I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
No, because most therapists will customize the pressure of their strokes to suit your requests. According to Shannon Merten, a licensed massage therapist we interviewed about massage etiquette, communication is key. “I would rather my clients leave happy and satisfied than not, so if [the therapist] is doing something that is not enjoyable, a good ‘that’s a little too much pressure’ or ‘that area is too sensitive to be worked on’ should get you satisfying results,” she says.

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Massage may be an appropriate technique for helping certain sports injuries, especially muscle injuries, to heal. When treating an injury, however, it is best to seek advice from a qualified sports therapist or a specialist in sports medicine before performing any massage. Certain ligament and joint injuries that need immobilization and expert attention may be aggravated by massage.

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Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the United States. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of the massage. The benefits of Swedish massage include increased blood circulation, mental and physical relaxation , decreased stress and muscle tension, and improved range of motion.
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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Most sports massage therapists will wear a white coat or uniform. This projects a professional image. It will also prevent unsightly oil stains on clothes. When you are referred to a massage therapist by a doctor or other qualified person then you should expect their instructions to be carried out to the letter and not added to or altered by the massage therapist.

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It is important to note that the reflexology group only received two months of treatment, whereas the ibuprofen group had two months. In addition to being “associated with more reduction of intensity and duration of menstrual pain in comparison with ibuprofen therapy,” it appeared that reflexology actually promotes healing and not just pain management.

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Sports Massage is a combination of massage strokes and techniques combined with flexibility and specific exercise routines geared to increase an athletes performance capabilities. The application of Sports Massage is determined by ones own specific anatomical and physiological needs. Basic musculoskelatal evaluations, orthopedic assessments, and flexibility analysis do this. By determining the athletes specific needs, the Sports Massage therapist will not only be able to provide increased strength, speed and flexibility, but also improve biomechanical efficiency and decrease the potential for injury. This is a comprehensive program with a shared responsibility between the Sports Massage Therapist and the athlete.

Clients interested in experiencing Swedish massage should seek out a reputable massage therapist to explore it. Often it takes several visits to multiple therapists to find one who is a good match with the client. Like other massage modalities, this form is most effective when undertaken at least once a month, although once every two weeks is a more therapeutically useful interval. Clients should remember to communicate clearly with the therapist for a productive session.


A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.
For Pietrunti, an interest in sports massage began as part of his military experience. Serving as a Navy Chief Petty Officer where he was a fitness leader at various naval commands, Pietrunti says, “I began to look into corrective exercise to help my sailors and clients with athletic performance and pain management, but I felt that something was missing.”
“I decided to go into sports massage when I experienced its effects on me as an athlete,” says McElroy. “Despite having no experience as a competitive runner in high school or college, I joined a team and realized I was pretty good. I trained while working full-time and ran my first marathon, missing the Olympic trial qualifying time by 21 seconds.

Each massage session at Elements Massage™ is meant to achieve the same objectives, be therapeutic and relaxing. When a client requests a Swedish massage at an Elements Massage studio, they also have the benefit of requesting aspects of other modalities as well, such as deep tissue massage or hot stone massage. Rather than keep each massage session limited to one particular modality, Elements Massage studios customize each massage to the client’s needs and blend modalities to ensure a truly personalized session.
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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During the 1990s, I observed at least seven foot reflexologists at work during health expositions. In most cases, the process appeared to be an ordinary prolonged foot massage with little communication between the practitioners and their clients. But at one exhibit, the practitioners claimed that they could reduce stress, cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. On another occasion, I underwent a 15-minute session in which the practitioner felt my foot for diagnostic purposes and then massaged it for "therapeutic" purposes. During the previous year, I had had severe shoulder pain caused by an inflamed tendon that was rubbing against a bony surface inside my left shoulder joint. Thorough medical evaluation had determined that the appropriate treatment was arthroscopic surgery in which a drill is used to shave the bony area that was impinging on the tendon. The reflexologist claimed that he could detect the shoulder problem by feeling my left foot, that it was caused by stress, and that pressing on my foot—perhaps for a few sessions—could solve the problem. His "treatment," which lasted about 10 minutes, consisted of massaging the foot and from time to time, pressing hard on the ball of my foot, a procedure that was quite painful. The "treatment," of course, did absolutely nothing to help my shoulder. A few months later, I had the surgery, which cured the problem immediately and permanently.
20 asthmatic patients were chosen to be the subject for active treatment and another 20 patients were chosen to have reflexology session. According to a recent research conducted by the author, there are no significant differences between the groups having active session and placebo session of reflexology.33 However, when the analysis of the symptoms diaries was carried out, the results showed that there were significant differences between both groups especially when it was conducted together with subconscious unblinding pattern of study.33

The process of foot reflexology is not like other treatments. It is really very relaxing and soothing; in fact, you will get a really good sleep after having the treatment. In a typical treatment, the patient and therapist discuss about the therapy as to how they will go about it, what kind of stress does the patient have and where do they normally feel pain. Depending upon that, the therapist determines where to apply the pressure. Before and during the treatment, you do not need to do anything; you just have to relax on the sofa.
I am also a triathlon coach and personal trainer, so I mix and match my appointments every week in between massage sessions and coaching and training sessions with my clients. I typically have between five and eight massage sessions per day, four to five days per week. There are typically two sports massage sessions per day. Most massage sessions include corrective exercise review so the client knows what self-care they should perform.
We recently received an email from a representative of Modern Reflexology asking if they could advertise their website on ours and offering to pay. Of course, we don’t accept advertising. But I was puzzled as to why they approached us and what they thought was science-based about reflexology. I was intrigued enough to visit their website to learn what “modern” reflexology was all about. I learned about a lot of specific claims I hadn’t heard before, but I found no science whatsoever. By writing this article, I am in a sense giving them the advertising that they asked for; but it will be negative publicity, not positive. Old adage: Don’t wish too hard for what you want; you might get it.

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