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.
If you are dealing with a serious injury, and don’t have a diagnosis, definitely see a sports doctor. “Massage therapists do not diagnose,” says Denunzio. “It’s not part of our discipline.” And while a therapist can identify and attempt to alleviate any tightness and inflammation in the body, if a problem area doesn’t feel significantly better three days post-massage, you should likely consult a sports doctor then, as well. Once a diagnosis is given, your massage therapist can work with that information and use massage as a helpful tool in recovery.
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When you are looking for massage therapy, be sure to check which type of massage a practitioner can provide. Match that with the benefits you hope to get from the massage session. You may want to chat with several different practitioners to find the one who understands your needs and is used to working with people with similar goals. Be sure also to discuss any allergies, such as to scents or plant oils, so your massage will be relaxing and beneficial without that concern.
Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.
Unlike Swedish massage, which has a relaxing effect and uses lighter pressure, deep tissue massage is done using deep finger pressure with strokes that are firm and slow. Deep tissue massage has several therapeutic effects and can be used to treat many different conditions. This type of massage is ideal for the treatment of major muscle groups like the neck or lower back. It can also be used to relieve strain and treat injuries in your joints and tendons.
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Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reported findings of a positive trend for deep tissue massages in regard to improved athletic recovery and performance. The most beneficial type of deep tissue massage for athletes is considered to be “sports massage,” which is commonly performed prior to athletic events to help warm the body and prevent injuries or immediately after to improve recovery.
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A 2004 systematic review found single applications of massage therapy "reduced state anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate but not negative mood, immediate assessment of pain, and cortisol level", while "multiple applications reduced delayed assessment of pain", and found improvements in anxiety and depression similar to effects of psychotherapy. A subsequent systematic review published in 2008 found that there is little evidence supporting the use of massage therapy for depression in high quality studies from randomized controlled trials.
While a Swedish massage works great to help people who suffer from health conditions it also works wonders on people who suffer from everyday troubles and concerns. There are many things in our life that can cause us to be stressed and worried on a constant basis. The more that we stress the more our muscles became tense and we find it hard to relax them.
Deep tissue massage is a focused, therapeutic massage that targets muscle knots (also known as "adhesions") and specific problem areas in the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Using deliberate, slow strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, the therapist addresses chronic tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or injuries.
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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According to the theory, the reflexologist's application of pressure to feet, hands, or ears sends a calming message from the peripheral nerves in these extremities to the central nervous system, which in turn signals the body to adjust the tension level. This enhances overall relaxation, brings internal organs and their systems into a state of optimum functioning, and increases blood supply (which brings additional oxygen and nutrients to cells and enhances waste removal). It positively affects the circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, immune, and neuropeptide systems in the body.
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.
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”?
Until recently, reflexology was mostly ignored by science and relied on anecdotal evidence to buoy its good name. Today, though, there are many associations and organizations promoting and supporting the work of reflexologists from around the world. There is even an International Council of Reflexologists which has produced a Research Analysis Document that contains over 300 reflexology research studies, mainly from such places as China, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Even in North America, a study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Some of this research studies examined the effects of reflexology upon certain health conditions such as: asthma, back pain, cancer, chest pain, childbirth, PMS, heart disease, constipation, gout, migraine, headaches, multiple sclerosis, and nervous exhaustion.
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Although reflexology isn’t directly connected to curing cancer, it has been known to ease the side effects of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. It helps cancer patients get a sound sleep by reducing anxiety and also reduces the chances of vomiting or other commonly experienced indigestion issues. The more general effects of reflexology, such as clearing neural channels and increasing circulation help patients.
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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.
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
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Massage therapy involves rubbing muscles and joints of the body, generally to relieve tension. When it comes to Swedish massage versus deep tissue massage, they are similar but with defining differences, as the pressures and techniques help to differentiate between massage methods. Swedish massage is most commonly offered and utilizes a firm pressure on muscles. Five primary strokes encompass Swedish massage to increase blood flow, ease muscular tension, and reduce stress response.