Swedish massage is now gaining acceptance from the medical community as a complementary treatment. Studies have shown that massage can relax the body, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce stress and depression. It may also provide symptomatic relief for many chronic diseases. Many doctors now prescribe massage therapy as symptomatic treatment for headache , facial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, other chronic and acute conditions, stress, and athletic injuries. Many insurance companies now reimburse patients for prescribed massage therapy. As of 2000, however, Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for this form of alternative treatment.
During most full-body massages the expectation is you’ll be undressed. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress for your massage while they wait outside. It’s up to you whether or not to keep your underwear on. Your massage therapist will drape a sheet over your body, which they will pull back and adjust as they work their way around. You will be covered most of the time.
Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue to benefit a person who is engaged in regular physical activity. When you exercise, their body is subjected to various types of physical loading, and following such activities with the right amount of rest, your body’s system will adapt in order to cope with the increased strain placed on them.
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.
Many types of practices are associated with massage and include bodywork, manual therapy, energy medicine, neural mobilization and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as holistice philosophies of preventative medical care, as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.
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Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety. Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance. Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling, blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.
Therapists use a combination of kneading, rolling, vibrational, percussive, and tapping movements, with the application of oil, lotion, or cream, to reduce friction on the skin. The many benefits of Swedish massage may include generalized relaxation, dissolution of scar tissue adhesions, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury.
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Aquatic bodywork comprises a diverse set of massage and bodywork forms performed in water. This includes land-based forms performed in water (e.g., Aquatic Craniosacral Therapy, Aquatic Myofascial Release Therapy, etc.), as well as forms specific to warm water pools (e.g., Aquatic Integration, Dolphin Dance, Healing Dance, Jahara technique, WaterDance, Watsu).
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The NCCIH adds that massage therapy may also be potentially harmful to women who are pregnant. Even though research has found that it offers this demographic some positive effects, such as decreased depression and anxiety and reduced leg and back pain, it is still important to obtain approval from her healthcare provider first to ensure that she can receive a safe sports massage.
Swedish massages utilize variations of strokes, and the body responds to the pressure, duration, and speed of those strokes in different ways. Long, quick strokes stimulate blood flow to tissue. Gentle, slow, topical strokes promote general relaxation. The technique of delivering the massage largely depends on what the massage is intended to address.
Your therapist might assess your complexion at the start of your treatment and choose essential oils or lotions to suit your skin type. She will massage these into your body with a series of strokes and techniques specific to the part of your body and what you want to achieve; for example, this might be long, gliding strokes across your back to help you relax, or kneading or rubbing your shoulders to unwind any knots. The treatment takes into account the delicate or tender areas of your body, so it should be comfortable and soothing.
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.
Some of the scientific research on massage therapy can be conflicting, but much of the evidence points toward beneficial effects on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions. Much of the evidence suggests that these effects are short-term, and people should keep getting massages for the benefits to continue. Researchers have studied the effects of massage for many conditions. Some that have been studied more extensively are blood pressure, general pain, cancer, mental health, fibromyalgia, headaches, HIV/AIDS, infant care, autism, anxiety, and diabetes. Massage therapy appears to have few risks if it is used appropriately and provided by a trained massage professional.
There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
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Any tender or sensitive areas of the body are dealt with extra caution and are more commonly massaged in a soft, relaxing manner; whereas, massage intensity is increased for tension-prone sectors such as the lower back or the shoulders. Customized lotions or essential oil mixtures are also created by the massage therapist after evaluating the skin-type and body assessment of each client.
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
Flushing. If massage can “improve” any tissue — unknown — one way it might do it is through simple hydraulics: physically pumping tissue fluids around, and/or stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph. I won’t get into the evidence about it here. Suffice it to say that it might be true, and if it’s true then it may not much matter if the process is uncomfortable. While gentler massage may feel pleasant and satisfying, it is possible that more biological benefits can only be achieved hydraulically — whether it’s comfortable or not. This is even more plausible because of trigger points: it’s likely that the tissue fluids of a trigger point are quite polluted with waste metabolites, and the need for flushing is greater, but it’s especially uncomfortable to squish those polluted patches of tissue.
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