5 Ways Aston-Patterning Can Improve Your Quality of Life

Regardless of who you are, where you are from, or what you do, something everyone has in common is the fact that our bodies can only handle so much. At some point in time our bodies will reach a limit; things that were once easy and required no thought now cause discomfort, leaving us wondering what we did wrong that lead our bodies to behave in such a way.

Whether brought on by stress, over-exertion, poor posture, or the monotonous movements of our day-to-day lives, these unwanted and unexplainable aches and pains are inevitable.

Fortunately enough, these aches and pains are usually tolerable. We treat them as something we’ve learned to live with and accept them as part of our normal, everyday lives. It’s not ideal, but it’s easy, for the most part.

However, this passive acceptance is not the only option we have.

Most healing techniques used today, especially in western medicine, treat us as if we were all the same. Treatments are often linear and are administered as such. Our bodies, however, are all unique, meaning that these one-size-fits-all type treatments won’t be effective to the same extent from one person to the next.

The ways in which we heal and care for our bodies must be tailored to our own body’s individuality.

That is why we want all of you to know about one of our favourite forms of physical therapy, Aston-Patterning.

What is Aston-Patterning?

Aston-Patterning is an integrated system of movement education, bodywork, ergonomic adjustments, and fitness training that recognizes the relationship between the body and the mind for well-being.

In other words, it is a series of techniques used to help one become more aware of their body’s natural form to help teach them the proper way of moving and using their body in order to relieve common aches and pains and reduce risk of injury.

History

The Aston-Patterning process was created by Judith Aston in 1977.

After suffering injuries from two separate vehicle accidents in 1968, Judith sought treatment from Dr. Ida Rolf, creator of the Rolfing process. Rolfing is a technique of deep tissue manipulation aimed at the release and realignment of the body, and the reduction of muscular tension.

Post-treatment, Dr. Rolf approached Ms. Aston to aid her in developing a movement education program that would compliment Rolfing process, as Ms. Aston had years of experience working as a movement education program director with dancers and athletes.

After 6 years of working on this program together, Ms. Aston and Dr. Rolf parted ways, as their interests, ideas, and beliefs began to change and diverge. Despite their joint project coming to an end, Ms. Aston chose to continue on with the work they had been focusing on and, instead, created her own personal program using techniques she established and developed.

She called this new movement education program Aston-Patterning.

 How It Works

Aston-Patterning sessions are done one-on-one with a certified therapist and can last anywhere from 1-2 hours. Every patient is different, and so it is difficult to predict exactly how many sessions one may need – it will depend on the problem being addressed and the efficiency by which the patient becomes comfortable with the techniques used.

There are 4 core components one should expect when walking into an Aston-Patterning session.

  • History Consult – This is where the therapist and patient discuss a personal and medical history of the patient. This is so the therapist can grasp a better understanding the client and their needs.
  • Pre-Testing – The therapist will examine the patient doing a variety of movement patterns to determine where there the patients pain may be stemming from and where there is potential for improvement.
  • Movement Education and Bodywork – This portion of the sessions is where the techniques chosen will be taught and practiced. The techniques chosen will depend on the history and pre-testing,
  • Post-Testing – During post-testing, the movement patterns done during the pre-testing are repeated. This is so the patient can feel the changes that have taken place in their movements since practicing the various bodywork techniques.

These sessions can include a variety of techniques, including: massages for relieving tension; lessons on proper posture and body movements, such as sitting, standing, or walking; and certain strength training exercises.

Aside from physical techniques, the therapist will also take into consideration more personal aspects of the patients life, such as lifestyle, habits, personal beliefs, typical moving patterns, etc.

As you can see, Aston-Patterning is highly focused on the individual and their needs. Every patient is treated in a way that fits their needs, lifestyle, and body. It truly focuses on how each patient has a unique body and works to understand how that individual can learn to use their body is the safest and most effective and efficient way possible.

How Can Aston-Patterning Benefit You?

There are multiple ways in which becoming more in tune with your body and how you move can benefit you, and that is exactly what Aston-Patterning does.

To give you the best idea of what we mean, we’ve outlined the top 5 ways Aston-Patterning can improve your quality of life.

  1. Minimize Consequences of Repetitive Movements

Repetitive Strain Injury (or RSI for short) is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves, and/or tendons that is caused by repetitive movements, overuse, unnatural or awkward motions, overexertion, incorrect posture, or even muscle fatigue. Not surprisingly, RSI’s are incredibly common.

While this type of injury is quite often seen amongst athletes or those with physically demanding jobs, they can actually affect essentially anyone.

The reason that anyone can suffer from RSI’s is because there are many basic, day-to-day activities that are considered repetitive and can easily be the cause of RSI. Some examples of the types of everyday activities that can put this type of strain on our bodies are: jogging, scrubbing the floor, clapping, throwing a ball, etc.

Aston-Patterning can help reduce your chances of incurring these types of injuries first by helping you better recognize the types of movements that may cause them. If you are able to recognize when you are doing these repetitive movements, you can alter the way in which you are doing them to ensure the least amount of strain on yourself. 

  1. Reduce Negative Aspects of Aging

It’s no big secret that as we age our bodies start to deteriorate a little; our posture becomes worse and worse, leaving us with hunched or rounded backs and shoulders, we lose a lot of the strength in our core and limbs that we once had, and even our bones become more fragile.

Aston-Patterning helps reduce some (not all) of these signs of aging by teaching you to listen to your body, and use it only in ways that optimize its performance. Much of the negative aspects of aging are worsened by the constant strain and stress our bodies go through.

By practicing Aston-Patterning from a young age, you can act proactively and preventatively, rather than trying to reverse effects of aging that are already present.

Not only will you more fit and capable as you age, but you can reduce your chances of falling ill; your stronger muscles will be less likely to incur injuries; you can reduce your chances of needing a walker or cane due to poor posture; and the elimination of bodily stress can even work wonders for the health and appearance of your skin.

  1. Reduce Risk of Injury

Some of us are just clumsy, and some of us may take part in activities that have the potential of injury. Either way, practicing the Aston-Patterning process can help.

By strengthening the relationship between mind and body, we become more aware of our movements. This awareness can in turn help to improve how we use our bodies: it can improve our balance, agility, and posture, which in turn will ease much of the tension from our muscles.

The more relaxed our muscles are, and the more gracefully we move, the less chance there is of injury. This is because we are more cognizant of how we are using our bodies (which can reduce any accidents or falls we may have), but also because relaxed muscles are less likely to overexert, which is where many injuries result from.

This makes Aston-Patterning especially appealing to athletes and dancers, as muscle injuries are very common within these communities.

  1. Increase Energy/Stamina

Muscle strain and stress makes our bodies tired. When our muscles are strained they are working overtime, even for simple tasks. This can quickly exhaust our bodies’ energy stores.

The more efficiently we use our bodies, the less stress we are putting our muscles through.

By using your muscles properly, you eliminate the overexertion caused by everyday tasks. If your body does not need to input so much energy for such simple tasks, you will have the energy and stamina for other activities.

You body will feel refreshed and revitalized, instead of tired and overworked.

  1. Less Prone to Illness

Stress has a lot more implications on the body than we may recognize. Not only does it play a part in the aches and pains we feel, but can also lead to a variety of illnesses.

Illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and Alzheimer’s can be caused or made worse by stress.

When we are not using our bodies correctly, the physical stress we feel can translate into our minds as well. If we alleviate the strain on our bodies, we can in turn alleviate the stress in our minds.

This is why one of the main goals of Aston-Patterning is working on the relationship between mind and body. It is apparent that they are interconnected, and Aston-Patterning seeks to teach us how to use that connection to improve both our physical and mental health.

Things To Consider

There are a variety of health concerns that can interfere with or be irritated by Aston-Patterning because of its physically demanding nature.

Health conditions that could make Aston-Patterning dangerous, painful, or uncomfortable include: heart conditions, respiratory problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, carpel tunnel syndrome and bleeding disorders.

If you have any of the aforementioned health issues, or any other physical or mental health concerns, please consult your doctor before taking part in Aston-Patterning, or any physically demanding treatment processes.

References

  1. http://www.massagetherapy101.com/massage-techniques/aston-patterning.aspx
  2. https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/divisions-diagnostics-and-procedures/medicine/aston-patterning
  3. https://wholehealthchicago.com/2009/05/06/aston-patterning/

The Benefits of Indian Head Massage

There are many reasons why people turn to massage therapy. The manual manipulation, by rubbing or kneading, of our muscles and other soft tissues works wonders for reducing stress, relieving pain, eliminating tension, and even aiding in curing various health ailments.

No matter where your aches and pains are or what they stem from, there isn’t a lot that a good massage can’t help with, even if it just brings temporary relief.

This range of health benefits is largely due to the hundreds of techniques and styles of massage therapy practiced today.

One such style is the Indian Head Massage; perfect for ridding you of that pesky tension headache, loosening up those stiff and achy shoulders, rebalancing your energies, and even aiding in giving you happier and healthier hair (and those are just some of the benefits of Indian Head Massage).

What is the Indian Head Massage?

Today, the Indian Head Massage is a technique involving acupressure in the upper back, shoulders, neck, and head.

The primary intent of this massage style is releasing muscle knots and tension in the upper body, encouraging better circulation of the cerebral fluid throughout the head, and promoting hair growth and healthy skin.

Where Did It Originate?

The Indian Head Massage is part of an ancient Hindu healthcare practice known as Ayurveda (from the Sanskrit words ayur meaning “life” and veda meaning “science” or “knowledge”). It originated in India over 1000 years ago. Ayurveda itself is thought to be over 3000 years old, and actually remains one of the country’s most common and traditional health care practices.

Initially invented by women, this particular style of massage was primarily used to enhance their scalp and hair health, and that of their daughters.

Often used in conjunction with various oils (such as almond, coconut, olive, and sesame – each providing a unique benefit), it was quickly realized that these techniques not only aided in keeping their locks luxurious, but also promoted good health in general and even helped enhance the body’s natural healing powers.

It became a common family tradition; mothers would massage the heads of their babies and as they grew into young children. As they got older, the children learned the techniques themselves in order to perform the head massage on their elder family members in return and eventually to pass down to their children, keeping the tradition alive from generation to generation.

Until recently, 1973 to be exact, this massage style was still confined to India, unknown to the rest of the world.

It was Indian native Narendra Mehta who blessed the world with this unique and traditional massage after he had moved from India to England to continue his education and was underwhelmed when he found no such massage type available in his new home.

This prompted him to return to India, study the traditional head massage he had missed so much, and return to England to offer this new service. The technique spread from England to the rest of the world quickly, and is common throughout most western civilizations today.

In fact, it was Mehta who transformed this technique from the scalp focused traditional massage seen hundreds of years ago in India to the holistic upper-body massage it is known as today.

What To Expect

To say that an Indian Head Massage will relax you is a severe understatement.

Not only does this type of message therapy put you into a serene state of mind, but it will leave you feeling as if a physical weight was lifted off your shoulders.

Mentally

Following the traditional Ayurvedic approach, an important aspect of this type of massage is to work on healing the balance of energies within your body.

The Indian Head Massage focuses on stimulating three specific chakras: the Chakras of the Throat, the Third Eye/Brow, and the Crown Chakra.

Rebalancing and healing these Chakras can have many positive affects on you psychologically and even spiritually.

You can expect to leave your appointment with restored senses of peace and tranquility, relieved of stress and worry you may have been carrying with you, and feeling generally more relaxed and at ease.

Physically

The Indian Head Massage differs slightly, from a physical standpoint, from most other types of massages available.

During this type of massage you should expect to be seated upright and you will remain clothed (unless you opt for a focus on your shoulders, in which case you can expect to wrap a towel around your torso).

The massage typically begins with pressure being applied in specific locations around your upper back and shoulders in order to remove any knots that may be present (known as acupressure) and reduce the tension in surrounding muscles. Your masseuse will then work their way up to your neck and finish by massaging the around the skull, usually with certain types of essential oils.

How an Indian Head Massage Benefit Will Benefit You

Aside from feeling amazing and being a great way to relax and shut the world out for an hour, there are actually many health benefits to booking yourself an Indian Head Massage.

  • Prevention of Headaches/Migraines and Back Pain

Tension and tightness in the upper back and neck is one of the most common culprits of headaches, migraines, and even back pain.

By targeting and loosening the knots and tight muscles in your upper body and encouraging better circulation of cerebrospinal fluid by massaging the neck and scalp, you can rid yourself of that tightness and pounding overtaking your day.

  • Relieve Insomnia and Improve Your Quality of Sleep

Indian Head Massages target both the physical and mental stress your body may be coping with, and aim to transport you into a calm state of deep relaxation.

Removing muscular discomfort, improving circulation of fluids throughout your brain, and promoting relaxation and enhanced senses helps your body’s healing abilities.

This rids your body of the stress that is preventing your brain from shutting down when you need to sleep, which in turn allows you to let your body fall into a restful state of relaxation once again.

  • Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Massaging the head aids in increasing and revitalizing the circulation of oxygen through your brain. Increasing the flow of oxygen to your brain helps regain the proper chemical balance needed to maintain a healthy mental state.

The Indian Head Massage will encourage higher oxygen flow to your brain, lifting your mood and effectively reducing a variety of both mental and physical symptoms caused by anxiety or depression.

  • Strengthens Memory

Too often, we let our brains become overloaded with thoughts, ideas, and feelings, usually being too busy to take a moment to breath and sort ourselves out. When we become too overloaded with information, we become incapable of properly categorizing and organizing these thoughts, which in turns hinders the efficiency of our memories.

The ways in which an Indian Head Massages help to rebalance our Chakras and strengthen our mental and sensual awareness is essentially a “reset” on our cluttered minds. This reset allows us to slow down and re-establish self-awareness, effectively revitalizing our memory.

  • Revives Energy Levels

Chakras are, in fact, commonly referred to as the bodies “energies”. By rebalancing your chakras, you are effectively rebalancing the energies within your body.

By combining this rebalancing of energies with the cleansing of your mental state and the relaxation of your physical body, you will feel a new type of energy throughout your body.

You will feel energetic, refreshed, stabilized, and ready to face the day.

  • Detoxifies Your Body

Through certain massage techniques used on the neck (specifically the lymph nodes), the Indian Head Massage can stimulate and improve lymphatic drainage and blood flow.

The lymphatic system is responsible for removing waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells from our body’s tissues. This makes it crucial to our immune system and our body’s healing capabilities.

By encouraging better circulation of our body’s lymph, we are increasing the efficiency and effectiveness by which our body rids itself of waste and harmful substances.

In turn, we will not only feel better on a day-to-day basis, but we will also target or prevent certain health problems (such as swelling of the face or limbs, production of cancer cells, etc.), as well as clearing and refocusing our minds (thanks to better oxygen circulation resulting from less toxins within our bodies). 

  • Promotes Healthy Skin and Hair

Massaging the scalp is proven to promote longer and healthier hair by encouraging better blood flow to the scalp.

This is the portion of the massage where adding essential oils into the routine has to most benefits. Different types of oils can have positive effects both on your skin and your hair.

For your skin, the best oils to use are Tea Tree Oil, Lemon Oil, and Chamomile Oil. Tea Tree Oil and Chamomile Oil both sooth the skin, which can work to cure a dry or itchy scalp. Lemon Oil is great for fighting dandruff.

For hair health, you want to use Castor Oil, Almond Oil, and Peppermint Oil. All of these oils promote hair growth through improved blood circulation.

What Are You Waiting For?

Whether you need to work on all of the above mentioned health concerns that are easily targeted by this type of massage therapy, or simple want to disconnect and relax for an hour, and Indian Head Massage is just the answer you’ve been looking for.

This blend of both modern and traditional technique is sure to help boost your mental and emotional well-being at the same time that it eases many of your body’s aches and pains.

There is a good reason this massage has been passed down from generation to generation for over a thousand years amongst Indian families, and we should be grateful to Narendra Mehta for introducing this Indian secret to the rest of the world.

Find an accredited massage therapist near you and watch your troubles and pains fade away.

References

  1. https://www.centreofexcellence.com/7-things-about-indian-head-massage/
  2. https://www.leaf.tv/articles/the-history-origins-traditions-of-indian-head-massaging/
  3. https://liberitherapies.co.uk/what-is-indian-head-massage/

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