Massage Therapy: Treating Neck Pain

What causes neck pain?

With all the time we spend sitting at our desks, lugging around heavy bags and avoiding postural exercises, it's no wonder so many of us have neck pain. Other less common ways of injuring your neck may include trauma (such as an athletic injury), muscle strain, or your pain may originate from a degenerative disease such as arthritis. Rarely, neck pain may also be caused by bone or joint abnormality or even a tumor.

Basically, neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head down to your shoulders. It can also potentially be related to shoulder pain or upper back pain. You may feel soreness, stiffness, and when nerves are involved also potentially some numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands.

The muscles involved in neck pain usually include your trapezius muscle for the most part, but may also involve your scalines (medial and / or anterior), and your sternocleidomastoid muscle. Other smaller muscles may also be involved, but usually only secondarily.

What does a massage therapist do for neck pain?

After ruling out a serious injury by consulting with your physician, seeking out a massage with a registered massage therapist may be one of the best things that you can do for your neck pain. Massage can not only help improve circulation to your neck, but can also help to decrease tension, and improve nerve incidence and lymph drainage. Together, these factors help to reduce the scar tissue and inflammation that together can impinge on your nerves and cause pain, tension and general discomfort. Plus, tight, untreated tissue can pull on other tissues, causing other imbalances and can potentially cause you more more widespread issues. In addition, massage therapy will encourage your stress hormones (such as cortisol) to decrease, and cause your 'feel good' neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) to increase, leaving you with an temporary feeling of deep relaxation and happiness.

To treat your aching neck, a registered massage therapist may use their fingertips, knuckles, hands, and even their elbows or forearms if appropriate, to give you a deep enough massage. You may be asked to breathe deeply during the course of the treatment, as some of the work done to break up scar tissue may feel uncomfortable. Try to remember not to eat too much before your treatment, and to drink plenty of water afterwords. Your massage treatment will certainly help with your neck pain, so be sure to also follow any advice regarding exercise, stretching, Epsom salt baths and so on.

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Tui Na Massage

With so many different types of massage available today, you can get lost trying to remember which one one is, and what they're all individually useful for. The good news is that Tui Na massage, like most other types of massage, works by rubbing, kneading, or applying pressure in some way to your muscles, in order to effect a therapeutic outlet. The main difference with Tui Na is that it is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and so its approach is a little different than other types of massage.

It is believed that Tui Na, as a modality of TCM, developed in ancient China, approximately 5,000 years ago. In China today, it is considered a main form of medical therapy, and is considered as the basis for other therapies that exist in western society as well, such as shiatsu and acupressure.

TCM looks at your body as a whole; not individual parts working separately but rather a continuous being that is connected not only to itself in every way, but also to the universe and all that exists within the universe. A Tui Na massage works on the same muscles and parts of your body as do other massages, but you can begin to see how a holistic approach immediately makes the treatment even subtly unique. Furthermore, TCM is defined in part by meridians (pathways of energy and nutrients), as well as theories such as the Theory of 5 Elements which help to determine your individual diagnosis for treatment purposes.

An example might help to highlight the differences: if you have pain in your neck and shoulders, one meridian that is probably affected is your Gall Bladder meridian ('Gall Bladder' is capitalized here to differentiate from the scientific definition of the organ). Knowledge of the TCM meridians will tell your Tui Na practitioner that a few points on your feet or lower legs may also help the treatment. Also, knowledge of the Theory of Five Elements may tell your practitioner to use a point or two on your wrist and hand. Other types of massage would not necessarily treat the same points, and would certainly not use the same reasoning.

Tui Na massage is not necessarily better than other massage techniques, just simply different in application. In western society, the TCM massage is often used as an adjunct to acupuncture, cupping therapy, Qi Gong, and / or herbal medicine, and so your Registered TCM Practitioner may include some type of Tui Na in your treatment. Be sure to find a qualified therapist who is knowledgeable about the wide array of different TCM modalities.

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Basics of Massage Therapy

Just wanted to give you a few quick basics for massage therapy. It is somewhat easy for many people to learn. However, I personally recommend taking at least a few classes on some basic techniques before applying any technique of your own. A lot of 'self-taught' people who do massage work of their own do not have an understanding of the different muscle groups and how every living skin tissue, muscles and tendons are interconnected with each other. This is why other parts of your body may ache when you overwork certain muscle groups in a different area of ​​the body. The best option would be to go to school for massage therapy if you plan on working in this specific area. My personal suggestion would be to take a class in medical massage therapy as it could land you a position working in a doctors or chiropractors office. Some states require certification while others require a state test in order to work within a business whether it be for yourself or someone else.

A person should learn the anatomy of the body along with muscles and under tissues. I would also recommend learning a bit about the circulatory system and the nervous system. One should also understand the effects massage will have on a person during the session as this will affect the person on different emotional and physical levels. Every practitioner is different in their techniques of their massage work but having the knowledge of how everything is connected and works together is what helps practitioners know how to work the muscle groups thusly helping that client feel better and more relaxed.

People seek out massage mostly because they are trying to free themselves from the daily stresses in life. They are looking for an alternate form of healing, relaxation and time away from the hustle and bustle of work, family, and to help them feel better due to their health or condition. This can help the body improve and heal itself. Massage therapy is that, therapy. One session can not be expected to 'fix' everything that is medically wrong but it is a good start in the right direction.

There are many different types of massage. I am focusing on the basic here so I will be writing about the basics of Swedish massage. This is the most common type of massage work that many people enjoy. This type of massage is very fitting for a beginner as well as those who know massage well. The sessions can be anywhere from a few minutes up to 2 hours long depending on the type of massage. It can be done clothed or unclothed depending on how comfortable the person feels. Some practitioners may use lotions, oils, or both. Some may also include different types of aromatherapy and / or pressure point techniques on the feet and hands. Soft relaxing music is normally included during the session to help the client feel more at ease.

Efflourage is typically a long, smooth stroke which is used to begin relaxing the muscles. It is not rough by any means. This stroke alone can help someone relax especially if they are not sure about massage work to begin with (newbie).

Petrissage is a kneading of the muscle (s). This may also include rolling and squeezing. This tightening and releasing of the muscle (s) leads to further ease of the muscle being more relaxed and capable to be manipulated further. Petrissage normally follows efflourage.

Friction are circular movements that, when done correctly, can move under tissues against each other without pain or discomfort. This helps to break down any scar tissue, knots, and anything else that may be causing stiffness and uncomfortable feeling in that specific area. This also helps blood flow to circulate better through the body.

Tapotement is usually done towards the end of the massage treatment. It helps to 'wake up' the person who is in a relaxed state. Some may fall sleep during the session so this will also help bring them back from la-la land. Tapotement can be done with the fingertips lightly tapping over the back. The practitioner may also use cupped hands or even the edges of the hands in order to accomplish this technique.

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Massage Therapy and Cancer

You might be recovering from cancer or wanting to prevent it, and wondering if massage therapy is right for you. Well, not only is massage possible for you while you're recovering from cancer, it can also work to help with getting you feeling better, and can potentially even help prevent your cancer from coming back. Too good to be true? Actually, no it's not.

Massage therapy, when performed by a registered massage therapist (RMT), has several benefits that may not seem obvious. You probably know, or at least are not surprised by the fact that massage can help release the tension and stress in your muscles. And it probably also does not surprise you to hear that massage can help you sleep better. But in addition to helping your muscles relax and aid you in sleeping, massage can help to reduce pain – whether it's pain caused by cancer or another condition. Furthermore, massage can help relieve you of headaches you may be experiencing as a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation, and can even help to loosen up congestion, constipation, and mucous in your lungs.

Some people laud massage therapy for the simple benefit it provides regarding touch. If you're a cancer patient and / or survivor, you might have experienced a real hesitation from people to touch you. Whether they're afraid of somehow contracting the illness from you or simply do not want to hurt you by touching you, the income can make you feel immensely stripped. Massage is great because your professional RMT knows how to ask you about what pressure you need, and is trained in determining what methods of massage will work best for you.

It is actually a combination of effects that makes massage so beneficial. For one, and especially with repeated sessions, massage can help stimulate your brain to produce more endorphins, those chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, reduce your feelings of stress, and even make your pain seem less significant. Also, massage helps promote circulation, nerve incidence and lymphatic drainage, all helpful in removing pain-causing 'debris' in your muscles leftover from inflammation. And while inflammation is often caused by torn muscle tissue, it can also be caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Note that if you have cancer that has spread to your bones, or have another type of bone condition that could reduce your bones, you should opt for only light massage to prevent a fracture. Also, if you've had radiation therapy even light touch may be uncomfortable. If you have a tumor, a heart condition, a low blood platelet count because of chemotherapy, or if you're taking blood-thinning medication, be sure to consult with your doctor before getting a massage. So even though you may have to take some precautions or talk with your doctor first, there should at least a modified way of getting the massage therapy that you need. So enjoy a good massage today!

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Learning the Advantages of Lower Back Pain Treatments

There are a variety of different activities that one can perform throughout the day in a way that compromises the stability of the lower back area. Picking up heavy objects with improper form is one of these things and it can really develop into a serious problem over time. If you have been starting to feel a few pains in your back or other surrounding areas at some point in time, it would definitely be a good idea to go to a doctor and get them checked. This could help you to find out the underlying problem, receive treatment for that problem, and then learn safe practices so that you will no longer experience problems of this sort in the future.

Finding a good doctor

There are quite a few doctors out there who are specialized in the treatment of lower back problems and the main reason for this is that there is a very high demand. Often it has to do with the general population not being educated on how to lift properly, the result being that these bone and back structural problems continue to develop for years. IF you are currently feeling a fair bit of pain in your lower back and you would like to find a way to provide relief for the pain or make it go away for good, the first thing you are going to need to do is find a good doctor, which should be more or less difficult depending on where you live.

Proper back exercises that can help

One of the best ways to cure chronic back pain is to strengthen the muscle that support the back in general. These may include your lats, rhomboids, and certainly your spinal monitors, which will all use energy when you pick an object from the ground. If you start to do some exercises targeted to these particular areas, it is highly likely that you will develop a buffer zone that could definitely go a long way to preventing further injuries from occurring in the future, or even help your body deal with the ones that it has already.

Along with a helpful training regimen like that, make sure to pay a visit to a doctor from time to time who will give you some help on the matter. He may be able to fix up some of the surrounding joints that good have been causing the problem in the first place or at least develop a way to give you some pain relief drugs.

Wrapping things up

As you can see, it is quite clear that taking good care of one's back is very important and if you want to keep it sturdy and healthy, it is going to be necessary to put some effort into it. This is something that many people around the world do not make second nature, but it would be very wise to start back training exercises and also pay a good visit to the doctor whenever you find it possible to do so.

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Modern Techniques of Relaxation

Massage therapy improves blood flow by bringing in oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues. A neck and shoulder massager can be used by individuals who do not seek other therapists for treatment.

References to massage have been found in Chinese texts more than 4,000 years back. The ancient Indians, Egyptians and other middle-eastern tribes had implemented these forms of massaging for curing many ailments. This technique has been used throughout the ages and has proven to be very effective. It is very common in the modern age, and new ways of massaging like implementation of magnetic punch therapy is very prominent.

Massaging Therapy is of great importance as it is beneficial for the cure of many chronic conditions, including lower back stress, arthritis, fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility, quitting smoking, depression, and more. It is even proven by the masses that massage therapy also helps relieve the stress and tension of a modern life style that can lead to disease and illness.

The neck and shoulder can be one of the most tense and painful parts of the body. It is necessary to use a neck and shoulder massager if they experience stress and pain. It helps relax the muscles, reduce muscle tension and reduce stress.

Magnetic punch therapy is another such form of massage therapy which helps in body relaxation. It is a highly effective modern technique of massaging, which is like hand knocking massaging in different modes. One can use a neck and shoulder massager, which is electronically crafted to suit your health and wellness needs.

A body punch massager is one such modern method of healing that can also be used for slimming down. This punch massager can reach those neck and shoulder tissues that even you can not reach. The Body Punch massage wraps around your waist for deep, enhanced relaxation.

They are ergonomically designed with the use of modern electronics and provide a percussive feeling which is rhythmic and helps treat pain and fatigue. This modern method of magnetic punch therapy is an electronic counterpart of the manual method of massaging. They provide various other options and specifications which cater to the areas of discomfort.

The body puncher is designed to maximize comfort, without the use of the hands. This enables all round comfort. It is the perfect alternative for conventional massage methods that comprehensively accommodates the dynamic life-style and fast-paced environment.

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Massage Therapy and Boosting Your Immune System

You probably know that massage therapy can help to relax your muscles, improve your sleep, and even reduce your stress levels, but did you know that it can also help to boost your immune system? It's true! In fact, stress and the effect it has on your immune system is a big reason why massage therapy can be so beneficial for helping you fight off colds and the flu. But that's not the only way massage helps boost your immunity; massage will certainly help lower stress-causing hormones like cortisol and increase 'feel good' hormones like serotonin, but it does even more than that.

Have you ever wondered why some people get sick more often than others? And then there are those people out there who never get sick! What's going on with them? Well, it could be that they handle stress better than others, and that may be because genetically their bodies naturally produce more 'good' immune system fighters, and have a better ability to decrease the 'bad' guys who can cause all that pain and discomfort. Alas, we're not all built that way: some of us need a little extra help.

Clinical studies have shown that massage therapy on a regular basis can actually affect your levels of naturally occurring antibodies, increasing their levels to help fight off bacteria and viruses (that's right, get a massage and you can skip your blueberry-banana-wheat-grass -protein-smoothie for once!). Not only that, but regular massage will help reduce your body's production of cytokines, which encourage inflammation and pain through your body.

Furthermore, massage therapy helps to improve your blood's circulation and lymph drainage, two systems that help to flush out those nasty little invaders that can hamper your immunity. Note, however, that it's not good to get a massage once the bad guys have gained control and you're feeling sick! Once their numbers are high enough, increased circulation can help them get around your body faster and wreak more havoc. If you've already come down with something, wait at least 3 to 5 days until your symptoms have dissipated before resuming your massage therapy sessions.

If you work really hard you deserve to relax. Even better, taking the time to get regular massage therapy from a registered massage therapist can help keep you from having to take sick days off and miss all that hard work you love to do! It's hard to lead a stressful life when a weakened immune system gets in the way. So get proactive and get a massage today!

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Useful Tips on How to Choose the Right Massage Oil for Your Baby’s Sensitive Skin

Since old times, massage has been known to be helpful in strengthening baby's muscles, and for pacifying an irritable baby to sleep. Massaging a baby is usually being performed using oil so that the hand can go smoothly on the skin.

Using the right oil for your baby's skin also provides comfort and less friction. But if you use the wrong massage oil, your baby will feel irritated and uncomfortable, and your hands will be sticky.

Before using it for your baby, first check if it is pure. Cold-pressed oils and those without pesticides are considered the right baby massage oil. Lighter ones are easier to use because it does not leave thick residue on the hands and baby's skin.

There are two choices of massage oil for your baby: vegetable oils or commercialized ones. Vegetable oils have huge amounts of linoleic acid that serves as skin barrier for your baby's sensitive skin. Grapeseed and safflower oils are considered to be the best vegetable oils for baby massage; but it is still up to you.

But there are a lot of important factors to be considered before choosing the massage oil for your baby. For instance, there are babies that are allergic to nuts or gluten. To avoid negative effects, do not use wheat germ oil, peanut oil, or any strong oil because it may cause an allergic reaction or harm to your baby's sensitive skin. Test the massage oil on the skin of your baby first before using it immediately. To do this, apply a very small droplet of oil to your baby, either on his arm or leg. After 24 hours and your baby did not feel any irritation, you can now use the oil to massage his whole body.

What is the best massage oil during summer?
A lot of experts believe that coconut oil is one of the best massage oils during summer, because of its cooling properties. Another alternative is sesame oil. Olive oil and almond oil are also excellent in any type of season, but they are quite expensive.

What is the best massage during winter?
In countries like India, mustard oil is usually used during winter. But if you can not stand its strong smell, other better options are olive oil or almond oil. During cold months, heating the massage oil before using helps it be easier to apply.

What is the best massage oil for the sensitive skin?
If you have an extra sensitive skin, avoid using vegetable oils that are rich in oleic acid. This will also cause your skin and your baby's skin to be more susceptible to irritation and rashes. Among the vegetable oils that are rich in oleic acid are sunflower seed oil and olive oil. To make sure that you buy the right massage oil for your baby, check its label first. Do not buy massage oils that have high levels of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats higher oleic acid content level than polyunsaturated fats. Also avoid using perfumed or heavy oils if your baby has skin problems like eczema.

Should you massage your baby's skin with gram flour, fresh cream, or turmeric?
One of the oldest practices of massaging a baby is by using fresh cream, gram flour, or turmeric, but you should not use it. According to experts recently, raw milk can cause skin infections, while gram flour can block pores that can lead to rashes. Turmeric has been known for a long time for having anti-bacterial and healing powers, but it can be strong for your baby's sensitive skin.

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Self Massage Tips

Trigger points or also known as muscle knots are small spots of hyper tension muscle fibers that that make you feel stiff. This kind tension in that small area of ​​the muscle can affect the entire muscle and even cause trigger points in muscles close to it. Although using a professional masseuse is a great way to get rid of the knots in your muscle trigger points can be self massaged as well. Let's look at some self massage techniques on how to get rid of muscle knots in your muscles.

Simple self-massage instructions

If you're not that tensed up there are simple techniques you can follow. By rubbing your muscles gently together for a couple of minutes can already help release tension tremendously. By rubbing your muscles softly for 2 or 3 days regularly you will be able to sooth more severe cases of muscle ache and pains. If you want to reduce the pains in a vast majority of muscle knots you need to gently massage each trigger point 15 – 20 times four to six times a down.

What to use to massage yourself

You can use your elbows, thumbs or fingertips to rub your muscle knots. You can also use objects that are readily available at home like a tennis ball or a table spoon. If you're going to use a table spoon use the rounded side of the spoon and gently rub it in a circular motion on the muscle knots.

How to massage

There are different techniques you can use to massage. One way is to simply press down on the trigger point for 15 – 60 seconds at a time and then releasing the object slowly. You can also apply small but gentle kneading stokes forward and backward or in a circular motion to the tensed up muscle to relax it. If you know which direction the muscle fibers run massage it in that direction to get the knots out of it. If you do not know it's also fine as anything will do.

When applying pressure to the muscle do not press down to hard. You want to relax your muscle not tense up in pain. On a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being painless and 10 be intolerable, aim for the 4 – 6 range. If the pressure feels satisfying and relieving you're on the right track. If massage can be described as having a conversation with your nervous system, you want to have a friendly tone. Screaming at your muscles or being rude would leave you gnashing on our teeth and this means you're pressing too hard on your trigger points and need to be gentler.

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Learn The Benefits Of Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu massage was first developed in Japan and is the counterpart of acupressure in China. “Shi” stands for finger, and “tos” stands for pressure. Thus, instead of using needles it uses finger pressure to restore vitality and improve functionality through the body.

Shiatsu massage follows the belief that each of our bodily organs is connected to different energy channels called meridians. These meridians are like turn-on and turn-off switches, where most concentrations of nerves are. When pressure is applied to these points, “chi” or energy is stimulated to its corresponding organ. For instance, the pressure points in our w nerves are highly concentrated. Applying regular pressure in this area relaxes and stimulates the associated organs, reducing the risks of heart attack and hypertension.

Most of the time, Shiatsu massage is applied to the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. The therapist can use a combination of his fingers, thumbs, palms, or wooden massage tools to apply pressure. It may also include gentle stretching and manipulation techniques.

Although Shiatsu massage is an ancient technique, it is now widely used and respected all over the world. In fact, most hospitals use Shiatsu massage as post-complementary therapy for patients who have suffered a stroke, heart attack, and chronic disorders like arthritis.

How is Shiatsu Massage Done?

Like any other massage technique, the therapist must first asses your conditions. For example, if you have a lung disorder like asthma, the therapist will check for imbalances at any of your meridian points, especially in your arm where a high concentration of nerves is connected to your lungs. This is a simple process. The therapist applies light pressure to the corresponding nerve meridians. If you feel pain at a particular area, then an energy imbalance exists. Sometimes the therapist has to check more than one meridian point, searching for other existing conditions.

The essence of Shiatsu massage is touch. Your therapist can use the power of her hands to deliver different approaches such as pressing, shaking, hooking, rocking, joint rotations, vibrating, grasping, patting, and other hand massage techniques. Each is applied more than 3 to 5 minutes on certain areas where pressure is needed the most.

The patient is normally advised to wear loose clothing. However, there are times that the patient will be asked to remove garments for areas that require deep pressure manipulation, such as the back, the thighs, and the knees.

Depending on which area needs to be rented, the patient will be asked to lie face-down, or to sit on a futon or chair. The session typically lasts from 45 minutes to an hour. The therapist can also follow through with a Swedish massage or Thai massage. This further relaxes the patient and restores balance of “qi” flows.

During the session, patients may feel “good pain.” However, over time, these pains become more tolerable. This means that circulation is beginning to improve, which will soon relieve pain and boost energy levels.

The number of Shiatsu massages one may need will vary. Normally, it takes more than 6 or 8 sessions before achieving the full benefits of the technique, which can mean 2 to 3 months of therapy. Once the patient has received full relief, they may undergo Shiatsu massage once a month for follow-up.

Benefits of Shiatsu Massage

The benefits of Shiatsu therapeutic massage depend on how well your therapist has mastered the technique, which focuses on finding the root cause of a problem and healing it. Shiatsu is a non-invasive and holistic approach to heal the body and boost the mind. It can be used to treat all chronic disorders such as stress, muscular pains, fatigue, migraines, anxiety, and much more.

When the right amount of pressure is applied to meridian points, endorphins are released. Endorphins are responsible for our “happy hormones” and serve as a natural painkiller for those who suffer muscle pains and chronic disorders such as arthritis. Once endorphins are released, the patient usually feels immediate relief of pain.

Shiatsu massage also improves blood flow. Better circulation can promote faster healing, due to the increased supply of oxygen. Your skin will benefit – looking young and smooth with a healthy glow. Why? When pressure is applied to the skin, it improves the sebaceous gland, which is responsible for keeping skin smooth and moisturized. Shiatsu massage can also enhance flexibility, treat injuries, lower blood pressure, help with insomnia, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve our immune system.

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How To Use Foam Rollers And Benefits

Foam rollers act as extremely useful fitness equipment that fitness enthusiasts can use for taking care of various soft tissue injuries. Half an hour on this equipment can substitute the need for any massage therapist and can help in saving substantial amount of money. Runners are to benefit particularly from the use of the rollers to give relief to their sore and stiff leg muscles. In fact, rollers are the perfect equipment for giving relief to the fatigued leg muscles that tend to restrict movements. Runners can use the rollers to help them benefit on a number of count by taking advantage of its various applications.

Foam rollers can be the perfect fitness equipment for preventing sporting related injuries in runners. In fact, both professional, as well as, people running to improve their fitness can use this equipment prevent soft tissue injuries. This equipment works like a sport massage and helps in breaking down any scar tissue over time. This helps in relieving pain and preventing future injuries from affecting the same tissue as well. Breakdown of the scar tissue is extremely important in keeping the soft tissue free from any minor imperfections and maintaining its optimum performance level intact. Scar tissue can cause quite a bit of pain and discomfort, and foam roller is the perfect remedy to that problem.

The foam roller can be excellent equipment for the stretching exercises, which are extremely important for increasing the strength of the core muscles in the lower part of the body. People who use foam rollers can stretch their muscles around the rollers to stretch even those muscles that would be difficult to stretch otherwise. Some of the muscles such as those in the outer thigh region are actually inaccessible or any stretching exercises other than using a roller. It can also provide all the benefits of a relaxing massage to the sore and tired muscles of a runner. In fact, having a rolling session on this equipment after a vicious workout can help in improving blood circulation to the muscles, and help min lengthening them.

You can use the roller on your stomach to relax the muscles and get rid of tension. If it is executed correctly, it can be an effective abdominal strengthening tool. The roller can be an effective tool even for arm exercises and knee problems. Thus, foam rollers can benefit their users on a number of counts.

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Benefits of Massage Therapy for Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are common yet serious disorders. Massage therapy may help.

An estimated 18% of adult Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder and approximately 10% suffer from some type of depression. These disorders may coexist and are often untreated. Depression and anxiety can interfere in social functioning and lead to increased risk of unemployment, illness, and even death. They can play an aggravating role in other health conditions and render an individual more vulnerable to disease. While anxiety and depression can often be treated successfully with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, these options are not always sufficient, desirable, or available. Some individuals may be unable or unwilling to take medications because of health conditions, drug interactions, personal beliefs, or unpleasant side effects.

Psychotherapy is not available in all communities and may be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Social stigma may prevent some individuals from seeking treatment. Some individuals just do not respond well to conventional therapies. Clearly, an easily accessible treatment devoid of othersome side effects could be helpful.

Research has shown that massage therapy can have a beneficial effect on both anxiety and depression.

Early research at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School demonstrated that 30 minutes of daily massage therapy to hospitalized depressed adolescents over a 5 day period thought about an improvement in mood and behavior. Since then, many studies have documented that massage therapy can have a beneficial effect on depression and anxiety. In fact, it is one of the most consistently documented results of massage.

Anxiety can be divided into two general classes: state anxiety and trait anxiety. State anxiety is a temporary reaction to a stressful situation. Trait anxiety is an ongoing, chronic state of anxiety. There are many specific anxiety disorders, such as panic attack disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, etc. Massage therapy has been shown to have at least mild benefit for both state and trait anxiety, and even a single session of massage may help to alleviate the symptoms of state anxiety. However, a series of massage sessions has been found to offer the most benefit and seems to be particularly helpful for trait anxiety disorders.

How does massage therapy work?

We do not exactly know how massage works to alleviate depression and anxiety. For many years, it was thought that massage reduced the stress hormone cortisol and this thought about the improvement. However, more recent research has shown that massage does not reduce cortisol in the way in which we thought. No one is exactly sure how massage effects change. Some hypotheses exist but do not have sufficient data to support them. Specific effects on the nervous system, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc., are still under investigation. We know that humans are biologically wired to respond to touch. Perhaps it is the combined effect of focused, caring attention and tactile stimulation, or sometimes the muscular relaxation signals the brain to shift to a more calm state. Fortunately, we do not need to understand precisely how this change comes about in order to benefit from it. As we learn more over time, it may help us understand how to optimize massage therapy's effects and help massage gain acceptance as a treatment for anxiety and depression.

Christopher Moyer, Ph.D., is a psychologist who has made significant contributions to the field of massage therapy research. His paper, Affective Massage Therapy, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, describes some of the history of massage therapy research and, in particular, examines the research on massage and anxiety and depression. Moyer was co-editor of the book Massage Therapy, Integrating Research and Practice and wrote the chapter on anxiety and depression. In the “recommendations” section of the chapter, Moyer states:

Massage therapists can be confident that MT has been scientifically demonstrated to reduce anxiety and depression, and that the benefits are substantial. Indeed, there are probably no other effects in MT research that have been consistently established as these mental health benefits.

Moyer takes care to point out that, like any treatment, individual responses will vary and massage therapy will not work the same for everyone. We still do not know the optimal amount and pattern of treatments to get the greatest effect.

Depression and anxiety can be very serious and massage therapy should not be a replacement for proper medical attention when it is needed. Clients and therapists alike should recognize its limitations. However, one of the advantages of massage therapy is the ease of access. No prescription is needed and one does not typically need to wait weeks or months for an appointment. Gentle massage should have no detrimental side effects and social stigma is generally absent. Mild benefit is often felt immediately and even greater benefit can come from a series of sessions. All these factors may make it an appealing resource for the person living with anxiety or depression.

Patients suffering from anxiety or depression should inform their massage therapist so they can treat appropriatively. Professional massage therapists are expected to respect client confidentiality. Clients do not need to be embarrassed and do not need to reveal details which they might prefer to keep private.

Massage therapists should familiarize themselves with common mental health problems, assessment anxiety and depression during intake, and inform clients who admit to anxiety or depression that massage therapy may help.

Living with anxiety and depression is a painful and distressing experience. Proper treatment is important. Massage therapy can be of benefit. Please, if you know someone who is suffering from anxiety and depression, urge them to get the care they need so that they can go on to live a more successful and productive life.

If you found this article helpful, please pass it on to someone else who might find it helpful, too! Thanks!

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Massage Therapy and Improving Circulation

You've probably had a massage before – if not a professional one then you've at least experienced something a friend or family member has offered. And so you probably know how good they feel! But what is it that makes a massage feel so good? Is it just improving the circulation in your muscles? And if so, how does improving your circulation take away the soreness? These are questions you may have wanted to ask, but did not put into words when you had the chance. Well, this article aims to help answer these questions for you now.

First of all, do you know the various benefits that massage can offer? Knowing what this physical therapy can do may help you get a better picture of what's going on in a treatment. These are some of the potential benefits:

  • reducing stress, anxiety or depression
  • back, neck, joint or limb pain
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • healing from dislocation
  • healing from fracture
  • edema
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • pain from multiple sclerosis
  • muscle tension and spasm
  • post-surgical rehabilitation
  • athletic injury
  • tendonitis
  • asthma or emphysema
  • pain from cancer
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • inflammatory conditions
  • postural issues
  • Parkinson's disease
  • palliative care
  • pregnancy and labor aid
  • strains and sprains
  • issues with stroke recovery
  • pain from whiplash

Now, if massage can help with such a wide variety of conditions, then you can well imagine that it does indeed do more than improve circulation in your muscles. In fact, massaging can also help to reduce your pain, plus improve your joint mobility, your immune system, and your lymph drain, and can even increase your body awareness.

A massage therapist can help improve your circulation because the pressure created will actually move blood through your congested muscle tissues, ie tissues that are getting less than adequate blood supply due to inflammation, or some other sort of obstruction (eg scarring). With improved circulation to your muscle tissues, you receive much-needed oxygen, and get help with removing lactic acid. The oxygen not only helps to produce more energy in your muscles, but also helps to stop the production of lactic acid. Lactic acid is helpful for producing energy in small doses, and does so when oxygen is not present to do the job. However, chronic build up of lactic acid can cause pain and fatigue in your muscles. Thus, by improving circulation you remove the pain-causing factor and help to introduce the element that your muscles really need to make energy. This energy is then used to help you move, and to help your body perform its many and varied duties.

Now you know how massage helps circulation and thus beats your pain and muscle soreness, and at the same time helps your body be in a better state for good health. Having this knowledge should help you get more from your next massage treatment!

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Massage Therapy for Sleep Issues

Most everyone knows that after a good night's sleep you feel refreshed, happier, and focused. But when you have not had a good night's sleep, you feel more irritable, your appetite is skewed, and your brain just does not seem to work right. And your ability to sleep well (ie to fall sleep and then sleep soundly through the night) can be affected by several factors including stress, anxiety, depression, foods like caffeine or alcohol, smoking, certain medicines, changes in your schedule, or poor sleep habits. Some of these factors can be altered somewhat easily, eg avoiding caffeine and then doing something relaxing before bedtime, but sometimes after a lot of effort it can feel like nothing is working. By this time, you should probably consider a natural therapy, such as massage.

Massage (performed by a registered massage therapist, of course!) Is an excellent way to relax your muscles and help get your body into a rhythm that's more conducive to sleeping. Massage is useful for helping you sleep from the time you are a baby (if you've never heard of an infant massage, look into it – it can offer a variety of other benefits too) to well into adulthood. Not just for recovering from athletic injuries, massage can reduce your stress, improve your circulation, release tension, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and even strengthen your immune system. If you are suffering from pain as well as having trouble sleeping, massage can help you with that as well: from back pain, to limit pain, to headaches.

Scientific speaking, massage therapy will help you sleep by not only relieving you of stress and tension, but also by stimulating your brain to produce more serotonin. This endorphin, or 'feel good chemical', is normally produced to play a role in keeping your moods balanced and also helping to regulate your circadian rhythm, which has to do with your sleeping and waking cycles. When your serotonin levels are balanced everything is fine, but when they're out of whack a whole variety of things can happen, eg poor sleep, depression, and so on. Certain drugs can be offered to help boost your serotonin levels, but these drugs often also come with side effects. Luckily, massage therapy is a natural form of treatment and can boost your serotonin levels as a simple by-product of helping you relax.

Book at least a 60 minute massage (they usually go up to 2 hours in length) to ensure that the therapist has time to treat most of your body – tension can build in places that you're not even aware of. Then follow up the treatment with a nice bath using Epsom salts which are made of magnesium sulfate, a natural compound that will help to further relax your muscles, and bring on your much-needed sleep.

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Massage Therapy – Great for Tension Headaches!

There are not many experiences that feel better than a massage with a professional massage therapist! And because of the growing awareness of massage as a registered health care profession, more than likely you are probably already aware of some of the amazing health benefits. Some of these exceptionally helpful benefits include relief from:

  • anxiety and depression
  • back, leg and neck pain
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • edema
  • insomnia
  • athletic injury
  • asthma
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • and of course, headaches!

And if you suffer from headaches, you might agree that a massage can do wonders for this type of pain, especially when it's caused by tension. A tension headache (aka tension-type headache) is the most common type of headache, and can start in your shoulders, the back of your neck, behind your eyes, or even in other muscle groups in your body. Tension headaches can appear incidentally, or repeatedly – even daily. The severity of these types of heads will vary, and is usually throbbing and present in the front, top, or sides of your head. These types of headings are usually on both sides of your head, and do not affect your vision, balance or strength. The causes of tension headaches can be any or a variety of the following:

  • stress, depression or anxiety
  • sleep issues
  • poor posture
  • poor diet
  • vision problems
  • teeth grinding
  • overexertion

Massage therapy is excellent for treating tension headaches when they are connected to muscular issues, which most tension headaches are. The muscles usually involved with tension headaches may include your trapezius, levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, and scalenes (ie neck and shoulder muscles), or possibly your temporalis muscle (used for chewing and covering most of your temporary bone on the side of your head) , or even your orbicularis oculi muscle (whose action is to close your eye, and is very easy to massage).

Massage is excellent for pain and discomfort associated with tension-type headaches. By applying professional massage techniques such as pressure, movement, and stretching, your therapist helps relax your muscles and make you more comfortable. For tension headaches, they may need to do more deep-tissue massage, which further helps improve circulation and reduces the pain and tension in your muscles. The improved circulation helps reduce inflammation, which often occurs in muscles that are irritated and causing you pain. Massage can also help to release endorphins, the 'feel good' chemicals in your brain that lower stress levels and help you relax.

If you are experiencing frequent headaches and are concerned, see your doctor to rule out a more serious condition. Once determined that your headaches are likely to be muscle-related, seeking out the help of a registered massage therapist is the next smart step to take.

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