Several mechanisms for deep massage’s natural stress-relieving effects include its ability to dilate blood vessels and also lower activity of the limbic system (including the hypothalamus), which is responsible for autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion. Massage has been shown to improve relaxation by boosting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by heart rate, blood pressure and heart rate variability. (8, 9)
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Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
Traditional Thai massage is a different experience if you’ve only ever had a Swedish or deep tissue massage. In Thai massage, you wear loose-fitting clothing (often provided by the massage therapist) and start by lying on a mat. Throughout the massage, the therapist moves your body into various seated and prone positions, which stretch and release your muscles and soft tissue. Although your body is moving, the therapist is doing all the work, making it feel similar to supported yoga. The massage therapist will bend, stretch, and compress and lengthen your body using their hands, forearms, elbows and even feet. Don’t be alarmed by the feet! Many studios have overhead supports that allow the practitioners to safely walk on your back, releasing tight adhesions and promoting ease. Thai massage can be both invigorating and relaxing. It is an excellent option for keeping your muscles in good health if you regularly work out, or if you want to overcome a lack of flexibility. Studies show that Thai massage can increase blood circulation, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension and enhance mental well-being.
Completely new to massage? Book your first appointment either well before a race—at least a few weeks out—or wait until the day after. “Just like you wouldn’t test out new socks or shoes on day of race, you shouldn’t experiment with any pre-race bodywork,” says Denunzio. Those who are familiar with massage can benefit from a pre-race rubdown in the seven to two-day window prior to an event. Getting treatment less than 48-hours prior puts all runners—even those who are massage veterans—at risk of race day soreness.
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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.
Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity. Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity.
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.
Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length.
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Acupressure [from Latin acus "needle" (see acuity) + pressure (n.)] is a technique similar in principle to acupuncture. It is based on the concept of life energy which flows through "meridians" in the body. In treatment, physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points with the aim of clearing blockages in those meridians. Pressure may be applied by fingers, palm, elbow, toes or with various devices.
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The whole Swedish experience is also a potential stress reliever, which is a benefit unto itself. Plus, it can improve blood flow, delivering more oxygen to cells. A lesser-known benefit—moisturized, glowing skin—results from the application of massage oils. Many therapists prefer to use sweet almond oil because it absorbs slowly into the skin, yet doesn’t leave clients feeling like they’re covered in grease. Other favorite oils include grapeseed (non-greasy, no smell) and jojoba oil (easily absorbed, mixes well with aromatherapy oils).
During the 1930s and 1940s massage's influence decreased as a result of medical advancements of the time, while in the 1970s massage's influence grew once again with a notable rise among athletes. Until the 1970s, nurses used massage to reduce pain and aid sleep. The massage therapy industry is continuously increasing. In 2009, U.S. consumers spent between $4 and $6 billion on visits to massage therapists. In 2015, research estimates that massage therapy was a $12.1 billion industry.
"Back before we started wearing shoes everywhere, we developed natural stimulus points from the ground [making direct contact] with our feet," Colin says. "By walking and getting that stimuli, we would relieve stress. We don't get that anymore. So the idea of reflexology is going back and mimicking that stimuli to specific points and feeling where that stress sits."
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Massage therapy is also being investigated as an aide to patients with more neuromuscular disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). A Iranian 2013 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation looked at 48 individuals with MS who participated in a five-week massage experiment. They were assigned to one of four groups: massage therapy, exercise therapy, combined massage-exercise therapy and control group.