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."

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Flushing. If massage can “improve” any tissue — unknown — one way it might do it is through simple hydraulics: physically pumping tissue fluids around, and/or stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph. I won’t get into the evidence about it here. Suffice it to say that it might be true, and if it’s true then it may not much matter if the process is uncomfortable. While gentler massage may feel pleasant and satisfying, it is possible that more biological benefits can only be achieved hydraulically — whether it’s comfortable or not. This is even more plausible because of trigger points: it’s likely that the tissue fluids of a trigger point are quite polluted with waste metabolites, and the need for flushing is greater, but it’s especially uncomfortable to squish those polluted patches of tissue. 

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The NCCIH adds that massage therapy may also be potentially harmful to women who are pregnant. Even though research has found that it offers this demographic some positive effects, such as decreased depression and anxiety and reduced leg and back pain, it is still important to obtain approval from her healthcare provider first to ensure that she can receive a safe sports massage.
No one really knows how a painful massage can also feel so good at the same time. This is a sensory phenomenon mostly beyond the reach of science — not entirely14 — all we can do is speculate. A main question is whether good pain is good because we expect relief to follow pain, or because positive and negative qualities are being produced simultaneously. My bet is on the latter.

So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.

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During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.

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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Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.) 

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Expect to work hard breaking into the sports environment. Get additional training and develop your expertise in orthopedic massage and functional assessment, clinical massage, myofascial work and stretching. Start by getting involved with your AMTA chapters’ Sports Massage Team; this provides excellent hands-on experience and each event looks great on a resume.
To understand this difference, it’s helpful to first think of the body’s fascia and muscles in layers. Notice in this image the many overlappinglayers of these tissues. Fascia is a connective tissue which permeates the entire body – literally holding the body together, wrapping around every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel, and bone. These wrappings are all interconnected in a three-dimensional maze. The muscle layers run superficial to deep in the body.
Accredited sports massage therapists must first complete a course in general massage from a school accredited by the American Massage Therapy Association/Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval (AMTA/COMTAA) or their State Board of Education. They must then complete an additional training program approved by the AMTA National Sports Massage Certification Program. Many sports massage practitioners also complete the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

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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.
Swedish and deep tissue massages are very similar. The primary difference is the level of pressure involved. If you’re looking for relaxation and relief from tense, tight muscles, Swedish massage is probably right for you. If you’re recovering from an injury, deep tissue massage can be a helpful part of your treatment plan. Feel free to ask questions before you book a massage and to communicate feedback to your therapist during a massage.

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