Most Popular

What Is Energy Work: Some Thoughts from an Evidence-Based Therapist

What is energy work? Practitioners of energy work claim there is a subtle human energy field which they can detect with their hands. By placing their hands on or over their subject, they are able to correct imbalances and unblock blocked energy. Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Chakra Balancing, and Polarity Therapy are all various forms of energy work.

There is only one problem: no one has ever actually demonstrated the existence of a human energy field. No one. Ever.

Practitioners of energy work claim to be able to feel a human energy field with their hands. However, under controlled conditions, they fail to demonstrate an ability to do so. The most famous experiment, the Rosa Study, was designed by a nine year old girl who became the youngest person to have a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Simple and elegant in its design, practitioners of Therapeutic Touch sat behind a screen and were tested on whether they could detect the presence of a hand held next to theirs without being able to see the hand. They failed. The study has never been contradicted.

Resources for Science-Based Massage Therapists

Recently, I wrote about the emergence of what has come to be called science based or evidence based massage therapy. At the end of the article, I listed a few online resources for massage therapists interested in keeping up with relevant research. However, there are many, many more resources available. Some are directly devoted to massage therapy. Some are related to massage therapy and other manual therapies. Still others are devoted to pain research, brain research, science, or medicine and may be of interest to massage therapists. In this article, I would like to start a list of what I think are good resources for massage therapists. This list is far from complete and will be updated periodically as I learn of other resources. Please feel free to submit your own favorite internet resources.

At The Russian Baths With Zhenya Kurashova Wine or "Alice In BaniaLand"

My Russian Massage teacher, Zhenya Kurashova Wine, passed away recently. She'd been ill for awhile and so the news was expected. Still, I felt very sad. Another time, I will write more about her. For now, I find myself thinking about all the good times we had together. Zhenya was a remarkable woman, both professionally and personally, and she loved having a good time. She was fun to be with.

In 1997 she took a group of massage therapists to Moscow to see how massage is used in hospitals and clinics there. Although the time spent there was not long, it had a great impact on me. We spent the mornings and early afternoons at an orthopedic/sports medicine clinic. In the later afternoon and evenings, we did all sorts of fun things.

One of my friends publishes a small magazine and asked me to write up one of my experiences. It originally ran under the title "Alice In Banialand" and was accompanied by a lovely illustration of Alice in Wonderland and a character, a woman with a push broom, who appears in the story. I later published the story on a small website I had for a few years.

A Client Asks About Reflexology

I got put into an awkward position today. A client asked, "Does reflexology work?"

Had I been in my own office, I would not have hesitated to answer freely. However, I was not in my office. I have recently taken a part time position in a spa and the spa offers reflexology treatments. I have twice been called upon to do reflexology treatments and even though I do not believe in reflexology as it is defined by most practitioners, I think a nice foot massage is pleasant and see no harm in it. In both cases, the clients had no expectations other than an extended foot massage and I am quite capable of that. But today I was asked a direct question and I definitely felt put on the spot.

What Is Evidence Based Massage Therapy?

If you keep up with the world of therapeutic massage, you will eventually notice that there are some new ideas and terms going around. Evidence based massage. Evidence based practice. Evidence informed practice. Science based medicine. What does it all mean?

True to my commitment to being evidence-based, my thinking about trigger points has changed a bit since I first wrote this article. For now, I'll leave it as it was first written, but some time in the future I'll write about some new information about trigger points that challenges the ideas of Travell and Simons. As a result, my approach has altered a bit and has allowed me to work even more successfully with clients without making them sore like I did in the past! After 22 years in practice, I'm still learning and evolving. I wouldn't have it any other way.

A Reader Asks About Swelling After Massage

Update on 4/5/13: Oddly, this has been one of my most popular articles. Apparently a significant number of people are looking up swelling and inflammation after massage therapy on google. Maybe massage therapists need to ease up a bit.

I might need to revise the language of this just a little, but my answer is still essentially the same. My clients don't seem to complain of this and while the reader insists the pressure was not too hard, I suspect it was either more than the body tolerated well or it was treated for too long. I'm not sure what else to say.

A reader asks:

I received a great massage about a week ago but the next day my lower back was swollen. Why would this happen? The massage was perfect pressure and she never hurt me at all. Can you please help me understand this?

Painless Deep Tissue Massage

An Oxymoron?

Painless deep tissue massage. Some people think it's an oxymoron. Many clients and therapists alike believe that in order for a massage to be therapeutic is has to be painful, that harder means deeper and better and more effective. They believe that the only way to affect deeper muscle tissue is to use a lot of pressure. I once thought this myself.

I am here to deliver some good news: massage does not have to be hard and painful to be effective and one does not have to inflict pain on the client in order to effect the deeper muscle tissues. In fact, the opposite is true. Too hard of pressure creates resistance in the body and pain only causes a stress response. I thank my Russian Massage teacher Zhenya Kurashova Wine for teaching me how to work effectively without causing discomfort to the client and how to do painless deep tissue massage.

Musicians – Small Muscle Athletes

I once read an article about musculoskeletal pain among professional musicians. A survey of several thousand symphony musicians revealed that approximately 80% of them suffered from either chronic or intermittent pain directly related to their profession. The highest incidence was reported among the violinists. This was not surprising since they not only hold their instrument in a position that is challenging to the muscles, but they spend more time playing than any other instrument in an orchestra. Other instruments often get breaks or play only intermittently but in most orchestral pieces, the violins play most of the time.

Musicians are small muscle athletes. Their profession requires endurance, strength, and precision. The right kind of massage can help them play with less pain and more agility.

When muscles are tight, movement is inhibited. When muscles are in pain, they become tense and there is less control. Maintaining maximum range of motion and eliminating pain allows a musician to play in comfort and can improve performance.