Getting a massage is more than just a luxurious way to relax. It also changes the way our genes behave and contributes to muscular healing, new research has found. Scientists had 11 male volunteers ride stationary bicycles until they were exhausted. They then massaged one of each volunteer’s thighs for 10 minutes and took biopsies from both legs. In samples from massaged muscles, they found that genes linked to inflammation and soreness were three times less active than they were in those from the untreated legs. The massages also caused a 30 percent increase in a gene that helps muscle cells create mitochondria, cellular organs that produce energy, potentially boosting muscle recovery. Previous studies have suggested that massage can reduce stress and discomfort, but scientists weren’t sure how it worked, or whether it’s effects were psychological. The new study underlines the practice’s dual therapeutic benefits of repairing muscles and reducing pain. “With massage,” Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, tells The New York Times, “it seems you can have your cake and eat it too.”
Reflexology is the application of pressure to points on the feet and hands that have representation on other areas of the body and organs. I use reflexology to varying degrees during a massage and have several clients that I manage problem areas. One client in particular has reflexology done to help with neuropathy of the feet from chemotherapy. If you are experiencing problems with your feet or with congestion, headaches or joint pain, reflexology can be benificial in helping to relieve your discomfort and help with overall pain management while incorporated into a regular massage.
Sports massage has a number of definitions and the work can be modified in numerous ways. Most of my training and education for sports massage is used in pre and post event massage. The work can be used for someone who enjoys running, training for a marathon or triathlon or can be incorporated into a regular massage. Sports massage before an event warms up the muscle and the therapist will increase the speed of the massage or cadence to increase blood flow and prepare the athlete for the event. Post event massage is much slower and used to cool the body down, incorporating stretching and focusing on areas the individual may identify. Sports massage can help reduce possible injury and help also with recovery time after an event. Anyone who is training for an event should consider including massage work as an integral part of their overall training program.
Cupping involves the application of either glass, bamboo or plastic cups to create suction to help draw out toxins from the body. Usually done on the back, the treatment can also be used on the back of the knee, top of the shoulder and along the arm. Cupping can affect as deep as four inches into the tissue being worked, activate the lymph system, clear the colon, veins and some stretch marks. It can be used as a stand alone treatment or incorporated into a massage. In my practice I have done both with good success reported back to me by clients. Cupping can leave painless marks for up to 2-10 days in the area worked. It’s usually good to have this work done at the change of the seasons, say from early fall into winter, but certainly not limited to that time. The work can be done anytime someone is experiencing tight or sore muscles along the neck, shoulder or back.
The Thai massage I have been introduced to and instructed in is called Nuad Bo-Rarn Thai work. The four primary components to this work are, compression, point work, sen or energy lines and stretching or yoga. The advantage to this type of massage is that it can be done through clothing. Although it can be modified to table work, it is usually done on a traditional Thai mat.
Starting with the feet, the practitioner will focus on beginning the massage. Once the feet are completed, compression work is used to warm the muscle and prepare for the additional work. Moving to the right side for a man or left for a woman, the inside of the leg is done and then point work is started. Point work is specific areas that are held to work sen lines or energy lines. The work is done slowly and with purpose. Once completed on the first side, the practitioner moves to the opposite side of the body and again will use compression to begin the work and then finish again using compression and then move to the rest of the body, repeating each step, first compression then working the sen or energy lines.
Once the compression and energy work is done on the legs, the massage transitions to a series of stretches to help further the level of relaxation and beneficial work. Moving to the upper body, many of the same steps are repeated and a variety of moves can be incorporated into the work.
Thai work can take at least two hours to complete, simply because of the pace, which is much slower than a Swedish or sports focused massage. And though you may think that the work doesn’t sound like it would be all that relaxing, it really is. Some clients mix things up and have a Thai massage every other month and others prefer to have a combination of both Swedish and Thai during a massage session.
Like any other massage or relaxation technique, Thai can be quite beneficial in improving flexibility, reducing stress and improving overall wellness. Don’t hesitate to contact me to schedule an appointment and try a Thai massage.
Now you have decided to treat yourself to a massage, but you don’t know a massage therapist. A good source is to check out professional sites such as AMTA for listings of therapist’s near you. Another is to ask friends, family or co-workers if they know someone. But think about what you want to accomplish. Are you after relaxation only? Or do you have soreness from workouts or maybe an injury from the past? Many of my client’s use massage as a maintenance for over-all wellness. Others find the time a relaxing way to end a busy work week or just a way to enjoy some quiet time. Many people new to massage believe it’s necessary to talk during the session, thinking it rude not to. Everyone has a different approach to what is relaxing for them personally, but a good rule of thumb is to expect the therapist to be quiet and allow you to set the tone. There is no rule that says you must talk or remain totally silent during a massage. However, closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing while the therapist works can be quite beneficial.
Now you have found a therapist and have made the appointment. You arrive perhaps with some apprehension of what to expect? The massage therapist should ask you specific areas that you feel need attention and areas to avoid, such as ticklish feet or no facial massage. They should also explain to you the type of massage they are trained in and what you should expect. They should ask you if you need to use the restroom and they have a good reason to do that! Massage will lower the heart rate, reduce the core body temperature but will increase the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system and sinus. The massage therapist should instruct you on whether they will begin working on you face up or face down. You should disrobe down to your comfort level, but depending on the massage style or technique, an article of clothing can obstruct the overall level of effectiveness. A good massage therapist will be aware of this and help you to understand. But your comfort level is the most important thing. If you have barriers to massage because of disrobing, an excellent alternative would be a Thai massage.
Massage to some people is something you do maybe once a year. To others they might save it for special occasions such as birthday’s or the holidays. And then even a smaller percentage of people never seek it out at all or they had a massage once and it was painful and it ruined them from ever receiving another massage again. That’s unfortunate, because massage can relieve so many stresses we have if done by the right person and done in a manner that is comfortable for the recipient. Nothing, as a massage therapist, is harder to overcome than someone who has been given a poor massage. I would encourage anyone who has experienced this to give massage another chance. It will reduce stress, release toxins from the body, help in recovery time if working out or training for an event and of course it should feel good as well! It’s important for the massage therapist to check in with you once or twice during the massage to see if the pressure is correct. As the client you have the responsibility and the right to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. Too often therapist’s assume the session is going well because the client has given no feedback. That’s why I always ask during a massage session, even repeat client’s and especially new ones, “Is the pressure sufficient?”