july 26, 2011 04:23pm

From the NYTimes

We already know how many benefits there are when having a massage. Here is just further proof that massages do so much!

Stubborn Back Pain? Try Massage

Can massage help back pain?
Massage is a common alternative treatment for chronic low back pain, but most recent studies have found little evidence that it works. A group of researchers designed a study to see if they could find a difference between back pain sufferers who got massage and those who did not.

The scientists recruited 401 members of a large group health plan who had moderately severe back pain unconnected with any disease and generally related to strains and sprains. Three quarters of the volunteers had had pain for more than a year.

The volunteers, average age 46, two-thirds of them women, were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Some got relaxation massage, a full-body technique intended to induce a generalized sense of relaxation to ease low back pain. Others got structural massage, which aims to identify specific musculoskeletal contributors to pain and to release restrictions on muscles causing the distress. The third group received no special care and served as controls.

The three groups were similar in the other kinds and frequency of treatments they used, including painkillers or sedatives, back exercises and bed rest.

Each of the massage groups received 10 weeks of treatment, and at the end of that period, all three groups had some improvement, as measured by their answers to 23 questions about performing routine activities without help — for example, climbing stairs without using a handrail or getting out of an easy chair by themselves. They were also asked to rate the degree of their back pain symptoms on a 10-point scale.

Those who received massage scored significantly better on both symptom and function tests, and they spent less time in bed, used less medicine and were more satisfied with their current level of back pain.

At 26 weeks after treatment, those in the usual care group continued to function less well than those who had gotten massage. But there were no significant differences in the pain scores in the three groups, either at 26 or at 52 weeks.

Daniel C. Cherkin, the lead author and an epidemiologist with the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, mentioned some of the study’s considerable strengths. It had a randomized design, a high follow-up rate, good adherence to the treatment and a large sample size. Still, he said, the study was done on a mostly white, middle-class population in otherwise good health, which may limit its applicability to other groups. The study appeared online Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

It is unclear how massage eases back pain, but the researchers suggest it may stimulate tissue locally or cause a more generalized central nervous system response. It is also possible that just spending time in a relaxing environment or being touched and cared for by a sympathetic therapist could have led to improvement. Also, those in the control group knew that the other groups were getting massage, and the knowledge that others were getting the treatment while they got none may have led them to underestimate their own progress.

Still, the researchers conclude that massage has few adverse effects and is a reasonable treatment for low back pain. There is no evidence, though, that it lowers the cost of health services related to back pain.

“We tested this on people who had not been getting better from the usual medical approaches, Dr. Cherkin said. “If you’ve tried other things and you’re not getting adequate relief, then massage is a reasonable thing to try.”

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december 02, 2010 04:40pm

Injuries, Exercise and Massage

There are many powerful reasons why massage is important, including detoxification and stress relief. But when people ask me why to do it or why it’s important the answer that responds to most busy New Yorkers is that it helps you get into good shape faster with less stiffness, soreness and most of all it helps prevent injuries that will set you back.

We all know the enormous benefits of exercise and moving the body. Anyone who routinely pushes their physical limits through any movement, sports, strength training and aerobics can benefit from a massage. Whether you are a weekend warrior that fits in workouts between work and family or a serious athlete, massage in an important part of any sports regimen. Sports medicine clinics and both professional and college athletic teams use massage to heal and prevent the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement. The added physiological and psychological benefits of massage also add to the reasons to do it.

Heavily exercised muscles may also lose their capacity to relax, causing chronically tight (hypertonic) muscles, and loss of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is often linked to muscle soreness, and predisposes you to injuries,
especially muscle pulls and tears. Blood flow through tight muscles is poor (ischemia), which also causes pain.

Some benefits of massage for exercise and injury prevention:

1. Reduced chance of injury by improving range of motion and muscle
2. Performance enhancing results with improved power and performance.
3. Shortened recovery time between workouts.
4. Maximizes the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow and the elimination of lactic acid in the muscle (a by-products of exercise).

Massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation and muscle and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and
stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.

With regular massage for maintenance the therapist can zero in on particular muscle groups and work specific tissues, they can help maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help you reach optimal performance through injury-free training. Regular massage also gives a therapist a chance to find your unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. They can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries.

Massage for injuries can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process. Deep tissue and trigger point massage breaks up the tissues in the muscle to speed recovery.

So to sum it up, make massage part of your wellness and fitness routine. You’ll get all the benefits of relaxation and if you’re more a type A personality remember you can push yourself a little harder with less injuries and get in shape a little faster.

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october 22, 2010 04:23pm

More Research About the Benefits of Massage!

Printed in the New York Times Sept 20, 2010
Does a good massage do more than just relax your muscles? To find out, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage.

All of the subjects were fitted with intravenous catheters so blood samples could be taken immediately before the massage and up to an hour afterward.

To their surprise, the researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.

Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

The study was published online in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The lead author, Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai, said the findings were “very, very intriguing and very, very exciting — and I’m a skeptic.”

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august 18, 2010 05:17pm

Dry Skin Brushing

A simple at home detoxifier

Being a typical busy New Yorker/single mom I was on a search to come up with easier and better ways to take care of myself. I was chatting about not having enough time to do this with Susan Shields, one of the massage therapists that work for me. She suggested I try dry skin brushing at home and I decided to give it a try and bought a brush that day.

It is quite simply just what it sounds like, before my shower each day I took a soft brush and brushed the dead skin off always using motions toward the heart. It only took 5 minutes and not only did my skin and even my cellulite looked better, I began to notice that I had much more energy. I got so excited about it as part of my daily ritual that I decided to add it to our massage menu and I wanted to share it. Dry skin brushing is an easy and effective way to help the natural detox process of the body and better yet it can be done at home with just the expense of a simple soft natural brush.

The skin is the body’s largest organ and is often called “the third kidney” because of its importance in the body’s process of detoxification and it is responsible for 10-15% of body elimination. Daily your body regenerates new skin cells leaving many of the dead ones still on the body. The brushing of the skin helps the skin regenerate more efficiently allowing the load on the kidney and liver to lessen. It also aids in blood circulation and has a profound cleansing effect on the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is an important filtration system for the body and helps to push toxins through and out of your body.

We all have the extra 5 minutes and here’s the simple how to:

1. Purchase a natural fiber body brush, long handled ones are even better for harder to reach areas.
2. Brush the skin from your hands up your arms several times, covering all areas.
3. Then stroke the brush from your feet to the top of your legs in the same way.
4. Use circular counter-clockwise strokes on the abdomen and your armpits. Then repeat these areas with counterclockwise motion.
5. Brush the chest/breasts and sensitive areas lightly.
6. Brush upwards on the back and down from the neck.
7. You can also brush in a circular motion on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.

You can follow with a shower or bath and enjoy the benefits!

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march 22, 2010 03:37pm

The Perfect Accompaniment to Diet and Exercise

If you think watching what you eat and hitting the gym every day is the only path to good health, think again.

While regular exercise and a balanced diet both play pivotal roles in maintaining a fit body and a healthy lifestyle, as it turns out, you can also massage your way to good health. A healthy lifestyle is a balanced lifestyle, and to be balanced is to not only be physically well, it means possessing the ability to relax, recover and rejuvenate mentally so you are feeling your best in both mind and body.

Few people truly understand concepts like inner wellness and well-being, failing to recognize that health is a state that applies to the whole body and mind. There should be a proper balance between exercise, nutrition and wellness of mind. Furthermore, there must be a solid connection between mind and body, meaning that one must be healthy in order for the other to function at its optimum. No matter how many crunches or miles on the treadmill you do, whole body health can only be achieved when you're feeling good on the inside.

Apart from relieving stress and bringing about deep relaxation, massage therapy helps tone the body, increase energy, prevent degeneration, and treat ailments and injuries. Massage can work on a preventive level or it can be targeted in a particular way to speed up the healing process. Healing through massage is, for most people, a zero side-effect process. Different massages, such as sports massages, can be geared toward special conditions or lifestyles. Your massage therapist might use specialized techniques and oils that work at the physical level to soothe aching muscles, tensed nerves and encourage healing in places that require a certain kind of attention.

With its wonderful abilities to relieve pain and tension, increase the rate of healing and encourage the flow of energy, massage can be a tremendous tool to help you support a continuous state of well-being. So next time you find yourself setting new fitness goals or reviewing your healthy lifestyle agenda, remember that you have more than just one or two tricks up your sleeve when it comes to looking and feeling good. Massage is an invaluable tool in this regard - and there are hundreds of reasons why. But if you can't find any other reason to add massage to your fitness regimen aside from the fact that it feels amazing, then that's good enough!

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