Ugly pain in massage therapy is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that are not going to offer even minimal, delayed benefits, and may even be dangerous. It’s important to be able to spot ugly pain for what it is and completely eliminate it from any therapy you’re receiving. What kinds of handling may cause “ugly” pain?

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Bad pain. Bad pain comes with no obvious, immediate benefits. If there is anything good about it, there is no way to tell from the sensation at the time. Bad pains are usually sharp, burning, or hot. Such pain is usually caused by excessive but harmless pressure. As bad as it feels, it probably won’t hurt you — maybe a little bruising — but there’s also a good chance that it won’t be therapeutic either. The big question about bad pain is whether or not it is ever justified.

However, since having the feet or hands rubbed is an enjoyable and relaxing experience for most people, there is little doubt that hand and foot reflexology can promote stress relief and a sense of well being in much the same way as any other form of massage. This therapy may be an especially useful complementary treatment for neuropathy of the legs, feet and toes. It can also be useful for sore hands and feet after a workout, running or taking a long walk.
Addressing anything from headaches to sinus problems to stomach issues, if sensitivity or tenderness is experienced when certain areas of the foot are stimulated, it usually indicates bodily weaknesses or imbalances within the corresponding organ. With repeated practice of applying pressure and manipulating nerve endings (traditionally in the foot), reflexology can help to clear any channels of blocked energy through moving the flow of blood, nutrients and nerve impulses to ultimately improve overall health and balance. In addition to manipulating the pressure points on the foot, reflexologists sometimes work on the hands or ears to trigger relaxation as well.
This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Josh Axe and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
Elementary Reflexology™ is a form of reflexology incorporating energy balancing with point specific work. Integrating the ancient art of Ayurvedic reflexology with the modern energetic principles of Polarity, and is based on the concept of the inter-relationship of the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. What sets Elemental Reflexology™ apart is its foundation in the assessment and balancing of these five elements. Elemental Reflexology™ is focused exclusively on the feet, because in polarity, they are the most negative pole in the body-the place where energy is the most dense and tends to crystallize and become blocked. Working on the feet frees up this stagnant energy, allowing it to be released and flow freely throughout the body. This process is suited for all ages and many conditions.

Pauline Wills, author of the Reflexology and Colour Therapy Workbook, teaches that colors can be applied to "areas where an abnormality has been diagnosed but which has produced no noticeable symptoms in the physical body." She states that the application can be done by imagining colors transmitted through the practitioner's hand or by Firstly, if the practitioner is sensitive to colour, they can visualize it being projected or by using "reflexology crystal torch." [8].

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Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer. (2)
While there are numerous benefits to this branch of massage, elementsmassage.com reminds you that it is important to keep your expectations for the treatment reasonable. While Deep Tissue massages use more pressure to reach deeper muscle tissues and often yield immediately noticeable results, asking your therapist to apply more pressure and gritting your way through pain will do more damage than good. If you are in pain, your muscles will begin to contract, making the therapist’s efforts moot. Applying more pressure will not speed up the process. Like any treatment, Deep Tissue massages need time to be effective. Keep in mind that the injury or muscle tension that you are hoping to get resolved has had a great deal of time to form; it will take time to undo the damage. Like any treatment, often the therapy will not be enough; including other changes to your lifestyle, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or working on posture in addition to your massage appointments will help move the process along and help you see faster and longer lasting results.
Pain management. If you have a condition like sciatica or osteoarthritis and are suffering from chronic pain as a result, Swedish massage can be an effective method for managing that pain in a natural way. Notify your massage therapist about your pain points, he or she can target those areas and use a stroking motion to improve local circulation and reduce muscle tension.

The pressure from Swedish massage is ideal for relieving muscle tension, like the kind that builds up from hunching over a computer all day. This tension can sometimes result in knots: trigger points of extremely tense muscle fibers that form tiny nodules. Massage therapists are trained to feel for these knots, and Swedish-massage techniques are ideal for gently coaxing them away.

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It is also crucial that you continue the communication throughout the session, when and where appropriate. While you want to make this a relaxing session and not talk too much, it is also important that you get feedback from the client about how he or she is feeling. Is the pressure right?  Should you be focusing on a different body part? Do they feel comfortable with the room temperature? Are they happy with your selection of music? Essentially, the quality of your communication with your client could help transform his or her experience during the massage session.

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Reflexology is a bodywork technique that uses pressure points in the feet and hands in an effort to stimulate organs and systems throughout the body. Reflexology practitioners claim they can treat a wide range of maladies simply by manipulating these pressure points. The general idea is similar to that of other forms of alternative and Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture: clear blockages in the flow of the body's life force (or Qi) and healing will follow.

Sports massage is a form of bodywork geared toward participants in athletics. It is used to help prevent injuries, to prepare the body for athletic activity and maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes recover from workouts and injuries. Sports massage has three basic forms: pre-event massage, post-event massage, and maintenance massage.

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Shiatsu (literally, "finger pressure") is an ancient technique from Japan. It combines gentle stretches with finger pressure to work on different pressure points. The idea is to fix imbalances in the flow of energy in your body. Although there's no concrete evidence of Shiatsu's use as a healing method, people who have had this massage still report stress and pain relief. About.com's Alternative Medicine site says:

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The swedish massage was created in the 18th century by Per Henrick Ling, who incorporated his knowledge of physiology and gymanstics, along with Chinese, Roman, Greek, and egyptian techniques. This massage is a full body treatment and includes long strokes, kneading motions, friction, as well as stretching.  Originally called the Swedish Movement Cure.
This is not only an inaccurate and potentially harmful picture of this type of therapy, but such misguided practices can bruise muscles, elicit a defensive reaction in a client’s body, and worsen pain cycles. Properly executed deep tissue work should not cause the client to grit their teeth in agony as the therapist coerces the body into submission! If you find yourself clenching, shortening or holding your breath, or gritting your teeth, then it’s TOO DEEP. Even when it gets intense, it should not go above about a 7 on the pain scale: enough to “hurt so good,” but not enough that you want to leap off the table (and never come back).
Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.

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Many types of practices are associated with massage and include bodywork, manual therapy, energy medicine, neural mobilization and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as holistice philosophies of preventative medical care, as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.

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A study conducted by Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., Theakston, H., Hossain, Z., and Burman, I. reported by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in the year 2000, also asserts that hypertension and its associated symptoms were reduced through massage therapy. The subjects in this study were provided with 10, 30-minute massage sessions over the course of five weeks. The subjects, all of who suffered from hypertension, experienced reduced blood pressure, reduced feelings of depression, less hostile behavior, and reduced levels of cortisol in their urine and salivary samples. Hernandez-Reif concluded that massage for hypertension may be beneficial to reduce diastolic blood pressure and lessen the symptoms associated with hypertension.


Another alarmingly common example is the sensation of skin tearing. This has been inflicted on me personally on at least three occasions, and not by poorly trained therapists — quite the opposite, the perpetrators were all well-trained massage therapists doing a kind of “fascial release” therapy that they clearly thought of as an “advanced” technique.7

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Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
When travelling with USA Swimming, a typical day for Olympic Trials, which is a 10-day trip, usually looks like the following: Arrive at pool by 9 a.m. to start 20-minute massage sessions for athletes. Break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch and return to pool by 4 p.m. for finals at 6 to 8:30 p.m. Massage athletes after finals at pool from 8:30 to 10 p.m.
Beyond the feel-good effects of the treatment, the practice and purpose go deeper than the skin and muscles by taking specific reflex points on the foot to induce a healing response in corresponding organs and areas of the body, as seen in the chart to the left. Kneading the soft fleshy ball of the foot, pulling on the toes, tracing around the heel and pushing deep into the arch are just a few of the many small, intense movements you’ll experience during a reflexology treatment.

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One difference, however, is that you may not want to drift off the same way you might during a conventional massage. "The only times I run into issues with people not liking their treatment is when they just plop down on the table and go to sleep," Colin says, adding that you should "be honest with your therapist, let them know what your goals and expectations are, and have that conversation."
According to research done by the American Massage Therapy Association, as of 2012 in the United States there are between 280,000 and 320,000 massage therapists and massage school students.[115] As of 2011, there were more than 300 accredited massage schools and programs in the United States.[116] Most states have licensing requirements that must be met before a practitioner can use the title "massage therapist", and some states and municipalities require a license to practice any form of massage. If a state does not have any massage laws then a practitioner need not apply for a license with the state. However, the practitioner will need to check whether any local or county laws cover massage therapy. Training programs in the US are typically 500–1000 hours in length, and can award a certificate, diploma, or degree depending on the particular school.[117] There are around 1,300 programs training massage therapists in the country and study will often include anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, massage techniques, first aid and CPR, business, ethical and legal issues, and hands on practice along with continuing education requirements if regulated.[10] The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is one of the organizations that works with massage schools in the U.S. and currently (Aug 2012) there are approximately 300 schools that are accredited through this agency.

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I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter.

You’d hope this sort of thing would be rare, but it’s not. Readers regularly tell me about massage therapists who do not ask them what they want, who dismiss their patients’ concerns about pressure, and who ignore signs that their clients are in pain. They display a “doctor knows best” arrogance — ironic for an alternative health care professional — imposing their own idea of the “right” intensity.
When travelling with USA Swimming, a typical day for Olympic Trials, which is a 10-day trip, usually looks like the following: Arrive at pool by 9 a.m. to start 20-minute massage sessions for athletes. Break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for lunch and return to pool by 4 p.m. for finals at 6 to 8:30 p.m. Massage athletes after finals at pool from 8:30 to 10 p.m.

Reflexology utilizes finger and thumb techniques on the feet and hands to promote deep relaxation, clarity of mind, and a sense of well-being. A session assists with: digestive ailments, hormonal imbalance, structural pain, attention deficit disorders, headache/migraines, sleeping disorders, releasing emotional tension, and strengthening the immune system.
Deep tissue massage is a type of massage that aims at affecting the deeper tissue structure of the muscles. It also affects the connective tissue, known as fascia. Deep tissue massage helps with both small muscle injuries as well as chronic problems. Deep tissue massage is an excellent way to deal with a whiplash or sports injury, postural misalignment, treating spasms as well as muscle tension. During a deep tissue massage the therapist concentrates on releasing specific chronic muscle tension as well as the muscular knots, or adhesions.

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