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Reflexology is not just foot massage, but therapy for the body and spirit

Anyone who thinks reflexology is simply a foot massage may as well keep his shoes on, say those who know the real thing.

The alternative therapy is a practice old enough to be traced back to 2500 B.C., yet modern enough to be one of the fastest-growing fields in alternative healing therapies today. Those who request it, practice it or teach it believe in its health benefits.

“Reflexology deals with the principle that there are reflexes on the hands and feet that correspond to all of our organs, glands and parts of the body,” says Laurie Azzarella, a certified reflexologist and trainer with the International Institute of Reflexology.

People have turned to reflexology not only for relaxation and improved circulation, but also as a supplement to the traditional medical treatment of such ailments as sinus pain, joint pain, back pain, headaches and circulatory and digestive issues.

“By using a unique thumb-and-finger technique on these reflex areas (on the hands or feet), the body releases stress and tension, improves blood supply and unlocks nerve impulses, which promotes homeostasis and helps one achieve greater health and well-being,” says Azzarella.

“Reflexology is not a diagnostic tool,” she adds. “It is a way for people to feel what is going on inside their bodies and to take charge of their health. It is a great complement to any other treatment they may be receiving, and it doesn’t interfere with medications. [...] Reflexology empowers you to participate in your own healing.”

Neck Massage

Study: Timing Is Key to Massage’s Benefits for Neck Pain

Massage can relieve neck pain if it’s done often by a professional therapist and for the correct length of time, according to new research.

One-hour sessions two or three times a week appear to be best, said study researcher Karen Sherman, senior scientific investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.

“In the short term, 60 minutes of massage is better than 30, and you want to do multiple treatments a week for the first four weeks,” she said.

Her study, which tested the effects of a month of massage, is published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Persistent neck pain is common and stems from numerous causes — car accidents, sleeping in awkward positions or spending hours hunched over a computer, among them, Sherman said.

Doctors often recommend anti-inflammatory medicines, but these drugs frequently don’t provide enough relief, she noted. “People with back and neck pain aren’t usually satisfied with what they get from their doctor, so they are looking around for something that works,” Sherman explained.

Previous studies of massage for neck pain have produced conflicting results, so Sherman’s team decided to look closer. Specifically, they wanted to determine what dose of massage is ideal. In a previous study, Sherman had found that benefits of massage were evident after four weeks.

For the new study, she randomly assigned 228 men and women, aged 20 to 64, to one of six groups. These included 30-minute massages two or three times weekly, one-hour massages one, two or three times weekly, and a comparison group receiving no massage.

Assessing neck functioning and pain levels a week after treatment ended, the researchers determined that patients getting one hour of massage three times a week showed the most gains after four weeks of massage.

Compared to those who got no massage, “people getting massage three times a week were almost five times as likely to have a clinically meaningful (meaning important or noticeable) improvement in function and over twice as likely to report a clinically meaningful decrease in pain,” Sherman said.

Many patients who get therapeutic massage for chronic neck pain may not reap benefits if they undergo shorter or less frequent sessions, the authors suggested.

Sherman cautioned against having a family member or friend attempt to massage away your neck pain. “We used extremely experienced massage therapists,” she said. Treatment sessions also assessed range of motion and looked at how the patient’s body compensated for the neck pain, which the average person is unable to do, she said.

Dr. Fredrick Wilson, a spine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, stressed the need to use a professional massage therapist. “If done incorrectly, [massage] can actually cause muscle tightening and spasm,” he said.

For neck or back pain, “it seems the training and experience make a difference in the amount of pain relief patients get,” he added.

excerpt from Timing Is Key to Massage’s Benefits for Neck Pain: Study
by Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter
Lymphatic Massage

Bolster your lymphatic system through massage

What exactly is the body’s lymph or lymphatic system? If you have ever had a wound that had clear fluid coming out of it, then you have witnessed your lymph system in action. The lymphatic system is a subsystem of both the circulatory and immune system. It plays a vital role in maintaining health because all the other systems in the body depend on it to clear toxins, wastes, bacteria, fat globules and infection from the body. The word “lymphatic” comes from the Latin word “lymphaticus,” meaning “connected to water.” The fluid is clear or milky white in color, and can be found throughout your body. In fact, there is more lymph fluid in the body than blood! Because we are exposed to so many synthetic chemicals, processed foods and environmental toxins, the lymph system gets overloaded. When this happens, the cells that rely on the lymph system for elimination become less efficient and sluggish as they fill with their own waste. This can lead to many health problems.

Our lymph system is made of white blood cells called lymphocytes, and the interstitial fluid that bathes our cells, bringing our cells nutrients and removing their waste. All detoxification occurs first and foremost through the lymph. The system is comprised of lymph capillaries, lymph-collecting vessels, lymph nodes and the lymph ducts. If you have ever been to the doctor’s office with “swollen glands,” those are actually your lymph nodes. (Contrary to popular belief, endocrine glands do not actually swell.) The nodes fill with lymph fluid to fight off infection.

Since the lymphatic system does not have a central pump like the heart, it depends on other factors, like muscular contraction, movement, pressure changes, spontaneous contraction of lymph vessels and external factors, such as massage and gravity. Jumping on a trampoline, swimming, deep belly breathing and massage therapy are some of the best things you can do in your daily life to activate this system.

Massage promotes healthy functioning of your lymph system by directly stimulating and relaxing your muscles. It flushes metabolic wastes and helps distribute nutrients to the body. Normally, 1.5 to 3 liters of lymph fluid are drained each day. Massage increases this up to 10 to 30 liters per day. Massage therapy also creates a response within the body that affects the cardiovascular system, lymphatic system and immune system. Massage increases the count and function of white blood cells, thereby strengthening the immune system.

Stimulating the lymphatic system provides energy, better health, better rest, weight loss and decrease in inflammation. Massage therapy used to be considered a luxury treatment for people. However, most people are becoming aware of all of the lovely health benefits this treatment provides, including cleaning out your lymphatic system and flushing away toxins.

Clinical massage therapy

Most people think about massage and think back rubs, neck rubs, and relaxation. But did you know that there are many other conditions that massage therapy can be used for? Clinical massage therapy (site-specific treatment with a goal in mind) can be an effective treatment for many medical conditions. Here is just a small sample:

  • IT band syndrome: This is an overuse injury of the soft tissue that runs from the hip to the knee and can cause knee pain/hip pain. This is common in runners and other endurance athletes, but can happen to anyone.
  • Plantar fascitis: This painful condition of the feet often responds well to massage therapy and physical therapy. A little stretching and soft-tissue massage goes a long way (especially when you start treatment right away).
  • Piriformis syndrome: The piriformis is a muscle in the buttock region and, when tight, causes pain in the buttocks and/or down the leg.
  • Shoulder pain: Massage therapy can be helpful to those of you with shoulder pain. Postural problems and daily activities (like sitting at a computer) can strain and irritate these muscles and massage therapy can often help.
  • Headaches: Massage therapy can help decrease the frequency and intensity of headaches. Research has shown massage to be effective treating tension AND migraine headaches.
  • Fibromyalgia: There are few things that haven been shown effective at managing symptoms of fibromyalgia, and massage therapy is one of them. Massage is the safest treatment available for many chronic pain conditions.
  • TMJ dysfunction: For those unfamiliar, TMJ dysfunction is pain and/or clicking and locking of the jaw. An experienced massage therapist can help manage the symptoms and pain of TMJ dysfunction.

There are many others conditions massage therapy can help, including carpal tunnel, arthritis, and bursitis. The take-home message here is that if there is something that has been nagging you, check with a professional massage therapist and see if they can help you. An experienced massage therapist will also tell you when they CANNOT help, and can refer you to another appropriate medical professional (perhaps a physical therapist or physician).

Considering that massage therapy is a safe treatment without side effects for almost everyone, it is a very good place to start.

You Can Do Massage for That? by Candice Reimholz, Athletico
Massage Mens Fitness

Men’s Fitness looks at the benefits of massage

If you’ve ever laid down on a massage table for a session, chances are you know that massages feel good. But, how exactly can it help improve your athletic performance? The magic in massage lies in its ability to move your tissue in a way that will help to restore muscle elasticity and promote recovery. The kneading, pulling, and pushing also encourages better blood flow and acts as a flushing tool to help push waste products back into circulation and out of the muscle thereby helping to alleviate muscle soreness.

There are many different types of massages from those focused more on relaxation and recovery to harder options more geared towards breaking down knots and adhesions in the muscle fibers. While both approaches have specific applications, the end goal of massage is still to improve movement through increasing flexibility and tissue quality. Dr. Mike Reinold, head physical therapist for the Boston Red Sox, adds, “As a society, we are sitting more and more each year, which is leading to more postural adaptations and areas of tightness that can be limiting your fitness gains. Massage is an excellent resource to help address these tight areas, allowing you to move better and get more from your workouts.”

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