Massage therapy in News & Science

reprinted here as fair use

TENS machine not effective for back pain

published December 31st, 2009

from CNN:

Bad back? Nerve stimulation won’t help
By Denise Mann

A popular pain-relief treatment that uses electricity to stimulate nerves isn’t likely to benefit the millions of Americans who live with chronic low back pain and shouldn’t be recommended for that purpose, new guidelines say.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation, or TENS, is delivered using a small battery-operated generator connected to a set of electrodes. The generator, about the size of a BlackBerry, transmits a weak electric current through the electrodes, which are attached to the skin at the site of chronic pain or at other key points.

Despite their popularity, there is little evidence that these devices are effective for chronic low back pain, according to the guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, which were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

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Is running bad for your knees? Maybe not

published December 25th, 2009

from Time Magazine:

By Adi Narayan

Perhaps because it seems intuitively true, the notion persists that running, especially when done long-term and over long distances, is bad for the joints. Indeed it would be hard to think otherwise when, with each foot strike, a runner’s knee withstands a force equal to eight times his body weight — for a 150-lb. person, that’s about 1,200 lbs. of impact, step after step.

The common wisdom is that regular running or vigorous sport-playing during youth subjects the joints to so much wear and tear that it increases a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life. Studies have suggested that may be at least partly true: in one study of about 5,000 women published in 1999, researchers found that women who actively participated in heavy physical sports in their teenage years, or weight-bearing activities in middle age, had a higher than average risk of developing hip osteoarthritis by age 50.

But over the past few years an emerging body of research has begun to show the opposite, especially when it comes to running. Not only is there no connection between running and arthritis, the new studies say, but running — and perhaps regular, vigorous exercise generally — may even help protect people from joint problems later on.

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UBC researchers: we hear with our skin

published November 26th, 2009

from New York Times:

People Hear With Their Skin as Well as Their Ears, By Henry Fountain

We hear with our ears, right? Yes, but scientists have known for years that we also hear with our eyes. In a landmark study published in 1976, researchers found that people integrated both auditory cues and visual ones, like mouth and face movements, when they heard speech. That study, and many that followed, raised this fundamental question about speech perception: If humans can integrate different sensory cues, do they do so through experience (through seeing countless speaking faces over time), or has evolution hard-wired them to do it?

A new study that looks at a different set of sensory cues adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests such integration is innate. In a paper in Nature, Bryan Gick and Donald Derrick of the University of British Columbia report that people can hear with their skin.

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Sports Massage Gains Popularity among Amateur Athletes

published December 18th, 2008

from New York Times:

By Christopher Percy Collier

WHEN Jessi Stensland, a professional triathlete, enters the Athletes’ Performance training center in Tempe, Ariz., she usually goes through the door labeled “Work” and into the wing of the building filled with treadmills, elliptical trainers and free weights.

But once a week, Ms. Stensland, 22, carries her gym-worn body through a door labeled “Rest.” As soothing music plays, she lies face down between two sheets atop a cushioned massage table to await her treatment.

But the session that usually follows is far from a coddling.

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Talking about Crohn’s disease with kids – new Vancouver book

published December 14th, 2008


Erin McPhee, North Shore News

Kellie Robinson’s younger brother Jeff was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 10. In the 23 years that followed, he underwent 26 surgeries and spent countless stints in the hospital.

“But he always had the most amazing spirit,” says Kellie.

To honour her brother, who passed away six years ago at age 33, and to offer support to other families facing a similar diagnosis, Kellie, a freelance writer, has written Jeff Talks About Crohn’s Disease, an informative story and colouring book about the inflammatory bowel disease, available for free through the CH.I.L.D. Foundation (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders), based in Vancouver.

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Fibromyalgia — scans show it’s a real disease

published November 4th, 2008

From Washington Post:

By Kathleen Doheny

MONDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) — Researchers have detected abnormalities in the brains of people with fibromyalgia, a complex, chronic condition characterized by muscle pain and fatigue.

“We showed in our study that the functional abnormalities observed were mainly related to disability,” and not to anxiety and depression status, said Dr. Eric Guedj, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Centre Hospitalier-Universitaire de la Timone in France.

While some researchers have suggested that the pain reported by fibromyalgia patients was the result of depression, the new study suggests otherwise. The abnormalities found on brain scans done by the study authors were independent of the women’s anxiety and depression levels, Guedj said.

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‘Virtual massage’ can relieve amputees’ phantom limb pain

published March 20th, 2008

From New Scientist:

Amputees who experience phantom limb pain could find relief in a surprisingly simple way – by paying more attention to the people around them.

Phantom limbs occur when an amputee feels the often painful sensation of touch arising from a limb that is no longer present. Working with combat veterans, Vilayanur Ramachandran, of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, has now discovered a potential cure.

His treatment makes use of the newly discovered properties of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire when a person performs an intentional action – such as waving – and also when they observe someone else performing the same action. They are thought to help us predict the intentions of others by creating a “virtual reality” simulation of the action in our minds.

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Massage for Children, Teens, and Seniors

published February 21st, 2008


Helping Children Find Focus: Massage Calms ADHD Kids

by Cathy Ulrich

Imagine lying on a massage table. As your massage therapist sets to work, you feel your body relax. Your muscles soften, your nervous system calms. Now, imagine how you feel when the massage is over–relaxed, alert, calm, and content.

Anyone who has gotten a massage understands the many benefits that it offers. Massage is usually reserved for adults–or sometimes infants–but what about massage for kids and adolescents? If massage helps calm the body and improve alertness, how might it help kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Can children and teenagers who can’t sit still benefit from massage?

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The right massage can provide therapy by the fingertips

published January 30th, 2008

From The Georgia Straight.

Includes interview at, and photos of, Vancouver School of Bodywork and Massage :

By Craig Takeuchi

Is the Holy Grail of relaxation finding the perfect massage therapist? Possibly. But whether that’s your goal or whether you’re a massage newbie, there are steps you can take to make the most of your experience.

Key to fulfilling your needs is understanding that there are two types of massage practitioners in British Columbia: Registered Massage Therapists and spa therapists.

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Massage Therapy for Senior Citizens

published January 21st, 2008


By Stephanie Macintosh

Massage therapy can offer senior citizens a number of benefits that will greatly improve their sense of health and wellbeing. As the population continues to age, it is important to consider ways that we can work to improve the lives of those affected by the passing of time. A number of studies have shown that massage therapy can have a direct impact in managing the effects of aging. It has also shown promise in bringing comfort to those suffering from arthritis and other physical ailments.

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The importance of touch

published April 21st, 2007

From eons:

Hugs and massages may be key to your health and well-being

by Sharon Gray, Eons contributor

When The Beatles sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” little did they know that they were really appealing for a medical boost. Forty or so years later, science has shown that physical contact improves people’s health as well as their relationships.

Our sense of touch works via sensory receptors in the skin and deeper tissues. They are located in varying density over the body, but most densely in our fingertips. These receptors transmit signals to the spinal cord and brain stem.

“Touch is as important as breathing,” explains Dr. Tiffany Field, director of The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, the world’s first center devoted solely to the study of touch and its application in science and medicine. “Without it, children do not grow and develop.”

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Massage: It’s Real Medicine

published March 8th, 2007

From CNN:

By Kristyn Kusek Lewis

Having your honey rub your back is sweet, but it’s tough to compete with the hands of a pro. A good massage therapist can make you feel like a new person. And now research suggests massage can ease insomnia, boost immunity, prevent PMS, and more. Maybe that’s why hospitals are making it a standard therapy.

“All of our surgery patients are offered the treatment — I call it ‘service with a smile’ — and it’s a mandatory weekly prescription I give myself,” says Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital–Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and a member of the board at LLuminari, a health-education company.

Our advice: Enjoy your hands-on time with your sweetie, but set aside some time for a real massage, too. Here are some feel-good reasons:

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How the power of touch reduces pain and even fights disease

published October 10th, 2006

From The Independent:
By Roger Dobson

When Jim Coan scanned the brains of married women in pain, he spotted changes that may help to shed light on an age-old mystery. As soon as the women touched the hands of their husbands, there was an instant drop in activity in the areas of the brains involved in fear, danger, and threat. The women, who had been exposed to experimental pain while they were scanned, were calmer and less stressed, and a similar, but smaller, effect was triggered by the touch of strangers.

Touch, a key component of traditional healing, is being increasingly studied in mainstream medicine, with some trials showing symptom benefits in a number of areas, from asthma and high blood pressure to migraine and childhood diabetes. Other research findings hint that not only does touch lower stress levels, but that it can boost the immune system and halt or slow the progress of disease.

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Caress Me Down: Massage therapy calms stressed-out SU students

published December 7th, 2004

From The Daily Orange (college publisher)

By Erin Hendricks

Courtney Jones could use a massage.

“I was just sick all last week,” said Jones, a sophomore public relations major. “I’ve personally never been this stressed in my life. Things run through my head at night and I can’t sleep.” Just ten minutes later, after waiting in the long line for a five-minute massage at Archbold Gymnasium’s Late Night at the Gym, Jones had a different outlook.

“I want to go to sleep right now,” Jones said. “I woke up with a sore neck this morning, but since (the masseuse) worked my pressure points it doesn’t even hurt to bend it.” Jones noticed firsthand the positive effects of massage – and for stressed, exhausted and sleep-deprived students, the medical benefits of the physical process may be far greater than they imagined.

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Massage helps Anorexia symptoms

published July 30th, 2004

From Eating Disorders:

Massage alleviates anxiety, depression, eating disorder symptoms, poor body image and biochemical abnormalities for women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, according to a recent research study by thy Touch Research Institute

Nineteen women undergoing inpatient or outpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa were randomly assigned by researchers to either a massage-therapy group or a standard-treatment group. In addition to receiving standard care, the women in the massage-therapy group received a 30-minute Swedish massage twice a week for five weeks.

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Fascial Plasticity: A New Neurobiological Explanation

published April 19th, 2003

by Robert Schleip, in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2003), online at [excerpt]:

In myofascial manipulation an immediate tissue release is often felt under the working hand. This amazing feature has traditionally been attributed to mechanical properties of the connective tissue. Yet studies have shown that either much stronger forces or longer durations would be required for a permanent viscoelastic deformation of fascia. Fascia nevertheless is densely innervated by mechanoreceptors which are responsive to manual pressure. Stimulation of these sensory receptors has been shown to lead to a lowering of sympathetic tonus as well as a change in local tissue viscosity. Fascia and the autonomic nervous system appear to be intimately connected.

Stimulation of fascial mechanoreceptors can trigger viscosity changes in the ground substance. The discovery and implications of the existence of fascial smooth muscle cells are of special interest in relation to fibromyalgia, amongst other conditions. An attitudinal shift is suggested, from a mechanical body concept towards a cybernetic model, in which the practitioner’s intervention are seen as stimulation for self regulatory processes within the client’s organism.

Many of the current training schools which focus on myofascial treatment have been profoundly influenced by Ida Rolf. In her own work Rolf applied considerable manual or elbow pressure to fascial sheets in order to change their density and arrangement. Rolf’s own explanation was that connective tissue is a colloidal substance in which the ground substance can be influenced by the application of energy (heat or mechanical pressure) to change its aggregate form from a more dense ‘gel’ state to a more fluid ‘sol’ state. Typical examples of this are common gelatin or butter, which get softer by heating or mechanical pressure. This gel-to-sol transformation, also called thixotropy, has been positively confirmed to occur as a result of long-term mechanical stress applications to connective tissue.

But the question arises: is this model also useful to explain the immediate short-term plasticity of fascia? In other words, what actually happens when a myofascial practitioner claims to feel a ‘tissue release’ under the working hand? In most systems of myofascial manipulation, the duration of an individual ‘stroke’ or technique on a particular spot of tissue is between a few seconds and 1 1/2 minute. Rarely is a practitioner seen – or is it taught – to apply uninterrupted manual pressure for more than 2 minutes. Yet often the practitioners report feeling a palpable tissue release within a particular ‘stroke’. Such rapid – i.e. below 2 minutes – tissue transformation appears to be more difficult to explain with the thixotropy model. As will be shown later, studies on the subject of ‘time and force dependency’ of connective tissue plasticity (in terms of creep and stress relaxation) have shown that either much longer amounts of time or significantly more force are required for permanent deformation of dense connective tissues. Additionally the problem of reversibility arises: in colloidal substances the thixotropic effect lasts only as long as the pressure or heat is applied. Within minutes the substance returns to its original gel state – just think of the butter in the kitchen. This is definitely not an attractive implication of this model for the practitioner. …

Read the complete article at

Massage Therapy for Autistic Children

published February 1st, 2003

The Touch Research Institute’s Results

From Massage & Bodywork magazine

By Shirley Vanderbilt

Autism is on the rise, and with it comes more heartache for parents and higher costs for the school system. Statistics from a 1999 state report from California showed a nearly 300 percent increase in cases reported from 1987 to 1998.1 Researchers estimate as many as one in 200 children are affected by the disorder.2

Since this article was originally published, a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry (September 2006) revealed that babies born to men between the ages of 40 and 49 are nearly six times more likely to develop autism than children born to men under 30, regardless of the mother’s age.

Researchers are scrambling to uncover causes and put a halt to this increase, along with addressing the symptoms of autism, including abnormal response to sensory stimuli, limited attention span, excessive off-task behavior and touch aversion.

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Esalen Bares Its Soul

published June 16th, 2002

From SF Gate

The Big Sur oasis of enlightenment turns 40 with a major face lift and a rejuvenated mission

By Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

In the beginning, there was the water. It was hot, with a faintly foul smell, but a silky, sensuous feel. It came bubbling out of the ground on a green shelf perched over the rugged splendor of the Central California coast.

This was a sacred spot for the Esselen Indians, and also for a latter-day tribe that would borrow their name, soak in their waters and praise other gods. In the ’60s, the hot springs at Esalen Institute became an icon of an era – a place where the young and the hip took off their clothes, dropped their defenses and reveled, wailed, whined and danced around whatever came forth from the psyche, spirit or soul.

It could be silly, serious, spiritual, sensuous, self-indulgent – all at the same time.

It was religion, California style.

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Massage Alleviates Fibromyalgia

published April 1st, 2002

From Massage Magazine:

Massage Improves Sleep, Decreases Pain and Substance P in Fibromyalgia Patients

After receiving massage twice weekly for five weeks, fibromyalgia patients experienced improved mood and sleep, and their levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter in the pain fiber system, decreased, along with the number of tender spots throughout their bodies, according to recent research.

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New Study Links Massage Therapy With the Immune System

published November 9th, 1998

From Fox Chase Cancer Center:

PHILADELPHIA (November 9, 1998) — A new study released this month adds to the body of evidence that massage therapy bolsters immune function in people who are healthy as well as those who are fighting disease. The finding was announced November 1, 1998 at the annual meeting of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) in Washington, D.C. Massage therapy is already offered at Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Complementary Medicine Program as supplemental care for people with cancer.

“This is yet another study supporting already existing evidence that massage therapy has a positive effect on the immune system,” said Pamela Kinker, R.N., B.S.N., massage therapist at Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Complementary Medicine Program (CMP).

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