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:
The use of massage as a way to treat chronic pain and other musculoskeletal ailments has been on for thousands of years. Ayurveda prescribes specific oil-based massages to treat muscle injuries and for detoxification. Ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilizations have also used pressure massages to improve health and maintain a healthy liver. In modern times, deep tissue massage has been used to supplement muscle recovery and treat chronic conditions because of the many benefits it offers. A deep tissue massage is distinctly different from other forms of massage like Swedish or Thai massage.
The reason the Pressure Question exists is that it’s hard for patients to tell the difference between nasty pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive. Not everything that hurts is therapeutic, but not every therapeutic procedure is painless! How can we tell if an intense massage technique is therapeutic or not?
The Sport of Massage is owned and operated by Suzie Bush, LMBT. She received her training at New Life Institute in Atlanta and has been practicing since 1998. She has earned Certifications in Medical Massage, Kinesio Taping, Sports Massage Techniques and Neuromuscular Therapy. Suzie is state licensed, Nationally Certified and an active member of the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.
Cathy Wong explains in her article “Deep Tissue Massage: Everything You Need to Know” on verywell.com that while Deep Tissue massages can be slightly uncomfortable, they have been known to reduce stress hormones and heart rate while releasing oxytocin and serotonin, which allow the client to experience a boost in mood and relaxation. Deep Tissue massages are often used to relieve chronic aches and pain, stiff necks, upper back, and lower back pain as well as muscle tightness. Therapists treat such issues by utilizing Deep Tissue massages to break up scar tissue and muscle knots and working out adhesions that might be hindering circulation and limiting movement.
During the 1990s, I observed at least seven foot reflexologists at work during health expositions. In most cases, the process appeared to be an ordinary prolonged foot massage with little communication between the practitioners and their clients. But at one exhibit, the practitioners claimed that they could reduce stress, cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. On another occasion, I underwent a 15-minute session in which the practitioner felt my foot for diagnostic purposes and then massaged it for "therapeutic" purposes. During the previous year, I had had severe shoulder pain caused by an inflamed tendon that was rubbing against a bony surface inside my left shoulder joint. Thorough medical evaluation had determined that the appropriate treatment was arthroscopic surgery in which a drill is used to shave the bony area that was impinging on the tendon. The reflexologist claimed that he could detect the shoulder problem by feeling my left foot, that it was caused by stress, and that pressing on my foot—perhaps for a few sessions—could solve the problem. His "treatment," which lasted about 10 minutes, consisted of massaging the foot and from time to time, pressing hard on the ball of my foot, a procedure that was quite painful. The "treatment," of course, did absolutely nothing to help my shoulder. A few months later, I had the surgery, which cured the problem immediately and permanently.
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Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research, which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage, and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials, which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.
Labor pain has been described as one of the most intense pains a human being can endure. Studies have supported the claim that massage therapy can be an effective way to reduce labor pain during pregnancy. Women who received massage therapy reported decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. It was also found that the rate of prematurity was lower and labors durations were on average 3 hours shorter with less need for medication.6