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.

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Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.)

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Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word.
Patients were referred to a physiotherapist for the six months and the effect of the therapy was recorded by several methods such as qualitative interviews, headache diaries, and questionnaire. The results came out with 55% of them experienced relief, 23% expressed no further recurrence of symptoms, and the rest 11% stopped taking their medications.26

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Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.

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The pressure used during a Swedish massage therapy help to relax the muscles and relieve all of the tension that has built up. The touch of the skin also helps to relax the person and to clear their mind of anything that might be bothering them. Therapists suggest a Swedish massage to anyone who is feeling run down or suffering from mild depression.
While a foot massage may feel the same as a reflexology treatment, a reflexologist will work on areas to promote a healing response in the corresponding organs. A massage therapist giving a foot massage will manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve pain, and heal injuries in the area or to induce overall relaxation.
Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.
In the United Kingdom, reflexology is coordinated on a voluntary basis by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Registrants are required to meet Standards of Proficiency outlined by Profession Specific Boards,[12] but since CNHC is voluntary anyone practicing can describe themselves as a reflexologist. When the CNHC began admitting reflexologists, a skeptic searched for, and found, 14 of them who were claiming efficacy on illnesses. Once pointed out, the CNHC had the claims retracted as it conflicted with the UK's Advertising Standards Authority code.[13]
Frequently, clients will think they have to "focus" or "concentrate" to feel the benefits. While being quiet will frequently induce a deeper feeling in the novice, the client needs to have no special skills or habits for reflexology to work. Reflexologists maintain that as long as the practitioner has knowledge, stays centered, and allows the flow of energy to occur, the client will respond positively.

Deep tissue massage may cause soreness or sensitivity, which is usually resolved within a day or two, particularly if you are diligent about drinking water to help your system flush lactic acid and other released toxins. Your therapist at In-Symmetry will tailor your massage to your body’s needs and preferences, creating a balanced session that releases muscular adhesions, increases blood flow, and relaxes the nervous system.

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Pumping - The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
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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Challenges include breaking into the sports arena. Often, massage is not viewed as a primary service. If you do get in with a team or individual, the travel schedule can be daunting; long hours, little sleep, and being away from your family and business can be really difficult. Finally, the work can be very physically challenging. This can take a toll on the massage therapist, so exceptional body mechanics and self-care are essential.
Posterior interosseous syndrome. Physiopedia explains that posterior interosseous syndrome is a compression of the posterior interosseous nerve, which is located near the shaft of the humerus and the elbow, that may result in paresis or paralysis of the thumbs and fingers. Though cryotherapy, ultrasound, dry needling, and other modalities often help with this condition, so too does deep tissue work that is focused on the thoracic outlet, pectoralis minor, triceps, brachioradialis, and other surrounding areas.

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In this particular study, published in Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, therapeutic massage included techniques of tapping and friction, while DTM used “oblique pressure and a combination of lengthening and cross-fiber strokes.” All sessions were 30 minutes long and preformed daily, and all participants did not receive any other treatments during the course of the study. After 10 days, participants treated with DTM reported significant improvements in pain (lower back pain in this case) compared to those treated with therapeutic massage, based on scores using the Modified Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Index, Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale and Visual Analog Scales. (4)

Sports massage has antecedents in earlier periods of history. The ancient Greeks and Romans combined massage and exercise in their athletic training. Various Asian cultures also developed forms of massage for dancers and for students of martial arts . As a formal practice, however, sports massage began in the Soviet Union and Communist bloc countries in the 1960s. Soviet teams were the first to have a massage therapist travel with them and work on their athletes on a regular and ongoing basis. Through sports and cultural exchanges, the concept of sports massage moved to Europe and the United States in the 1970s. Over time the benefits of sports massage became accepted, and sports massage became a part of the training regimen, first of professional athletes, then of college and amateur athletes. Today sports massage is recognized as a specialty by the American Massage Therapy Association.

But the relief model is certainly tempting. There are many painful-but-relieving analogies in medicine and biology.15 That’s similar to what good pain in massage feels like, but it’s not the same: no one thinks that lancing a boil or popping a shoulder joint back in is anything but painful while it’s happening.16 And we can’t necessarily take the good pain sensation at face value and assume it means there’s actually going to be a positive outcome. Brains are not all-knowing. Sometimes they see danger where there is none, and sometimes they see help where there is none.

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