Certain massage therapists have specialized training in techniques that help treat people with injuries, inflammation, tears and limitations. Although more than one massage session is usually needed to provide relief and see improvements in pain, well-trained therapists can usually recommend practices or stretches for you to try at home that can further help improve healing.
Although only one controlled trial of reflexology therapy, done in 1993, has been documented in medical journals, this therapy is practiced worldwide at different levels of medical care. In Russia, for example, only licensed physicians may legally perform reflexology treatment. In contrast, the practice is a commonplace homestyle remedy in the Netherlands. The Internet "Home of Reflexology" lists at least 66 professional organizations worldwide, including New Zealand and Malaysia. Associations include the following:
Reflexology is an alternative medicine system that claims to treat internal organs by pressing on designated spots on the feet and hands; there is no anatomical connection between those organs and those spots. Systematic reviews in 2009 and 2011 found no convincing evidence that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition. Quackwatch and the NCAHF agree that reflexology is a form of massage that may help patients relax and feel better temporarily, but that has no other health benefits. Our own Mark Crislip said, “The great majority of studies demonstrate reflexology had no effects that could not be replicated by picking fleas off your mate…And it has no anatomic or physiologic justification.”
The recently increased demand for evidence-based practice challenges the researchers to provide a relevant but holistic assessment of reflexology. Despite the recent vast use of reflexology, minimal attention has been given to the ethical issues related to the research on reflexology. In the view of public health and safety, we argue that the research on reflexology should adhere to the same ethical requirements for all clinical research.
According to the Neuromuscular Therapy Center, NMT is one type of deep massage technique that focuses on applying manual therapy to soft tissue with “quasi-static pressure” in order to stimulate skeletal striated muscle. (17) In addition to massaging a painful or inflamed muscle, the area around the affected muscle that normally supports it is also massaged in order to release tension. NMT therapists often focus on several factors that can add to muscle or tissue dysfunctions, including joint pathologies, postural positioning, disruptive habits of use, nutritional components, emotional well-being, allergies and neurotoxins.
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While there is certainly carryover between who can benefit from each type of massage, the deep tissue massage may be better suited for people who are experiencing a specific injury or who have chronic, nagging pain in a particular area. Athletes or individuals in the midst of training for a more intense event may also find this technique particularly helpful.
I also recommend taking the time to do some self-assessment of your pain and your pain tolerance. Think about where your pain is coming from, what spots are particularly tender and what could be causing the pain. Deep tissue massages can be uncomfortable at times, so it’s important to think about your pain tolerance level. We’ll discuss these factors in depth at the beginning of your appointment, but you should think about them in advance.
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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.