often strongly “resonates” with emotional pain.12 For instance, the pain of an injury may blur together with the emotional frustrations of functional limits and rehab. That’s a basic example, and much more complex interactions between emotional and physical pain are obviously possible. Whether it is the clear goal of therapy, or simply a natural side benefit, experiencing very strong sensations can certainly be a meaningful part of a personal growth process “just” by changing your sense of yourself, how it feels to be in your skin, and perhaps bumping you out of some other sensory rut.13

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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Reflexology is a complex system that identifies and addresses the mass of 7,000 nerve endings that are contained in the foot. Additional reflexology addresses the nerves that are located in the hand. This is a completely natural therapy that affords relief without the use of drugs. The Reflexology Association of America (RAA) formally discourages the use of oils or other preparations in performing this hands-on therapy.

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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.
Reflexology practitioners and the professional association have advocated that reflexology is effective for general well-being maintenance and treatment of chronic diseases such as strokes, musculoskeletal disorders, and stress. Due to its soothing massage and non-drug complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted by general public. Yet, numerous systematic reviews confirmed that strong evidence of the positive effects of reflexology postintervention are lacking despite plenty reported small-scale trial and anecdotal evidence of reflexology for some common ailments. Adequate training of practitioners and reflexology programme accreditation are to ensure correct and consistent services are provided. 

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A healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you will help in nearly every encounter, from the home to workplace. Regular Swedish massage can help you maintain greater emotional balance, a better functioning immune system, and a healthier lifestyle overall. Consider finding the right Swedish massage provider to add massage therapy to your self-care routine. This will help ensure that you can be the best caregiver for others when needed and may also help ensure your own needs are met, which is typically one goal of any self-care routine.

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It’s important to be open with your massage therapist about the level of pressure and discomfort you wish to endure. This may be different for certain areas and throughout the massage, feel free to communicate with your massage therapist before and during the massage. Some massage therapists find pain to be counterproductive to the process and expect you to speak up if the pain is too much.
Active Bodywork Injury & Sports Therapy offers a comprehensive range of services, all tailored to your unique needs. With our specialized therapy services, we improve physical performance of athletes by reducing inflammation, improving flexibility, and removing scar tissue. Our team of therapy specialists can help people recover from sports-related injuries, workplace injuries, poor posture, repetitive motion injuries, and many other injury types, no matter the cause. We are the premier provider of massage and neurokinetic therapy in the Sacramento area, and we stand ready to help you recover through the use of bodywork and treatment options. For people in Sacramento and surrounding communities, the experts at Active Bodywork can help you lead pain-free, active lives. Active Bodywork is proud to offer the following services:

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Thai massage works your entire body. It's one of the most invigorating types of massages, as the therapist rigorously manipulates your body, moving it into yoga-like stretches. (It's sometimes referred to as "Yoga for the lazy".) The therapist uses every part of his or her body—hands, knees, legs, and feet—to not only stretch you but also apply pressure on your muscles and loosen your joints. You might even get walked on! This type of massage is both energizing and, at times, relaxing.
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.
Another study compared the effects of foot reflexology, simple massage, and conversation on 130 patients who had undergone abdominal gynecologic surgery under full anesthesia. The patients were asked how they felt, and data were recorded on general condition, pain intensity, movement of the bowels, urination, and sleep, from the day before the operation until until the tenth day afterward. Simple massage turned out to be a relaxing, positive experience, whereas foot reflexology had various effects, some of which were negative. The researchers concluded that foot reflexology is not effective in acute, abdominal postsurgical situations in gynecology and can occasionally trigger abdominal pain [15].

The best we can say is that there is some reason to believe that painful pressures on muscles might be therapeutic for some people some of the time. Pretty decisive, eh? This is why it drives me nutters that so many therapists insist that strong pressures are “essential” to achieve “a complete release.” It really isn’t possible to know! It really does depend! Why would anyone pretend to “know”?

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