Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Therapeutic massage is a term used to describe a type of massage that is focused on a specific goal. For example, while a full body massage may feel great and relax you, it may not provide specific relief from the chronic muscular stress that you feel in your neck, shoulders, or lower back. Or perhaps you are recovering from an injury and would like some targeted attention on a particular area of your body. Therapeutic massage may be what you need.
Therapeutic massage sessions are customized to your particular needs and presentation, drawing on various modalities and techniques such as Swedish, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point therapy, Precision Neuromuscular Therapy, positional release, Myofascial release, etc. In short, whatever training and expertise your therapist has under their belt can be incorporated into your massage. The stroke pressure used by the Therapist varies depending on the particular point or muscle(s) being addressed as well as your individual discomfort threshold. In this regard, you, as the client, are in complete control. Only you know the sensations you are feeling and the limits of your body. Some areas are more sensitive than others, and pressure should never go beyond “comfortable pain”; just enough for your body to know it is ‘the spot’ but not so much that you tense up and have to hold your breath or “guard” the area. Typically, this type of a massage is interactive, during portions of the session where targeted work is being performed, communication between you and therapist is key.
Like most massages, the client is generally undressed and covered, or ‘draped’, for the duration of the massage, uncovering areas only as they are to be worked. Depending on the techniques being used, lotion or oil may or may not be used. Based on the unique symptoms and complaints of the client, the acute or chronic nature of the issue and the type of session work, more than one session may be necessary. The longer the body has been experiencing a problematic issue, the more likely it is that multiple sessions will be required. It is also optimal for the client to follow after-session care guidelines and any suggested “homework” in order to potentiate the session work and expedite therapeutic goals. The body is a complex system and we must give it the opportunity and time to process and release at its own pace.
Although massage itself is not a panacea, its benefits can be wide-ranging. In fact, in some cases, surgeries and more aggressive medical treatments can be avoided by receiving regular massage sessions. Beneficial Effects of Massage Therapy
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 anxiety. Theories behind what massage might do include 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 but such effects are yet to be supported by well designed clinical studies.
Single dose effects
Pain relief: Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage. In one study, cancer patients self-reported symptomatic relief of pain.  Massage can also relieve tension headaches. Shiatsu, Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain.
State anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce state anxiety, a transient measure of anxiety in a given situation. 
Blood pressure and heart rate: Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate as temporary effects. 
Attention: After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations, with the effects perhaps being mediated by decreased stress hormones.
Other: Massage also stimulates the immune system by increasing peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs).
Multiple dose effects
Pain relief: When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain.  Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment. 
Trait anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce trait anxiety; a person's general susceptibility to anxiety. 
Depression: Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression. 
Diseases: Massage, involving stretching, has been shown to help with spastic diplegia resulting from Cerebral palsy in a small pilot study.
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6. Kuriyama, H. (2001). "Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage (abstract)". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2 (2): 179–184. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh087. PMID 147118
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