Massage Therapy vs. Chiropractic Therapy

If you are anything like me, you probably prefer staying away from providers of conventional Western medicine as much as possible and I cannot say that I blame you. Although I have full medical coverage for that “you never know when you might need it” time of my life, I have not seen any of my doctors in well over ten years, and I hope to continue not seeing them for the rest of my life. Please do not miss understand me and think that I am some sort of superhuman creature who never gets ill. I do have my weak moments of pain and sniffles just like everyone else, or at least everyone else who takes good care of him or herself. So, when my body seems to need a boost, I visit one of my two favorite practitioners of alternative medicine; my massage therapist or my chiropractor.

I know that it all sounds very simple and straight forward but it is, in fact, somewhat challenging at times, because I do not always know which one of these wonderful professional to seek out. So, I often first opt to visit my chiropractor for a good therapeutic session of adjusting and aligning my skeletal structure and then, as an extra bonus to me and my one and only body, I also make an appointment with my massage therapist for some hefty digging and rubbing. Between the two of them, I come out feeling like a million bucks although my finances are sadly depleted. I figure that we, my body and I, are worth it.

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Now, you might ask and rightfully so, “What is the difference between a massage therapy and chiropractic therapy?” Well, I will be happy to tell you:

  • Chiropractic Therapy.
  • For the most part, chiropractic therapy focuses on the hard tissues such as the spine and other joints for adjusting and realignment. Chiropractors have some training in massage techniques but that is never their first and foremost priority.
  • Chiropractors are authorized to make medical diagnosis, order x-rays or blood works.
  • Chiropractors cannot prescribe conventional medications but they can sell supplements or homeopathic remedies.
  • Chiropractors do not need medical referrals to perform their work.

  • Massage Therapy.

  • Massage therapists perform wonderful work on the soft body tissues such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments but they have not been trained nor are they licensed to adjust the spine or any other joints.
  • Massage therapists may not legally make medical diagnosis, order x-rays or any blood work.
  • Massage therapists are not permitted to dispense medications of Western medicine but they can and do provide or recommend alternative herbal remedies.
  • Massage Therapists do not required referrals from anyone to conduct their massage sessions.

A highly acclaimed national non-profit magazine recently conducted a study in which more than 34,000 participants in the United States were asked to rate which alternative treatments worked best for their two biggest health problems for the past two years and the overwhelming majority voted just as I would have; for deep tissue massage therapy and chiropractic therapy in equal measures for such conditions as back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, insomnia and prostate problems.

Of course, as far as alternative medicine is concerned, one should not discount acupuncture and reflexology for they too are beneficial in their own very special ways.

therapy
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Massage For Young Children

Countless studies and pediatric research have shown that massage therapy is supremely beneficial for a wide variety of conditions in young children. As a matter of fact, these studies revealed that massage therapy for young children is a crucially important supplemental treatment to conventional medicine. However, these studies further showed that, in many cases, massage therapy on its own works better in relieving symptoms of many disturbing conditions than do medications and other standard procedures associated with Western medicine.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMA), more than twenty percent of all children, from newborns to toddlers and early school year children, are afflicted with eczema at some point in their young lives and roughly the same percentage is true for infants and young children suffering from traumatic burns. For that reason, the pain and suffering of trauma burns and eczema are counted among the most common pediatric skin conditions in the United States. Most studies bring to light the following findings:

young children

  • Young burn trauma patients who were treated with a massage therapy sessions for approximately thirty minutes before any kind of medical or nursing procedures, were more relax physically as well as mentally through the process and they, therefore, experienced less discomfort or pain.

It is important to stress here that the massage treatment was applied only to areas which were not affected by burns.

  • Young children suffering from eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) who were given massage treatments before and while being treated with skin medications such as emollients and ointments exhibited less apprehension and they were more willing to cooperate. In addition, the physical conditions of their skins dramatically improved as redness subsided, as did lichenification, scaling, excoriation and pruritus.

The therapy in these conditions ideally consists of two phases. First phase — to ensure smooth strokes during the massage treatment, the child’s body is moisturized with a dermatitis medication. Second phase — being very careful to avoid particularly sensitive areas of the body, a series of varied massage techniques is used on the child’s face, chest, stomach, legs and arms.

The Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City, Missouri has been using massage therapy to alleviate chronic pain from headaches and migraines in young children and, in the process, also relieving their levels of anxiety and distress, lowering their heart rates, improving their gastrointestinal systems, promoting the release of endorphins and bringing their entire bodies to a state of calmness. And all these positive effects seem to be immediate or nearly immediate.

Applying massage therapies to infants and young children is not at all a newly discovered concept as it has been a daily practice in the Eastern and African cultures for many generations. They understood that the first sense to develop in humans is the sense of touch and that it is essential to health and wellness. Massage treatments for the young members among ancient cultures served to heal, to energize, to calm and to reinforce close bonding and the sense of trust and security.

Having been working zealously on the subject of massage for young children for the past ten or so years, Dr. Tiffany Field and her associates at the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida insist that, “Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.”

young children
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Massage Therapy for Senior Citizens

With the baby boomers aging and with the help of higher technology and greater innovations in medicine and geriatric science, life is not merely being prolonged but more and more senior citizens today have the opportunity to take advantage of more quality life than ever before. This translates into a generation of more senior citizens of more advanced ages living among us, and that is, in my opinion a very good thing. National demographic studies tell us that nearly 40 million Americans are currently 65 years of age or older and over 2,000 more reach age 65 every single day. To accommodate the ever grown demand for massage therapy among senior citizens, many massage therapists are choosing to expand their expertise by studying the art of age-specific massage therapy which is often referred to as senior’s massage or geriatric massage.

For the most part, massage therapy for senior5 citizens is extremely beneficial and of utmost importance to relieve the aches, the pains, the stiffness and the great number of health condition which are so often associated with aging; such as inflammations in the joints; arthritis; skin discoloration and other dermatological conditions; deteriorating muscles and bones; fading eyesight and loss of hearing, reduced appetite and therefore weight loss, poor blood circulation; sleep disorders; weakened mental capacity, tendinitis; bursitis; asthma; emphysema; high blood pressures; diminished functions of the internal vital organs such as the heart, the liver, the brain, the thyroid, the stomach and the intestines; and so much more. Most importantly, however, lonely and isolated, depressed, anxious and fearful senior6 citizens derive pricelessly valuable benefits from the simple pleasure of the caressing human touch and the intimate companionship afforded them during massage therapy sessions.

The Weaver’s Tale Retreat Center in the State of Oregon recently conducted a two-year study examining the effects of massage therapy for senior7 citizens and they found that at least 50 percent of the elderly who were tested showed a reduction in their rates of breathing, an increase in their range of motion, an improvement of their postures, development of more body awareness, their skin took on healthier colors and their muscle tones were enhanced. The same study also showed that 100 percent of the senior8 citizen who were tested showed a dramatic improvement in their moods and their attitudes toward life in general.

Massage therapy for senior9 citizens does not differ in technique but it does differ, and it differs greatly in the application of that technique, whichever that technique may be. In other words, just about any of the different massage techniques can be used on senior10 citizen but they must be modified enough to accommodate the facts that, very often, the skin of senior11 citizens have become thinner while growing much less pliable and much more easily broken, their bones are thinner and more brittle, their joints are more stiff with reduced range of mobility, their blood vessels are more prominent and closer to the surface of the skin and their overall health, vigor and vitality have been downgraded through the years. Taking all that into consideration, extra care musts be taken when positioning them on the massage tables, they should never be expected to perform the same movements as younger adults, and wheelchair-bound or bedridden senior12s should get their massage treatments while remaining seated in their chairs or reclining in their beds.

Most massages for senior13 citizens are limited to anywhere from thirty to forty five minutes because the elderly seem to respond better to shortened sessions with greater frequency. Furthermore, greater time is usually spent on massaging their hands and feet than any other part of their bodies. That is especially true for those senior14s who have lost the use of their hands and feet as massaging them will enhance their body awareness as well as increase sensations and blood circulation throughout.

We all need plenty of TLC (tender love and care) but senior15 citizens need and deserve quite a bit more of it.

senior
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RISKS OF MASSAGE THERAPY

By and large, massage therapy that is performed by a properly schooled and well experienced massage therapist who practices his or her art prudently and with due caution, is risk free to its recipient’s health and well being. For that reason along, if for no other, massage therapists must be selected very carefully as credentials and licenses are scrutinized meticulously, references are checked with diligence and questions are asked relentlessly. Regardless of how it is phrased or worded, one question which must always be asked of a potential massage therapist is the following, “Which health conditions would you consider preclusive of massage therapy and why?” And the correct answer, whether stated in exactly those words or different ones, should be, “There are certain health conditions which must rule out massage therapy and those are …” And he or she must name the following:

  • Cancer. Massage therapy comes in different forms which affect the body differently. There are also many different types of cancers and patients may be at different stages and receiving different treatments. In some cases and certain types of massage therapy may lead to life threatening results while in other cases with another type of massage therapy the results may be extraordinarily beneficial. Because of such complexity, it is essential to consult with the medical provider who knows the particulars of the case in question before proceeding with a massage therapy of any kind.

massage therapy

The potential risks involved in performing massage therapy on cancer patients do not inevitably discard the entire concept of massage therapy but it does mean that extra caution must be practiced and, perhaps, moderate to extreme alteration of the treatment is in order. And the health risks are the following:

  • Fractures of bones. Certain forms of cancer and their treatments weaken bones to the extent that they can easily break under pressure.

  • Bleeding. Many cancer patients have the tendency to bleed easily. Deep tissue massage can cause dangerous internal bleeding.

  • Spreading of cancerous tumors. There is an ongoing debate about the effects of massage therapy on tumors. Some claim that applying vigorous pressure to the area where the tumor is present will cause it to metastasis (break down and to spread or to increase its rate of growth). Others, however, deny that claim as unsubstantiated and untrue. It is best to play it safe and not massage the tumor region or its surrounding soft tissues.

  • Lymphedema (the buildup of lymph in soft tissue which leads to swelling of the limbs). Certain types of massage therapy in patients who have had their lymph nodes removed due to cancer may lead to lymphedema.

  • Flu-like symptoms. Patients who are going through chemotherapy can often develop symptoms which look and feel like the flu after having been treated to certain types of massage therapy.

  • Pain. Cancer patients frequently suffer a great deal of pain and most massage therapy techniques can result in some temporary pain immediately after the treatment. That may translate to added pain when too much of it is already present and that can be quite literally unbearable.

  • Post-surgery. Shortly after surgery, the wound is still in the process of healing visually on the surface of the skin as well as internally. Applying pressure to the site may cause a series of risky health problems such as reopening the incision, trigger internal and/or external bleeding or blood clotting, and so on.

  • Skin conditions. Areas where the skin is infected, inflamed or covered with rashes or sores should not be massaged as it can lead to worsening of the condition.

Even when taking into account all the risks which have been mentioned above, massage therapy can still be very beneficial to most people in most situations. Rather than discounting it completely due to specific concerns, I would advise consulting a physician.

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The Deep Tissue Massage

The deep tissue massage is a kind of massage therapy which centers its attention primarily on the ailing, the sore, the painful and the distressed deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues. Its therapeutic benefits are particularly beneficial for chronically tight and constricted areas such as in cases of stiff necks, tightness of lower backs and aching shoulders. The strokes of the Deep Tissue massage are not very different from those of any other types of massage therapies but they are slower and with more pressure applied to reach deeper while focusing on troubled areas.

The Deep Tissue massage is so important in certain painful contractions and spasms due to stress, strain or injury because that is the only way to get to the root of the problem as it is embedded deep under the surface where adhesion which are the causes of the pain and rigidity in muscles, tendons and ligaments are found. Left to their own wills, adhesion obstruct circulation in the affected areas to limit the blood flow which leads to the pain, the restricted movement and, ultimately, to the inflammation. By applying firm pressure and direct friction across the grain and fabric of the muscles, the Deep Tissue massage aims to break down those troublesome adhesion to restore proper blood circulation, reinstate full movement and heal the inflamed tissues. The therapists performing the Deep Tissue massage may use fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows and forearms during the therapy session and alternate them during the various stages. Clients are frequently asked to take in deep breaths as the therapists dig deeply into a particularly tense area.

deep tissue massage

Because the Deep Tissue massage is somewhat intense, it should not be applied under the following conditions:

  • Infectious skin disease, rashes, bruises, inflamed skin, tumors or open and unhealed wounds.
  • Immediately or soon after surgery or recent fractures.
  • Immediately or soon after chemotherapy or radiation treatments, unless approved by the client’s physician.
  • Osteoporosis patients, unless approved by the treating doctor.
  • Clients who are prone to blood clots.
  • Heart disease patients, unless recommended by their cardiologists.
  • Pregnant women should get their massage treatments from professionals who are certified in pregnancy massage.
  • Abdominal hernia.

The good news is that Deep Tissue massage really works and it usually works very fast. Often, clients will walk into a session with excruciating pain and walk out a couple of hours later with smiles of relief on their faces. The bad news is that, depending on their tolerance level to pain, most clients experience it to one degree or another at certain point during the session. In addition, there is usually some measure of soreness immediately after the treatment which can last up to an entire day. However, the pain of the Deep Tissue massage therapy and the lingering soreness afterwards is nothing compared to the pain before the treatment and it comes with the knowledge that it will all be over very shortly. The massage therapist may suggest applying an icepack to the sore area but it is rarely severe enough to warrant it.

When most massage therapies are aimed at relaxation of the body and mind and the massage is generally applied to the entire body, the Deep Tissue massage sets its sights on precise problematic areas such as those afflicted with:

  • Chronic or acute pains
  • Diminished mobility or limited range of motion.
  • Healing areas after traumas or injuries caused by falls, sports injuries, whiplashes from car accidents and so on.
  • Strains from repetitive motion such as the carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Pains due to incorrect posturing of the body.
  • Pains from osteoarthritis. According to a study conducted and reported by the Consumer Reports magazine, over 34,000 people classified Deep Tissue massage therapy as being more effective in alleviating osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, exercise, prescribed or over-the-counter drugs, glucosamine, diets, acupuncture or chiropractic treatments.
  • Fibromyalgia. Statistics have shown that Deep Tissue massage is more successful in easing symptoms of Fibromyalgia than any other available curative remedy.
  • Muscle tension, contractions or spasms.

To flush out metabolic waste from the massaged tissues, clients should drink plenty of water after the Deep Tissue massage therapy and enjoy the fact that they are as good as new again.

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The Chair Massage Concept

Massages in chairs or simply in sitting positions have always had their place among most ancient and traditional massage techniques around the world but the contemporary Chair massage as we know it today and as we occasionally refer to as the On-Site or Seated massage is a trend that began as recently as 1982. The Chair massage was the brainchild of David Palmer, the director of the Amma Institute of Traditional Japanese Massage at that time who is considered to be the “father” of Chair massage. Mr. Palmer came to realize that, whether due to the high cost or the sensual intimacy of conventional table massages, or maybe the lack of sophistication on the part of the public or perhaps due to the combination of the three in one proportion or another, there were too few people who sought such body works services and, therefore, there was not enough work for all the graduates of his institute. Mr. Palmer’s entrepreneurial intuition and insightfulness led him to adopt a few existing old-time techniques and to renovate others to develop a modern massage technique which could be performed anywhere as it required only brief periods of time, no need for the removal of clothing and quite reasonably priced. Consequently, his Chair massages became convenient, affordable and non-threatening.

The first clients to enjoy the newly developed Chair massage were the employees and customers of the Apple Computers outlets where David Palmer and his graduates set up their makeshift workstations in 1984. That venture lasted only about twelve months and the demand at the time was not huge, but they did give up to 350 Chair massages each week and it proved to be a step in the right direction and a very good beginning. By 1986 a specially designed and structured chair to better accommodate Chair massages went into production and today, there are well over 100,000 such chairs in use within the United States as well as in many other nations around the world.

chair massage

David Palmer realized that Chair massage will be truly successful only with further development of this particular niche and he opened continuing education seminars for training graduates of other massage schools. During the twelve months of 1986, he taught 24 Chair massage seminars at 24 different locations in the United States as well as in Sweden and Norway. The concept of the Chair massage was embraced with open arms when presented to the American Massage Therapy Association and as a consequence, by 1990 just about every massage school in the nation was teaching it.

The Chair massage is not officially categorized as a therapy or a treatment but rather as a minimal relaxation technique. Whether that was a deliberate marketing ploy and clever salesmanship or not, it worked to attract people who would otherwise shy away from other kinds of massage therapies and treatments. For the most part, those who took the first step and braved the process of the Chair massage, would have become more open minded about progressing and graduating into the “true” massage therapies.

Nowadays, chair massages are readily available in shopping malls, airport terminals, independent shops, franchises, hotel lounges, hospitals, gyms, spas, bus depots, train stations, supermarkets, community centers, eateries (particularly the new-age cafés), convention centers, beauty salons, barber shops, medical and dental offices, university campuses, corporate workplaces and even at street corners, public parks and city square throughout the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom. The Chair massage is estimated to be the fastest growing and most popular form of skilled touch, as professional massages are performed on the otherwise touch-deprived masses. It is David Palmer’s greatest dream to see young children performing shoulder rubs among family members and friends as part of their regular daily routine; and expressed in his own words, “When we reach that point I will know that we have arrived at our goal of a world where touch is recognized as essential to the development and maintenance of healthy human beings.”

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