8 Medical Experts Who Specialize in Massage Therapy Research

Research has shown, and continues to support, the benefits of massage therapy. These eight researchers have made significant headway in the field of massage.

Physicians across the globe increasingly recommend massage therapy to their patients. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service covers 80-100% of massage therapy costs for patients with certain conditions. Here in the United States, over 65% of doctors refer patients who seek information about massage recommend this complementary treatment and refer them to massage therapists.

Medical researchers at top schools nationwide have gathered a growing body of evidence that massage therapy benefits patients with a wide range of symptoms and conditions. People increasingly turn to massage therapy, one of the top 5 complementary therapies in the United States, and about 18 million patients in the United States report using massage therapy.

Many college and university medical schools today support professors and faculty researchers who study the mechanisms and effects of massage therapy. Among them are the following individuals:

  1. Tiffany Field, PhD

For over 30 years, the University of Miami has set the standard for U.S. massage therapy research. In 1992, Dr. Field founded the Touch Research Institute, which employs researchers from top universities like Harvard, Maryland, and Yale. The first of its kind in the world, this organization studies massage therapy’s many applications in science and medicine, as well as its profound health and wellness benefits.

In 2016, Dr. Field (along with colleagues from the Touch Research Institute and the Children’s’ Hospital of Philadelphia) researched the effect of mother to infant massage on sleep quality for both babies and mothers. These experts discovered that a simple 15-minute oil massage before bed led to better sleep for mothers and babies (compared to no-oil massages and a control group that didn’t engage in massage therapy). In a similar 2010 study, Dr. Field and her colleagues discovered preterm babies gained weight faster and increased their bone density when their mothers massaged them with oil.

  1. Maria Hernandez-Reif, PhD

A faculty member at the University of Alabama, Dr. Hernandez-Reif frequently shares her expertise in developmental, cognitive, and behavioral psychology with the Touch Research Institute. An expert in the psychology of infant diet and digestion, she has contributed to many studies involving massage therapy and pediatric care (and over 160 publications, in total).

Dr. Hernandez-Reif has helped the Touch Research Institute identify and optimize specific massage therapy techniques to promote infant health, such as oil massage and moderate (vs. light) pressure.

  1. Miguel Diego, PhD

A pediatric specialist at the University of Miami, Dr. Diego has worked on over 125 research projects. In addition to studying the effects of massage therapy on infants, he has studied the use of massage therapy to treat arthritis pain in the hands, neck, and knees. Dr. Diego studies the psychological effects of complementary therapies like massage therapy, yoga, and tai chi on mothers with postpartum depression and their infants. He has collaborated with Dr. Field on many Touch Research Institute studies.

  1. Marlaine Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith serves as the Dean of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing. As a registered nurse and a professor, she has worked to expand the theory of nursing and increase the body of knowledge about massage therapy in nursing environments. She studies many holistic healing methods, such as touch therapy, reiki, and jin shin, among others.

At the University of Colorado School of Nursing, Dr. Smith leads research teams in foundational studies of massage therapies in hospital settings. She discovered that massage therapy facilitated patients’ recovery times, mobility, and energy. When working with cancer patients, Dr. Smith and her colleagues learned massage therapy reduces pain, increases sleep quality, soothes anxiety, and improves distressing symptoms.

  1. Justin Crane, PhD

As a doctoral researcher at Canada’s McMaster University Department of Kinesiology, Dr. Crane led a study (arranged by Dr. Melov) into the biochemical mechanisms of massage. With his colleagues, he showed that massage therapy reduced inflammation in young men with muscle damage caused by exercise.

More importantly, Dr. Crane’s team discovered why muscle injury patients benefitted from massage treatments on a cellular level. They found that massage therapy helps people with skeletal muscle injuries by:

  • Triggering mitochondrial biogenesis (cellular repair and growth)
  • Reducing inflammatory cytokines in muscle cells
  • Decreasing heat shock protein phosphorylation
  • Mitigating cellular stress from myofiber injuries

Dr. Crane currently studies the cellular biochemistry of aging at Boston’s Northeastern University. He focuses on the skin, muscle, and connective tissues targeted for healing by massage therapists.

  1. Simon Melov, PhD

Dr. Melov earned his doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of London. Before he and his colleagues founded the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in 1999, he worked at Emory University and the University of Colorado.

In collaboration with Dr. Crane’s McMaster research team, Dr. Melov and his colleague Alan Hubbard studied the cellular and biochemical foundations of massage for skeletal muscle patients. He highlighted massage therapy’s potential to reduce inflammation and promote healing as well as the possibility it could target the same cellular mechanisms as prescription painkillers.

  1. Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD

Dr. Tarnopolsky serves as the Director of McMaster University’s Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Clinic and the CEO of the Exerkine corporation. He has published over 390 scholarly articles in his quest to heal people with symptoms of neuromuscular ailments and aging.

As a professor at McMaster University’s Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, Dr. Tarnopolsky oversaw Dr. Crane’s study. He stated that massage therapy can benefit patients dealing with the effects of aging, musculoskeletal injuries, and inflammatory diseases.

  1. Adam Perlman, MD, MPH

Dr. Perlman, the Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine, works with students as an Associate Professor of Medicine. In addition to performing many leadership roles in the complementary therapy academic community, he continues to research the efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments.

Recently, Dr. Perlman received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the use of massage therapy for osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Not only did his research team find that massage therapy decreased pain and increased range of motion, they also optimized the treatment protocol for this disease. They determined an hour of massage therapy each week was the best application of massage therapy treatments for OA patients.

A Wealth of Scientific Knowledge

Though countries like Russia have a long history of medical research into massage therapy, U.S. scientists have begun to close the gap. In recent decades, experts at many universities across the nation have dedicated their careers to proving the efficacy and multiple benefits of massage therapy.

Ask your physician how you can use massage therapy as part of your treatment plan. This popular complementary therapy offers pain relief, healing, and many other benefits, and it may ultimately reduce your need for prescription drugs.

References:

  1. American Massage Therapy Association. (2016). Industry fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html
  2. Coleman, N. (n.d.). Why you could get alternative treatment on the NHS. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-55405/Why-alternative-treatment-NHS.html#top
  3. Duke Integrative Medicine. (n.d.). Adam Perlman, MD, MPH. Retrieved from https://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/about/meet-the-team/adam-perlman-md-mph-facp-2/
  4. Field, T., Diego, M., & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2010). Preterm infant massage therapy research: a review. Infant behavior and development, 2010, 33(2), 115–124. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2009.12.004
  5. Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Deeds, O., & Figuereido, B. (2006). Moderate versus light pressure massage therapy leads to greater weight gain in preterm infants. Infant behavior and development, 29(4), 574–578. doi:  10.1016/j.infbeh.2006.07.011
  6. Field, T., Gonzalez, G., Diego, M., & Mindell, J. (2016). Mothers massaging their newborns with lotion versus no lotion enhances mothers’ and newborns’ sleep. Infant behavior and development, 45a, 31-37.
  7. Florida Atlantic University. (n.d.). Biography: Marlaine Smith. Retrieved from http://nursing.fau.edu/directory/smith/index.php
  8. McMaster University. (2012). Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation. Retrieved from https://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2012/massage_therapy_study.html
  9. Melov, S. (2013). Identifying molecular hallmarks of aging to guide the development of anti-aging therapies. Retrieved from http://www.buckinstitute.org/melovLab
  10. Crane, J., Ogborn, D., Cupido, C., Melov, S., Hubbard, A., Bourgeois, J., &
  11. Tarnopolsky, M. (2012). Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science translational medicine, 4(119).
  12. ResearchGate. (2015). Profile: Maria Hernandez-Reif. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maria_Hernandez-Reif
  13. Perlman, A., Ali A, Njike, V., Hom, D., Davidi, A., Gould-Fogerite, S., … Katz, D. (2012) Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial. PLoS one, 7(2). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030248
  14. Science Daily. (2012). Massage reduces inflammation and promotes growth of new mitochondria following strenuous exercise, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201141710.htm
  15. Smith, M., Stallings, M., Mariner, S., & Burrall, M. (1999). Benefits of massage therapy for hospitalized patients: a descriptive and qualitative evaluation. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 5(4), 64-71.
  16. Smith, M., Kemp, J., Hemphill, L., & Vojir, C. (2002). Outcomes of therapeutic massage for hospitalized cancer patients. Journal of nursing scholarship, 34(3), 257-62.
  17. Touch Research Institute. (n.d.). History of the touch research institute. Retrieved from https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/About.html
  18. University of Miami. (2016). Research Profiles: Miguel A. Diego. Retrieved from https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/persons/miguel-a-diego/publications
  19. University of Miami Health System. (2017). Profile – Tiffany M. Field. Retrieved from http://uhealthsystem.com/researchers/profile/2581

Why Am I Sore After a Massage?

Feeling sore after a massage? This could be normal but could also be cause for concern. Learn how to recognize any issues and address and prevent soreness here.

Massage, we know, is far more likely to reduce muscle soreness and tension than create it. But maybe you recently switched massage providers. Maybe you requested a particularly deep treatment. Maybe you were looking for a specific type of therapy after intense physical exercise. Later that day or the next morning, you realize … everything hurts.

Generally speaking, receiving massage therapy is unlikely to make you sore. There are few types of treatments designed to work deeply enough that muscles need to recuperate afterward. Still, there are some reasons massage could leave you sore, and you can do several things to guard against this experience in the future.

You’re an Athlete

Extremely active people may request different types of massage or bodywork that specifically support what they do. Sports massage and other services like ice baths are designed to increase circulation, accelerate healing, guard against stiffness, and more. Because intense exercise and athletics can be extraordinarily physically demanding, the maintenance and care that keep the body in top condition can also be demanding.

Sports massage therapists are more likely to use deeper pressure, especially on areas of high exertion. Massage also flushes out metabolic waste products generated during exercise, and these can irritate tissues. The body continues to process these toxins after massage, and this often registers as soreness. However, this is a completely healthy response to sports massage. In fact, it indicates the body is receiving the treatment well.

You Overestimated Your Tolerance

People new to massage and people seeing a new bodywork provider are more likely to misjudge their limit and less likely to speak up if they are uncomfortable. Whether they assume most massage will be feather-light and skin-deep, or whether they incorrectly believe massage treatment must be painful to be effective, many people insist they “like a lot of pressure” or want the therapist to “dig in.”

Neither of these requests, if they are truly your preference, is wrong or inappropriate. It’s helpful for massage therapists to have some idea of what clients are expecting from treatment and how to proceed. But if you realize you’re feeling more aches and pains after a massage as you were before the session, this may indicate the treatment was beyond your tolerance.

The Therapist Overestimated Your Tolerance

Bodywork professionals are trained to “read” tissues, paying special attention to resistance in the muscles and fascia and easing up when they feel tension. Usually, a massage therapist will work up to the allowance of your body, but not beyond. But if the therapist does not feel resistance, does not adjust accordingly, or works deeper before your body is open to it, tissues may sustain microtrauma that can result in later soreness.

Massage therapists generally are not interested in pushing limits, seeing how much clients can take, or in any way making treatment challenging. If the professional you see continues to misjudge your tolerance or push beyond a level you’re comfortable with, make sure they are aware of your unease, and consider finding a new therapist if soreness persists after your sessions.

You Forgot to Stretch Afterward

It’s not yet common knowledge that stretching after massage is a good practice, and massage therapists may not even recommend it after most treatments. While stretching is unlikely to completely guard against soreness after deep massage, it can go a long way toward retaining the effects of relaxation from your treatment. See our guide for simple stretches after massage to get you started.

What You Can Do About It

First, avoid the notions a good massage is meant to be painful or a massage should be deep to be effective. Even when massage doesn’t feel particularly forceful, the therapist may be working deeper than you think. Remember, the more relaxed you are, the less extreme a massage will feel.

Some people do prefer a treatment with deeper pressure or enjoy that “sweet spot” between pain and pleasure in a treatment. If this describes you, feel free to tell your massage therapist and continue to communicate throughout the treatment. Monitor any tension in your own body while breathing deeply; breathwork helps soften the tissues, allowing healing to take effect. Use an ice pack on specific areas of soreness later on.

Always check in during the session about your desired amount of pressure. You will not be judged on the type of pressure you want or enjoy; every body handles bodywork differently! If you do continue to experience soreness with a particular massage provider, that person’s services may simply be incompatible with your needs. Consider finding another therapist and experiencing something new.

References:

  1. Moraska, A. (2005). Sports massage: A comprehensive review. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 45(3), 370.

What Is Cupping? How Can It Benefit My Health?

A bodywork practice used widely in ancient medicine traditions, cupping offers many health and wellness benefits. Learn more about cupping here.

In the last decade or so, cupping has dramatically increased in popularity, as evidenced by the round bruises noticeable on a number of celebrities and athletes. Massage therapists may offer cupping to enhance sports performance, increase overall health, address musculoskeletal issues, and target acupuncture or acupressure meridian points—the potential benefits of cupping are many.

This traditional Chinese medicine practice has many similarities to acupressure, acupuncture, and gua sha, all of which use physical interventions to balance and facilitate the flow of chi. However, as cupping is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the world’s oldest medical text, ancient Egyptians may have been the first to use cupping. In short, this popular modern practice dates back to the earliest records of medicine, and its use is supported in many cultures.

How Does Cupping Work?

Traditional Chinese physicians have used vacuum pressure to treat muscular tension, pain, and breathing ailments as far back as medical practices have been recorded. Today, cupping practitioners draw the air out of glass cups with hand pumps, though the traditional method, which involves heating the cups, might still be used.

When the special cups are heated and placed on the skin, the air inside expands and escapes. As the cups cool, suction is created, and this suction holds the cups tightly against the skin, keeping air from entering and drawing skin up into the cup, stretching and loosening the tissues. Like gua sha, cupping draws blood to the surface of the body, triggering hormonal reactions that stimulate healing and fight inflammation.

Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, highlights the dual nature of this traditional practice, saying we should consider the use of treatments that have stood the test of time but avoid using them simply because of their age. Some traditional and complementary treatments have been debunked by contemporary medical practitioners—but many others have been validated by a number of doctors and other health care professionals.

What Symptoms Does Cupping Treat?

The Egyptians used cupping to treat pain, vertigo, fever, and irregular or difficult menstrual cycles. They also used it to stimulate appetite and speed up the body’s natural healing process.

Today, we know cupping releases muscle adhesions, relaxes soft tissues (so they can release toxins and heal faster), and stimulates the lymphatic system.

People use cupping to treat a variety of concerns, including:

  • Congestion, bronchitis, and asthma
  • Immune disorders
  • Digestive ailments
  • Migraines
  • Depression

What Is Chi? 

Chi (also “ki” and “qi”) is a much-debated concept. The word refers to the living energy in all of us, other living things, and the world in which we live.

Today, scientific researchers have just begun to observe the physical manifestations of the life force known as chi. Shin Lin, a UC Irvine biology and biomechanics professor (and high-level tai chi practitioner) uses cutting-edge devices to measure the heat, electricity, and photons emitted by the body during various tai chi exercises.

Increased Popularity of Cupping in Recent Years

During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, many United States athletes used cupping to improve their recovery times between events and practice sessions. Multiple medal-winning Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin reported using cupping to help enhance their performance and have since become symbols of the cupping revival. Alexander Naddour, an Olympic gymnast, has said he considers cupping his most effective health and fitness “secret.”

A number of actors and other celebrities have been seen displaying cupping bruises and have spoken about their use of the practice to support fitness and well-being . This high-profile use of cupping has led many people to ask their massage therapists about combining this popular treatment with their massage therapy sessions. Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Osborn, and Victoria Beckham have all sported cupping “hickies” and promoted this traditional treatment.

How Does Modern Cupping Differ from Traditional Cupping?

U.S. practitioners may tend to use cupping as a stand-alone therapy, while practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine typically use this treatment in conjunction with a variety of other diagnostic procedures, nutrition suggestions, and health interventions.

Americans may tend to seek cupping treatments to loosen muscles and increase blood flow, while those who reside in or come from eastern parts of the world may more often seek to loosen stagnated energy and/or increase chi flow.

What To Expect from a Cupping Treatment

Individuals seeking cupping treatments for the first time are likely to have many questions about the practice and its benefits. Take time to share these questions, and any reservations, with the practitioner. A good practitioner will welcome this interest and thoroughly address any concerns. Any bodywork practitioner is also likely to ask questions about a client’s health history and any pain or flexibility issues that need to be addressed.

Your massage therapist may first perform a light general massage, applying further pressure to the body areas designated for the cupping session. Some practitioners may prep clients with a “glider cup,” which allows them to quickly apply suction to various body areas.

A typical cupping session includes stationary cups, which are applied to the shoulders, back, hips, and legs. Practitioners may use between four and six cups at a time, leaving them attached to the body for 10 minutes or so. Cups are then applied to other body areas as needed/requested by the client. After completing a few “sets” of cupping, practitioners may conduct a deep tissue massage to facilitate further release of a client’s muscles.

Considerations for Cupping Therapy

Cupping clients may feel some stinging when practitioners first apply cups. Glider cups may also create mild to moderate pain. Perhaps the most notable aspect of cupping is the large reddish-purple circular bruises that linger for approximately a week and may be slightly tender. However, many people find these experiences well worth the effort. In fact, cupping clients often report more and longer-lasting pain relief after cupping sessions than after standard massage therapy sessions. 

References: 

  1. Bold, K. (2010, July 20). Biophysicist explores the science behind the mind-body practice of tai chi. Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2010-07-biophysicist-explores-science-mind-body-tai.html
  2. Bowen, V. (2012, June 12). My first cupping massage. Retrieved from https://nessbow.com/2012/06/12/my-first-cupping-massage
  3. Mayo, C. (n.d.). Cupping therapy. Retrieved from http://www.mayoacupunctureclinic.com/services/cupping
  4. Sifferlin, A. (2016, August 8). What is cupping? Here’s what you need to know. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4443105/cupping-rio-olympics-michael-phelps
  5. The Oakland Tribune. (2013, May 15). Cupping: Jennifer Aniston does it, but will it work for you? Denver Post. Retrieved from http://www.denverpost.com/2013/05/15/cupping-jennifer-aniston-does-it-but-will-it-work-for-you
  6. Williams, V. (2016, August 8). Olympic athletes and cupping: Does it work? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/olympic-athletes-and-cupping-does-it-work

How To Find the Right Massage Therapist for You

Even a qualified, skilled massage therapist may not be the best fit for you. Learn more about finding the right bodywork professional for your unique needs!

For years you’ve heard about the benefits of massage. A coworker recommended it when you strained your back; your brother is always talking about the relaxing bath he takes before his massage; your friend even said it helped her process grief after her father died. So, now what? How do you go about experiencing this magic for yourself?

Bodywork, in addition to being a mode of healing, stress relief, injury rehabilitation, and more, is a method of communication. Just as not everyone communicates in the same way, each massage therapist delivers a different experience. Finding a person whose skills, manner, and approach are compatible with your needs and preferences may take time, but the end result will be greater comfort and relaxation.

Do Your Research

First, examine your reasons for seeking bodywork. Are you an active athlete looking for steady treatments to optimize your performance? Are you recovering from an injury? Have you been experiencing severe stress or discomfort? Or would you just like to escape from the world for a bit and restore some balance to your energy?

There are dozens, if not hundreds of types of bodywork, ranging from traditional deep tissue massage to light Healing Touch therapy, as well as movement therapies and energy work therapies. Each type can address different concerns, and you may find that two modalities complement one another for greater wellness. Understanding what you’re hoping to address through massage will help you narrow down which type(s) of treatments are right for you and select a professional who practices this type of treatment.

If you’re not sure what treatment will be best, that’s OK, too. Schedule an appointment with a massage therapist and experience the treatment, then share your health history to determine whether there are alternative therapies you could consider.

Choose a Massage Therapist

It’s extremely important to find a bodywork professional who is knowledgeable, skilled, and properly credentialed for the work they do. No matter where you search, make sure the therapist you choose has received the proper certification.

Personal referrals are a good place to start. If someone you know has been talking to you about their wonderful massage therapist, they likely can vouch for the therapist’s credentials. Even though what works for someone else might not work for you, a glowing review is hardly a bad sign. In very populated areas, a good recommendation can help narrow the field when it seems like there are too many options.

What if you don’t know anyone who uses a massage therapist in your area? Rather than searching online and combing through pages and pages of results, consider using a trusted online directory. Massagetique and other similar directories list professionals whose background and credentials have already been verified and approved, and you can usually narrow your search to a specific modality if you have one in mind.

Collaborate with Your Massage Therapist

Finding the right massage therapist doesn’t end with picking up the phone and making an appointment. Before the communication of bodywork can happen, there needs to be thorough communication between the client (you) and the therapist. Intake paperwork before the session can cover current or pre-existing health issues and concerns you might have, but you also have a responsibility to talk with your massage therapist about any additional considerations.

Do you have allergies to any oils? Are your feet extraordinarily ticklish? Would you prefer a silent treatment room, classical music, or ocean sounds? There are many topics you might want to discuss with the practitioner before starting your session so you can both have an optimal experience. A good massage therapist will ask these questions and more to understand what brings you in for treatment. They will also talk with you a bit about what to expect from the session, especially if you are relatively new to bodywork in general.

Continue to communicate during the treatment if something is uncomfortable or unexpected. A practitioner can learn a lot through contact with your body—whether a muscle is particularly tight, for example—but not your personal tolerance for pressure and movement. Be transparent about your comfort level. Neither you nor your therapist benefits from a white lie about how you’re enjoying the treatment.

Be Willing to Try Something Else

Even a great massage from a great massage therapist may not be the right fit, and it’s OK to recognize that and continue to look for the treatment that best suits you. Whether you find you need a different kind of physical pressure or you are more interested in bodywork that helps restore energy flow and promote emotional wellness, it’s important to continue searching for the right modality and practitioner for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask the first massage therapist you visited for recommendations, as well. A good massage therapist will respect your desire to keep exploring bodywork with different practitioners. Your health journey is very personal, and you deserve you find the right person to help you feel your best.

Ways to Celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week

At Massagetique, we believe in the importance of sharing the benefits of massage with the community. EveryBody Deserves a Massage week encourages massage therapists and bodyworkers across the country to come together and do just that. This recognition week was founded by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) in 1995 to help promote the importance of massage and bodywork within local communities.

Join the Massagetique team and others in recognizing EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week from July 16-22. We encourage you to share the benefits of massage with those around you during this week and take steps to make massage more accessible to everyone in your community.

You might do this by:

  • Teaching a class on massage
  • Giving a lecture about different types of massage
  • Hosting an event to demonstrate massage techniques that can be practiced at home as self-care
  • Volunteering your services or offering discounts
  • Creating a contest
  • Creating and sharing informational flyers. 

The Massagetique team has created images you can share on social media and elsewhere to help promote EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week. Feel free to save, download, and/or print the images below and use them in your marketing materials (click on an image to download the file).

Additionally, here are educational articles about massage you can share on your blog, social media platforms, or other outlets throughout the week:

Throughout the week, Massagetique will share massage resources on our website and social media platforms and highlight ways massage can promote wellness and help treat health conditions. Let us know how you intend to celebrate EveryBody Deserves a Massage Week in the comments below. Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #EveryBodyDeservesMassage.

Give Yourself a Facelift: DIY Techniques for Home Face Massage

You can practice facial massage at home to release stress and tension. Consider including home face massage as part of your typical self-care routine.

You don’t have to spend money or leave the comfort of your own home to look and feel younger, energized, and more refreshed. Facelift massage can be done anywhere, with or without a massage oil. Find a quiet, tranquil place where you’re comfortable and free from distractions—be they children, phone calls, or visitors—for even just 20 minutes of your day.

Devote this time to yourself. Turn off your phone, press “pause” on the outside world, and spend this portion of your day on self-care.

Prepare Your Treatment Area

Start by surrounding yourself with things that help you feel at ease. Light a few candles, play soft music, or listen to nature sounds that help put any current stresses and worries out of your mind. Spend some time creating your ideal serene environment. You might choose to do this treatment seated, lying down, or while taking a bath.

Some essentials to have on hand:

  • Clean, soft towel
  • Large bowl of water
  • Neutral oil (coconut, almond, or avocado)
  • Band or cap to keep hair away from your face
  • Cushions or pillows for comfort

It may be tempting to push aside this preparation, but the more you are able to facilitate your own relaxation, the more effective your self-massage will be, and the more revitalized you will look and feel.

Massage Your Stress (and Wrinkles) Away

Settle into a comfortable position with your back and neck supported to minimize tension. Begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply. All movement should be slow, and all pressure should be gentle.

  1. With three fingers, slowly draw up from your collarbone to your chin. Work from one side to the other, or cross your arms and do this on both sides so hands meet at the throat.
  2. Run fingers just above the jawline out toward your earlobes. Stop at the joint where your lower jaw hinges—many of us carry tension here. Move one or two fingers in a clockwise circular motion at the joint.
  3. Glide your fingertips up to your temples and repeat this circular motion, using gentle pressure—the closer to the eyes, the lighter the pressure.
  4. Slide your index and middle fingers out from the top of your nose to your temples along your eyebrows several times.
  5. Run fingers between your eyebrows up to your hairline, repeating this action up and out across your forehead.
  6. Use small clockwise circles again on the following pressure points:
    • Center of the chin, just below the bottom lip
    • Outside each corner of the mouth
    • Underneath each nostril, above the upper lip
    • Outside each nostril, just inside of each cheekbone
    • On either side of the bridge of the nose
    • At the inside corners of the eyes, against the bridge of the nose
    • At the outside corners of the eyes
    • The inside, middle, and outside of eyebrows
    • Just above the middle of the eyebrows, halfway between the arch and the hairline
  7. Finish by repeating steps 2-5, ending your massage with broad upward strokes on the forehead.

Personalize Your Treatment

While products such as jojoba oil or clay for topical use may be harder to come by, many common household ingredients offer health benefits and may be ideal for facial application.

  • Honey is a humectant—it helps your skin retain moisture. It is also antibacterial and can help reduce acne.
  • Oatmeal exfoliates the skin, sloughing off old skin cells.
  • Cucumber reduces puffiness and swelling around the eyes.
  • Olive oil can reduce stiffness or pain in muscles.
  • Lavender and chamomile essential oils promote tranquility and relaxation and are often recommended to those who have trouble achieving restful sleep.
  • Geranium essential oil has mild astringent properties that make it a natural cleanser. It can also stimulate the lymphatic system and flush toxins from the body.
  • Mint, bay, laurel, and rosemary essential oils help mend tiny broken blood vessels on the face. This mask is best paired with a warm bath.

Essential oils are concentrated and can be harsh on skin when applied directly. Always mix essential oils with a generous amount of neutral carrier oil and use warm, not hot, water on your face when rinsing or bathing.

How Does Face Massage Help?

As we age, muscles in the face can start to sag and lose tone. Skin may become thinner and more delicate, sagging or folding as the muscles underneath it also sag. Facial massage promotes blood circulation and helps stimulate muscles to release tension held there. On the surface, this results in tighter skin and improved facial tone.

This model of facial massage is based in Chinese acupressure, an ancient healing practice that incorporates energy flow within the body. The triggering of facial pressure points can result in released energy blockages at corresponding organs, stimulated blood flow, and increased overall healing and wellness.

Various cosmetic approaches over the years–from makeup to facelift tape to surgery–have become go-to remedies for the effects of aging. But anyone can perform self-massage for a quick facelift, either as an occasional practice or as part of a daily self-care regimen. This acupressure facelift method works well on its own, but it can also help preserve and enhance the effects of cosmetic surgery.

To properly benefit from the procedure, avoid doing a facelift massage on a full stomach, as blood flow may be too focused on digestion.

References:

  1. Atkinson, M. (2000). The art of Indian head massage. London: Carlton Publishing Group.
  2. Badin, I., Gozhenko, O., & Zukow, W. (2011). Face-lift with the use of an aesthetic massage technology: Strategy and tactics. Journal of Health Sciences, 1(2), 007-010. Retrieved from https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=18970090
  3. De Nardo, D. (n.d.) Chinese facial massage and TMJ techniques. Massage CE Solutions. Retrieved from http://massage-ce-solutions.com
  4. Muryn, M. (1995). Water magic. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  5. Schultz, K. E. (1979). Cosmetic acupressure facelift. Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research.

Using Bodywork to Manage and Treat Posttraumatic Stress

Massage can help treat mental health concerns as well as physical issues. Those experiencing PTSD, for example, may benefit greatly from massage therapy.

Any traumatic incident has the potential to cause both mental and physical harm. The extent of damage often depends on the incident. After a fall, for instance, someone may have a fairly quick psychological recovery but experience lower back pain for decades. A car accident may also have lasting effects, from flashbacks to recurring migraines that last years after the accident. Other trauma, such as childhood bullying, may not have direct physical implications but lead to long-lasting posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Even in cases such as these, the experience alone, and the later impact of PTSD, can often result in co-occurring physical health issues and pain.

Many types of bodywork work not only to treat the physical symptoms resulting from PTSD, but also to address the underlying psychological issues present as a result of a traumatic event. Massage alone has been proven to decrease cortisol levels, which are especially associated with high stress, depression, immune conditions, and the aftereffects of abuse. Receiving massage can also increase serotonin and dopamine—the “feel-good” chemicals often inhibited by mental health issues such as depression and PTSD.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or you have experienced trauma, you may benefit from incorporating bodywork into your healing process, after consulting with a psychotherapist and your primary care provider. In addition to massage therapy, any of the following bodywork modalities may be helpful as you work to overcome trauma and PTSD:

Craniosacral Therapy for PTSD

A therapist trained in craniosacral therapy might use this method to ease physical stress from trauma when tension continues to be held in the neck and head muscles. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle method that focuses on the skull and neck to disperse the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid. This treatment can be especially beneficial for the relief of headaches or migraines, but it can target pain anywhere in the body. By alleviating pressure on the spinal cord, craniosacral therapy can also improve brain function, lower stress, and may even help decrease emotional difficulties.

Aromatherapy after Trauma

Scents can trigger intense emotional reactions—both positive and negative—and for many people, they also have the power to instantly alter mood and attitude. Aromatherapy, used either in conjunction with touch massage or on its own, may reduce anxiety and many other symptoms of PTSD. A 2016 review of studies performed on the use of complementary therapies to treat posttraumatic stress found that lavender and chamomile essential oils, in particular, promote calmness and relaxation. One study revealed lavender could decrease side effects of PTSD such as sleep problems, depression, anxiety, agitation, and somatic ailments. These plants may be used in tea or in essential oil form, either in a topical solution with a carrier of coconut oil or in a diffuser.

Unlocking the Unconscious with the Rosen Method

“The mind is very literal, while the body speaks the emotional truth,” writes Marion Rosen in her book Rosen Method Bodywork. “Through our bodies we can become aware of, and undo, a learning process that is detrimental to our health and well-being.” Focusing on both breath and movement in addition to healing touch, the Rosen Method recognizes the body-mind connection and is often used in conjunction with psychotherapy. A combination of psychodynamic short-term therapy and Rosen Method Bodywork can be extremely effective for improving overall quality of life, relationships with partners, and general health and well-being in individuals who have experienced mental health issues and chronic pain, according to a 2007 study.

Jin Shin Do Mind-Body Techniques and Trauma

Jin Shin Do therapy unites Chinese medicine and Western psychology by bringing together concepts of energy pathways in the body and emotion-related tension. The more tension we hold—whether it results from daily stress, pain, trauma, depression, or any number of other factors—the more the body’s internal energy flow is suppressed. We may harbor muscular tension related to an emotional experience, even months or years after the event. The Jin Shin Do modality can help by facilitating increased relaxation, body awareness and a “letting go” of built-up psychological and physical “armor” from the past. Treatment involves activating pressure points on the body while using simple verbal cues or very basic talk therapy to stimulate a healing mind-body response.

EMDR as Bodywork

While not strictly classified as a bodywork modality, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) applies a somatic or physiological approach to healing through traditional psychotherapy. EMDR works to detach emotional responses and triggers from traumatic memories by using rapid eye movement. The client follows the practitioner’s fingers or moving dots on a light bar while thinking about a painful memory attached to their current distress or PTSD. After repeating this process several times, the memory is likely to carry less emotion and often begins to be seen as fact rather than trauma. EMDR is still being researched, and while this approach may not work for everyone, those interested in approaching trauma from a physiological approach may find EMDR treatment helpful. A trained and licensed psychotherapist must administer EMDR. Additionally, EMDR is not a contact therapy and should not incorporate massage or other touch.

The above modalities are not recommended for acute physical pain or severe emotional distress. Most are recommended for use as complementary approaches, in combination with traditional healing massage, psychotherapy, or both. Some people who have experienced extreme physical trauma, such as military combat, sexual assault, or domestic violence, may find it difficult at first to receive touch as a form of therapy. Before considering massage or other bodywork for the treatment of PTSD, it is a good idea to to consult with your doctor and psychotherapist.

References:

  1. Allison, N. (1999). The illustrated encyclopedia of body-mind disciplines, 94-95, 169, 188-190. New York City, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.
  2. Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., & Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(10), 1397-1413. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
  3. Meeks, J. A. and Byrami, S. (2016). A systematic review of complimentary therapies to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress: Disorder in the aftermath of domestic abuse. Senior Honors Projects. 243. Retrieved from http://commons.lib.jmu.edu/honors201019/243
  4. Rosen, M. (2003). Rosen method bodywork: Accessing the unconscious through touch, 27. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
  5. Ventegodt, S., Thegler, S., Andreasen, T., Struve, F., Enevoldsen, L., Bassaine, L., & Merrick, J. (2007). Clinical holistic medicine (mindful, short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy complemented with bodywork) in the treatment of experienced physical illness and chronic pain. The Scientific World Journal, 7, 310-316. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17334622

Protocols of Palpation: Basic Methodology to Guide Your Practice

Palpation techniques, which allow massage practitioners to perform a baseline assessment of a client’s body, make up the cornerstone of any massage therapy practice. Though specific palpation techniques may differ depending on the therapist and on the client’s areas of concern, all typically rely on the extreme sensitivity of a therapist’s hands to analyze tissue and begin development of a personalized treatment plan.

Therapists usually begin treatment with palpation in order to identify soreness and tightness of muscles, skeletal alignment, spasms, trigger points on the body, fibrosis, and more.

After beginning a bodywork session with palpation, a therapist may repeat it throughout the session to ensure the therapeutic approach is always in line with the concerns presented during the initial evaluation. Throughout the course of treatment, the therapist will likely continue palpation to monitor changes occurring in the tissue as a result of the manipulation during massage sessions.

Almost any bodily structure can be palpated—skin, tissues just below the surface of the skin, lymph nodes, tendons, joints, bone, deep tissue, ligaments, and more. Through palpation a therapist is likely to be able to identify almost any abnormality or malady that may be present.

What Is the PALPATE Approach?

In order to use palpation techniques effectively a therapist must have developed a thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology and must also be attentive, both objectively and subjectively, to the qualities of a body. Again, actual palpation methods will likely differ somewhat between therapists, but some standard procedures have evolved. In 2013, a research team detailed a seven-step approach to palpation that uses the acronym PALPATE:

  • Position: Make sure the client is comfortably positioned.
  • Anatomy: Visualize a 3-D anatomic model.
  • Level: Determine the appropriate depth of tissue contact.
  • Purpose: Set a clear intention for initiating the healing process.
  • Ascertain: Keep a relative point of reference while initiating motion.
  • Tweaking: Continue perpetual exploration of the tissue while fine-tuning the previous steps.
  • Evaluate: Adjust techniques according to findings from palpation.

This method can help practitioners prepare for and demonstrate the most basic and universal way to initiate palpation with a client. It does not address specific techniques a therapist may use or aid in the specific analysis of tissue.

When it comes to developing a comprehensive screening for pathology in the body, tissue abnormalities, and conditions of the body’s structure, some therapists agree the process calls for some intuition. Dr. Leon Chaitow, an osteopath and naturopath who teaches around the world, warns, however, that the label of “intuition” would be mistaken.

Skilled therapists will be able to recognize both normality and deviations from it, according to Chaitow, and they may need to act whether or not they are able to fully articulate an abstract understanding of something that does not “feel right.” Rather than calling this intuition, Chaitow says skilled people demonstrate know-how as they become able to perform more complex forms of bodywork, even those they may not necessarily be able to describe.

STAR Palpation for Assessing Bodily Abnormalities

Four principles are used to help massage therapists evaluate somatic dysfunction. Chaitow refers to these as STAR palpation, and others have called it the TART method (substituting “tenderness” for “sensitivity”). Regardless of the acronym, the general principles remain the same:

  • Sensitivity: Soft tissue dysfunction will almost always present in tenderness or pain.
  • Tissue texture change: The therapist might feel that tissues are hot, cold, tense, swollen, or fibrous.
  • Asymmetry: The tissue may vary between sides of the body. Asymmetry on its own may not necessarily be cause for concern, but a massage therapist will use their best judgment in each situation to determine whether it is normal or abnormal.
  • Range of motion: Movement is restricted and/or muscles are very tight, inhibiting normal motion.

When these indicators occur alone, they might point to a type of pathology, discomfort, or dysfunction in the body, but a combination of two or three factors are usually enough to confirm a problem. After an initial assessment, the therapist can use this information to determine more about why a problem exists and develop a treatment plan.

The most important element in diagnosing a potential issue and beginning to treat it, however, is communication with the client. A therapist cannot begin to provide adequate treatment without understanding a client’s level of pain or discomfort during palpation, history of injury or illness, and any habits possibly affecting areas of the body that are presenting problems.

Though palpation methods may be taught, the true skill and art of palpation is learned through experience. Over time, a good bodywork practitioner will generally be able to detect subtleties in texture, density, moisture, and temperature variations in target tissue. Chaitow says experts “have the ability to observe, recognize, interpret, judge, decide, and act appropriately in a split second – not based on planned decision-making, but more on a foundation of sound knowledge and practiced skills.”

References:

  1. Aubin, A., Gagnon, K., & Morin, C. (2013, February 18). The seven-step palpation method: A proposal to improve palpation skills. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 17, 66-72. Retrieved from http://www.journalofosteopathicmedicine.com/article/S1746-0689(13)00048-5/pdf
  2. Beck, M. F. (2011). Theory & practice of therapeutic massage (5th ed.), 646-652. Clifton Park, NY: Milady.
  3. Chaitow, L. & Fritz, S. (2006). A massage therapist’s guide to understanding, locating and treating myofascial trigger points, 70. London: Churchill Livingstone.
  4. Chaitow, L. (2013). Muscle energy techniques (4th ed.), 305. London: Churchill Livingstone.
  5. Chaitow, L. (2017). Palpation skills in clinical practice? Massage Today, 1(17): 13. Retrieved from http://www.massagetoday.com/digital/index.php?i=644&r=t#13

Best of 2016: Massagetique‘s Top 10 Massage Therapy YouTube Channels

According to industry data released by the American Massage Therapy Association, more than half of people who get a massage do so for medical reasons. Many people assume massage therapy is all about relieving stress, but massage is also an important part of injury recovery, great for pain management, and helpful for many conditions that negatively impact the musculoskeletal system.

Because of the wide range of reasons people will choose to get a massage, it’s more important than ever for massage therapists to explore and master the many techniques that can help their clients. Remaining open to new methods and techniques can make your services more valuable to a variety of people who need massage therapy.

With many massage and bodywork resources online, both massage therapists and those seeking massage have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Online resources can be greatly beneficial for professionals seeking to expand their skills and the techniques they offer as well as for consumers who would like to find out which type of massage may work best for them. For visual learners, YouTube is an excellent resource for learning about additional types of massage.

Massagetique encourages consumers and massage therapists to take full advantage of online resources to learn how to best serve themselves and their clients. To help you in your journey to relaxation and healing, we have compiled the following YouTube channels dedicated to massage therapy techniques and bodywork tutorials. Presented in no particular order, these channels were selected based on quality of content, ease of presentation, and value of information.

    • Rebel Massage Therapist: Allison, the creator of the popular YouTube channel Rebel Massage and owner of the Rebel Massage Therapist website, has been posting massage tutorial videos on YouTube for about a year. She has more than 15 years of experience as a massage therapist and shares a variety of helpful videos on massage therapy techniques.

  • Massage Nerd: Ryan Hoyme, the brain behind the Massage Nerd YouTube channel and website, started working as a massage therapist in 1989. He created Massage Nerd to share the knowledge he has gained and techniques he has worked on throughout his career as a massage therapist. His YouTube channel has more than 100,000 subscribers and shares a variety of massage-related content.

  • Massage Sloth: This YouTube channel, created by Ian Harvey, provides massage tutorials, tips, and marketing information for massage therapists. A sloth named Leaf can sometimes be seen in the background of his videos.

  • Erik Dalton: Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT), a pain management treatment modality developed by Erik Dalton, is the focus of many videos on this popular YouTube channel. His videos have more than 5 million views and cover a wide range of topics for massage therapists and bodywork professionals.

  • Bodyology Massage School: This YouTube channel was created by the Bodyology Massage School based in London. The videos hosted on the school’s YouTube channel encourage massage therapists to consider an individual’s needs and place them at the center of each unique treatment plan.

  • Co-Creative Healing: Stephanie Shrum, the massage therapist responsible for Co-Creative Healing, has been studying massage therapy since 1992. Many of her YouTube videos demonstrate the advanced knowledge Shrum has gained over her years studying and applying deep tissue massage, craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, and other techniques.

  • Massage Therapy Foundation: The Massage Therapy Foundation works toward the important goal of advancing the knowledge and practice of massage therapy. The organization’s dedication to sharing the latest scientific research through creative means, such as its YouTube series “Research Perch,” is what prompted Massagetique to include the foundation on this list of top massage therapy YouTube channels.

  • PsycheTruth: Although PsycheTruth is about much more than massage therapy, its YouTube channel—with more than 1.7 million subscribers—features many useful massage-related videos. These massage therapy videos are likely to be beneficial for seasoned massage therapy professionals and others who simply want to learn more about massage therapy.

  • Massage By Heather: Heather Wibbels, LMT, is a massage therapist practicing in Louisville, Kentucky. She also created a popular YouTube channel in 2010 that now has more than 42,000 subscribers and 7.6 million views. The videos she uploads contain comprehensive explanations and demonstrations of a range of topics, including facial massage, manual lymph drainage, and foot massage techniques.

Have a favorite massage therapy or bodywork YouTube channel and don’t see it here? Please send us a message and let us know about it.

Reference:

  1. Industry Fact Sheet. (2016, February). Retrieved from https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html