So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.
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It’s just a theory: no one knows if this is actually effective.11 However, it may explain why so many massage patients report a “gets a bit worse before it gets much better” response to quite painful treatments: motor end plates are (painfully) destroyed by strong pressures, and then that tissue is quite sensitive and a bit weak as it heals over a day or two … and then you finally feel much better after that!
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.
Expect to work hard breaking into the sports environment. Get additional training and develop your expertise in orthopedic massage and functional assessment, clinical massage, myofascial work and stretching. Start by getting involved with your AMTA chapters’ Sports Massage Team; this provides excellent hands-on experience and each event looks great on a resume.
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This may come as a surprise, but in fact there is no therapeutic benefit to stretching skin so hard that it feels like it is going to tear! And it is a completely different and uglier sensation than how fascial stretching can feel and should feel (more like a good massage). When I complained about this (politely), the therapists made no distinction between skin-tearing and fascial stretching, and more or less tried to tell me that I was objecting to perfectly good therapy. Needless to say, I never returned to those therapists.
There are 58 training programs accredited by the Commission for Massage Therapy Accreditation/Approval in the United States. They provide a minimum of 500 hours of massage training. Certified therapists have graduated from these programs and passed the national certification examination for therapeutic massage. They are also required to participate in continuing education programs to keep their skills current.
Did you know that the bottom of your feet could affect what's going on in other areas of your body? On each foot there are over 7,000 nerve endings called reflexes that correspond to every organ and system within your body. By pressing on these reflex points, you stimulate the nervous system and open energy pathways that may be blocked or congested.
The benefits of reflexology include its ability to stimulate nerve function, increase energy, boost circulation, induce a deep state of relaxation, and eliminate toxins from the body. Moreover, it helps stimulate the central nervous system, prevent migraines, and treat urinary tract conditions. This type of massage speeds up recovery after an injury or surgery, reduces sleep disorders, and relieves depression and pain. It also helps in relieving side effects associated with cancer treatment and even soothe the pain of pregnancy, even the one occurring after delivery.
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Whether you work in an office, a factory, a field, a hospital, or anything in between, there is a good chance that you put a lot of weight and stress on your feet every day. It is not always the back, stress can manifest itself in the other parts of our body too. People often opt for massages, so it makes sense that there should be foot massages too, right? Reflexology is much more than a foot massage, but at its foundation, that’s the easiest way to describe the process. This specific area of massage therapy also includes hands and ears, making it a holistic massage.
In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.
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Deep tissue technique uses very little to no lubricant so that the muscles can be hooked or grabbed, thereby stretching and lengthening them, and to separate adhered muscle compartments. Strokes will be considerably slower and possibly shorter as the therapist waits for a slow release of tension. Some areas may be skipped so more time can be spent on specific areas of need. Doing this provides better alignment of the muscles and less restriction in the joints, thereby improving their movement and function. It is a massage in which the primary goal is less about general relaxation and more about promoting change in the actual structure of the body.
That is, regardless of all other considerations, a massage therapist must talk to you about pressure, respect your preferences (they are more important than any treatment ideology), and be careful about stumbling into areas that need much less pressure (for comfort) or much more pressure (for satisfaction). Far too many therapists make the mistake of setting a “default” pressure for a client early on, and then using roughly that much pressure everywhere.
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.