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What Massage Treats


Massage and Stress

Stress is a natural response of the body to the various demands we place upon it. In ancient times, our stress response, also known as our flight or flight response, provided us with energy to preserve life during difficult situations such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Unfortunately, modern day stress is considerably higher, more frequent and more consistent than what our predecessors experienced. Today, we do not have to look much further than out our windows, or on our computer screens, to view various forms of stressors—everything from prime-time news and road rage, to the forty-hour work week, and cell phones.

However stress is not necessarily always negative. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stressors are usually short lived and keep us alert and motivated, and support our body’s strength and vitality. Our response to stress can either help or hinder our body’s ability to cope with these various stressors in our lives. Healthy responses to stress include appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and reaching out to friends and family for support. Unhealthy responses to stress include negative thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and isolation. These unhealthy responses can cause the body to work harder than it needs to and can trigger physical and mental health issues. Over time, ongoing stress and unhealthy responses to stress can actually be detrimental to our health.

Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend our body against viruses, decrease. This results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.

Even if the stressors are no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of our nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys and adrenal glands, which can pave the way for a wide variety of signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of an overactive response to stress:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Depressed Immune System
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Headaches
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Joint Pain
  • Weight Problems

Did you know massage can help to manage stress?

Studies conducted on animals show that a sluggish stress response is directly correlated to lack of touch. Healthy, nurturing touch such as massage can bolster the body’s ability to respond appropriately to stressors. Therefore, a regular dose of massage may be vital for balancing our natural ability to respond to stress in a healthy way.

Human touch is an essential part of human nature. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we tend to become so busy that we neglect our natural instincts and deny ourselves of basic human need.

What can you do?

In addition to massage, there are many things that a person can do to combat negative effects of stress:

  • Get adequate sleep. Try for at least eight hours of restful and restorative sleep.
  • Practice meditative exercise. Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga can help create a healthy body-mind awareness and help free your mind of stressful thoughts.
  • Eat a well balanced diet. Maintain a healthy diet with adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats.
  • Have fun! Make time for relaxing activities, enjoyable hobbies and lots of laughter in your life.
  • Breathe. Relaxed, deep breathing is one of the most simple and easy techniques that can be used for reducing stress.
  • Give yourself a regular foot massage at least three times per week to boost your energy and lower your perception of stress.

If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed by the negative effects of stress in your life, try some of these self-care techniques and be sure to schedule a regular massage.


J Korean Acad Nurs. Effects of aroma self-foot reflexology massage on stress and immune responses and fatigue in middle-aged women in rural areas2012 Oct;42(5):709-18. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2012.42.5.709.


Massage and Pain

Everyone experiences significant pain at some time in their lives—whether from an injury, illness, or an unknown cause. Pain is a warning signal, an alarm that goes off when your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and out of balance.

No one should have to live with pain, but which treatment is right for you?

Often times, people suffering from pain take medication to dull the pain. Taking medication is understandable when pain is constant and unbearable. It may be helpful to dull the symptoms for a short period of time, but it will not get at the root of the problem and correct it. It is like hitting the snooze button on an alarm. Unless the cause of the pain is treated, your body will keep sounding the alarm and reminding you that something is wrong.  Because medication masks the pain symptoms, eventually the pain may get worse or become chronic. It is also possible for the medications to cause unwanted side effects and further compromise your health.

Surgery may also be another option. At times, this approach may make sense, but it could be both expensive and risky, and there is no guarantee that it will be effective.

People experience pain differently. Some people have a high tolerance for pain while others are very sensitive to pain. There are two types of pain signals that the brain receives including; fast pain and slow or continuous pain.

Massage therapy typically addresses pain originating from muscle tension and stiffness in the joints due to soft tissue restrictions. Massage therapy is a drug-free natural approach to dealing with this type of pain.

Did you know that massage overrides the pain signal!

According to the “Gate Control Theory,” there are nerve gates in the spinal cord that open and close to allow signals to travel to the brain. There are two types of pain signal nerve fibers 1) First pain or Fast pain fibers send signals that travel at approximately 40 mph, and 2) Slow pain or continuous pain signals that travel at approximately 3 mph.

The reason massage can override pain signals is because touch and pressure activate other sensory fibers that send signals to the brain even faster than the “Fast pain” nerve fibers. When the “gate” opens to allow touch and pressure sensation through, the pain signal is overridden.

In addition to sensory input, massage creates a relaxation response in the brain releasing endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers.

What are the benefits of massage?

The benefits of treating pain using massage therapy have been cited in several studies over the last couple of decades. Some of the many benefits include:

  • Long-lasting relief for patients suffering from chronic low back pain
  • Relief from the perception of pain pain intensity and anxiety in hospitalized cancer patients
  • Demonstrated better results when compared to a cold pack treatment for treating post-traumatic headaches.
  • Reduction in chronic tension headaches.
  • Reduction in pain and muscle spasms in patients
  • When surveyed, the need for medication went down on the days that these patients received massage therapy.
  • Enhances body awareness regarding the pain they were experiencing.
  • Increased sense of connection with treatment due to the power of the human touch.

What types of massage are beneficial for managing pain?

Because the source of pain can vary widely, there are many types of massage that will help individuals manage pain symptoms. They include:

  • Swedish relaxation massage helps to relieve pain related to stress and tension.
  • Neuromuscular therapy addresses specific muscle pain.
  • Reflexology targets the specific body system involved in the pain.
  • Lymphatic drainage treats pain associated with swelling and edema.

If you or someone you love is suffering from pain, find a massage therapist who can tailor a therapeutic massage to meet your specific needs. You don’t have to live in constant pain. Let massage touch your life and help you to ease the pain.



Massage and Headaches

If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Over 50 million of us experience some form of a severe headache at some point in our lives. Whether you experience minor head pain or severe migraines, headaches can take valuable time out of your day and your life, and leave you searching for relief.

One way to seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other medications. This may work temporarily and can help you get out of pain fast. There are other methods that you can try. Massage therapy can be an effective drug-free treatment for the relief of tension headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

There are various kinds of headaches: tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus and more.

Tension headaches (also known as muscle contraction headaches) are one of the most common types of headaches.

A tension headache may be caused many factors, a few triggers include:

  • Emotional or mental conflict
  • Contracted neck, face, scalp and jaw muscles
  • Intense work
  • Missed meals
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Too little sleep

A migraine often begins as a dull ache and then develops into a constant, throbbing pain that one may feel at the temples, as well as the front or back of one side of the head. Nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise usually accompanies the pain from a migraine headache.

How Can Massage Therapy Help?

If you are looking for relief from tension headaches, massage therapy helps by:

  • Reducing the frequency of chronic tension headaches
  • Reducing the duration of the headache during the massage treatment
  • Reducing depression and/or anxiety
  • Decreasing perceived pain
  • Decreasing anger status
  • Decreasing tension
  • Reducing intensity
  • Decreasing medication usage
  • Increasing cervical range of motion

What Can You Do?

Below are a few ways that you can participate in your own healing, by making simple lifestyle changes that may help alleviate, or even prevent, head pain:

Track those triggers. Try to keep track of when your headaches start. You may find it especially helpful to keep a diary of symptoms. Certain types of foods and hormonal changes can be possible causes.

Stress relief. Stress can contribute to many types of health concerns, including headaches. Talk to your practitioner about healthy ways to handle stress.

Exercise. Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and it is a great antidote to stress.

Healthy habits. Do your best to eat healthy, organic foods, and to get enough sleep everyday.


Am J Public Health. 2002 October; 92(10): 1657–1661.


What is PMS?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a group of physical and emotional symptoms linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms
 usually occur during the ten days
 prior to menses, and disappear either
 shortly before or after the start of
 menstrual flow. Symptoms vary from
 woman to woman, but each woman’s individual pattern of symptoms is
 typically predictable.

The exact causes of PMS are not clear, but several factors may be involved. Changes in hormones during
 the menstrual cycle seem to be an important contributor. These changing
 hormone levels may affect some women more than others. Chemical
 changes in the brain may also be involved. Other factors such as stress, a nutritionally inadequate diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and a hectic 
or demanding lifestyle may exacerbate the symptoms. For some women, especially those who exhibit as many as four to ten PMS symptoms, many aspects of their lives may be
 diminished during one to two weeks prior to menstruation. This can include relationships with family and friends, work productivity, mood and emotional stability and the ability to appreciate their own bodies and feminine identity.

Common PMS symptoms & signs:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite Changes
  • Backache
  • Bloating
  • Breast Tenderness & Swelling
  • Constipation and/or Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Depression
  • Edema
  • Headache/Migraine
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Hives
  • Impaired Memory
  • Irritability & Anger
  • Joint Pain & Swelling
  • Lack of Clear Thinking & Concentration
  • Lack of Libido
  • Lower Abdominal Distension
  • Mood Swings
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Rhinitis
  • Salt & Carbohydrate Cravings
  • Skin Disorders
  • Sore Throat & Cold Sores
  • Sugar Cravings
  • Vaginitis
  • Water Retention
  • Weight Gain

Women may be at increased risk for PMS if they are:

  • Over 30 years
  • Experiencing significant amounts of stress
  • Partaking in poor nutritional habits
  • Suffering from side effects from birth
 control pills
  • Having difficulty maintaining a stable weight
  • Not exercising enough
  • Pregnant and have

Symptoms can be even more severe if they have had more than one child or have a family history of depression.

Did you know a monthly massage can help?

Whether a woman suffers from PMS symptoms on an occasional or monthly basis, massage therapy can offer a safe and natural approach to alleviating many of these symptoms.

Research studies published by the Touch Research Institute show that massage therapy may be an effective long-term aid for pain reduction and water retention, and a short-term aid for decreasing anxiety and improving mood for women suffering from symptoms of PMS.

Here are some types of massage and the specific PMS symptoms they address:

  • Swedish massage activates the body’s natural relaxation response.
  • Abdominal massage to reduce bloating, water-retention, and pain associated with cramps.
  • Reflexology has a calming effect reducing feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Craniosacral therapy provides some relief for mood swings, irritability and anger
  • Shiatsu stimulates acupressure points for reducing pain such as cramping and back pain

What can you do?

It is always important to practice self-care especially during times when the body is showing signs of an imbalance.

Find a massage therapist who has experience with specific techniques that will help to alleviate PMS symptoms.

In addition to scheduling a regular massage, there are other things you can do to help yourself during this time of the month. Be kind to yourself and nourish your body with a healthy diet to maintain balanced hormone production. It is helpful to take time to exercise to increase the blood flow and circulation, and to help to remove toxins built up in the body.

If you or someone you know experiences a disruption in the quality of life on a monthly basis, try massage today.


Massage and MS

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex condition that currently affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States-with 200 more people diagnosed every week. This chronic disease causes uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

The exact causes of MS are not entirely understood, and there is currently no cure, though there have been many advances in treatment in recent years. Western medicine considers MS an autoimmune condition-a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of MS, the immune system starts attacking and breaking down a substance called myelin, the sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Myelin increases the speed of the transmission of nerve signals.

When myelin becomes “broken” or destroyed, none impulses are slowed down, leading to a progression of nerve-related problems. When these nerve fibers become damaged, symptoms result, including

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness or weakness of the limbs

MS usually has acute and subacute periods.  Acute periods (aka flare ups) are times when the symptoms are at their worst; it is when the myelin is under attack. The signs and symptoms of MS depend on where and how much nerve tissue has been damaged.

When is massage appropriate?

Yes, during the subacute stages, massage is appropriate and even beneficial for individuals suffering from MS. Massage can help with common issues like stress reduction and depression. When working with a client who has MS, take the following precaution:

  • Avoid over-stimulating client as this could result in uncontrollable muscle spasms
  • Avoid heat; it may make symptoms worse especially symptoms of fatigue.

What type of massage is beneficial?

Because each individual experiences symptoms differently, it is difficult to pinpoint the best type of massage or to determine an optimal length for massage for an individual with MS. Swedish massage and reflexology have shown benefits for individuals with MS. Increased stress can exacerbate symptoms of MS. If sensation is present, massage can help to reduce feelings of stress. Massage can also help to maintain health and mobility of the tissues. If no sensation is present in certain areas, very light work or energy work may be more appropriate.

What can you do?

MS can have an impact on every part of your life. To help support both your physical and emotional well being, your practitioner may suggest some of these lifestyle changes and self-care techniques.

  • Staying cool – Heat can make symptoms of MS worse. Tepid baths, cool drinks and air conditioning may help make you more comfortable.
  • Exercise – Yoga and Qi Gong can help improve strength, balance and depression. Consider adding gentle aerobic exercise as well to improve your overall health and reduce stress.
  • Stress relief – Stress can exacerbate symptoms and cause other health problems, so it’s important to keep your stress levels in check. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming, consider talking to a professional.
  • Meditation or deep-breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed.
  • Massage is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen tense muscles.

MS is a serious condition, but many people with MS live long, happy, fulfilled lives.


What is Menopause?

Menopause is a transitional period in a woman’s body, following the absence of any menstrual period for at least 12 months. This time of change may last a few months to several years. This is a natural process where the female body tries to adapt to decreasing amounts of estrogen. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain and weight gain may affect each woman to varying degrees.

What are the stages of Menopause?

Perimenopause is the time when hormone levels start to decrease and menstrual periods may become irregular and eventually stop. Some of the common symptoms during this stage include:

  • Mood swings
  • Hot flashes & Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Irregular periods
  • Loss of libido

These symptoms commonly persist through to the second phase known as Menopause. After one year without a menstrual period, a woman has officially entered into Menopause.

The third phase is referred to as post-menopause. In this phase, women acclimate to the hormonal changes and the symptoms typically subside although some women still continue to experience the symptoms but usually to a lesser degree.

Did you know massage can empower women during this transitional time?

Every woman experiences this change in life differently. It is important for woman to practice self-care. Many women aptly turn to massage to ease some common complaints. Massage offers many benefits that address common symptoms of menopause such as:

  • Increases their ability to relax
  • Reduces the perception of stress
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Decreases headaches and joint pain
  • Increases blood and lymph flow
  • Connects them with their body
  • Improves their overall body image

What types of massage are most beneficial?

Depending on the symptoms a woman is experiencing and the phase of menopause she may be in, there are different types of massage and bodywork that may prove more beneficial.

  • Full body relaxation massage can help to alleviate stress and increase overall relaxation.
  • Deep tissue massage addresses aches and pains such as joint pain or headaches.
  • Aromatherapy plus massage has been proven to reduce stress during the stages of menopause. In fact, aromatherapy and abdominal massage demonstrated a reduction in belly fat and an improved sense of body image for post-menopausal women.
  • Reflexology techniques have been shown to help increase blood circulation and reduce perceived stress and fatigue.
  • Chinese medicinal massage and meridian massage have been shown to ease menopausal symptoms.

Massage therapists offer a calming, natural, and drug-free way to ease common symptoms of menopause.

No matter what phase a woman is in, massage therapy can be physiologically and even psychologically beneficial during menopause.

What can you do?

Take care of yourself and be kind to yourself especially during transitional times in your life such as menopause. Seek out a professional massage therapist who understands the difficulties associated with menopause. Find the type of massage that addresses the issues you are experiencing. And, schedule regular massages to help you to nourish, heal, and regain a sense of balance and body-mind connection.


What is prenatal massage?

Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary physical and emotional change. It’s also a time when it’s more important than ever to support and care for your wellbeing. The therapeutic effects of massage can help you meet the unique challenges of pregnancy, ensuring optimal health for you and your baby in a safe and natural way, without the use of harmful medications.

Prenatal massage helps to ease tense muscles and tight spots and improve circulation and mobility. A prenatal massage performed by a certified prenatal massage therapist addresses the specific needs of the pregnant woman in a safe and effective way.

Did you know…it’s good for both Mom and Baby?

During a massage, the relaxation hormones cross the placenta and have a calming effect on both mom and baby. It’s true, a regular massage can enhance your health, potentially preventing complications and positively influencing the development of the baby.

Many mothers-to-be find themselves facing anxiety, fatigue, back pain, heartburn, nausea and other symptoms as a result of the many new demands being placed on their bodies. Massage has been found to effectively relieve many of these symptoms.

During pregnancy, massage therapy can help to relieve discomfort due to a variety of common complaints including:

  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Excessive lactation
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Insufficient lactation
  • Labor and delivery pain
  • Mastitis
  • Morning sickness
  • Physical problems
  • Postoperative healing
  • Psychological problems

Recent studies from the Touch Research Institute indicate that pregnancy massage helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, sleep problems and back pain. Evidence suggests massage helps to reduce complications during delivery and may also result in shorter labor times for mothers. Regular massage during and after pregnancy may also help to prevent symptoms associated with postpartum depression.

What can massage therapists do?

Each trimester of pregnancy brings exciting and new challenges for the mother-to-be. A certified prenatal massage therapist can safely tailor a massage to address the physiological changes during and after pregnancy.

First Trimester (Weeks 1 – 13)

During the first trimester, a generally healthy woman with a low risk pregnancy can safely receive massage. A massage therapist certified in pregnancy massage can deliver a soothing massage to safely and effectively provide much needed relaxation.

The first trimester is an important time to take precautions to minimize any complications. It is essential to obtain the mother’s health history to avoid any possible complications due to a high-risk pregnancy.

Second Trimester (Weeks 14 – 26)

As the mother-to-be heads into the second trimester, a relaxation massage or deep tissue massage can help to alleviate discomfort associated with the continuing changes in her body. A certified massage therapist will be able to explain correct use of abdominal muscles to maintain core strength and stability in the lower back. Due to hormonal changes beginning early in the pregnancy the ligaments become soft and more pliable, this is called joint laxity.  It is important to avoid overstretching during this time because the hormones make it difficult for a pregnant woman to accurately feel the “end feel” of a muscle when it is stretched. Toward the end of the second trimester, it is also important to use the side-lying position or a semi-reclined position to avoid pressure on the inferior vena cava.

Third Trimester (Weeks 27 – 40)

A soothing touch can trigger the release of relaxation hormones for both mom and baby. During the third trimester, the additional weight of the baby and the hormonal changes that take place when a woman’s body is preparing for childbirth can bring on an array of physical and emotional challenges. A massage therapist can provide a supportive, nurturing and calming way to reduce the discomfort. At this stage, the massage therapist should use pillows and make necessary positioning adjustments to address the individual needs of the mother-to-be.

What can you do?

Be kind to yourself. Compliment your prenatal care with a regular prenatal massage. Practice self-care techniques and find a certified prenatal massage therapist who can provide an individualized massage to fit your needs in a supportive and nurturing manner.


Massage and Hypertension

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than one in three Americans, but most people may not even know they have it. Since hypertension can lead to heart attacks and other life-threatening health problems, it’s very important to learn all you can and take action to lower your risk.

Blood pressure is the actual force of blood flowing against your artery walls. Getting your blood pressure tested is a quick, simple process. It’s measured in two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if your systolic pressure is at or above 140
mm Hg, and/or your diastolic pressure is at or above 90 mm Hg.

Often called “the silent killer,” hypertension doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it gets severe enough to lead to major health problems such as heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and metabolic disorders. It has also been linked to dementia and cognitive impairment.

What causes hypertension?

More than 90% of cases of high blood pressure are known as “essential hypertension” and have no identifiable cause. “Secondary hypertension,” on the other hand, is caused by underlying conditions such as kidney disease or certain medications.

The risk factors for essential hypertension include:

  • Age – the risk is higher after age 35
  • Race – certain ethnicities are at higher risk
  • Genetics – a family history of the condition increases the risk of developing hypertension.

Did you know massage therapy could help?

Knowing the clients’ medical history can help the massage therapist to tailor the massage to the clients’ specific needs. However, if high blood pressure is not controlled, it is important to understand that the effects of massage could increase the blood circulation and put additional pressure on the blood vessel walls.

Strong evidence from several research studies demonstrates the positive effects of massage on individuals with hypertension. In a study in 2006 by the National University of Health Sciences, the preferred modality to use was Swedish massage as opposed to more aggressive techniques that may involve pain such as trigger point therapy.

If a client is taking medication to lower their blood pressure, it is important to watch that the blood pressure does not get too low. As the body relaxes the blood vessels expand, and as a result the pressure against the blood vessel walls goes down. When the blood pressure is too low, the blood does not pump efficiently to the brain and causes a reaction that results in faintness due to lack of blood to the brain.

During a massage, the client and therapist should communicate and watch for signs that might indicate too much or too little pressure. Some signs that the cardiovascular system is experiencing too much pressure include:

  • Clamminess,
  • Bogginess,
  • Possible Edema (days following treatment)

What types of massage are beneficial?

When working with a client who has hypertension, it is important to focus on using relaxing strokes as opposed to more aggressive techniques. The following types of massage are recommended:

  • Swedish Massage
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Reflexology

Note: Never perform deep abdominal massage on a client with hypertension.

What can you do?

If you or someone you know has high blood pressure, consider these self-care techniques for lowering blood pressure:

  • Get daily aerobic exercise
  • Meditate or spend time alone to reduce stress
  • Practice slow, deep breathing
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Reduce the amount of fat and salt in your diet and increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods.


A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology 4th Ed. Ruth Werner Lippincot Williams & Wilkins 2009

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