Massage Therapy for Health Purposes

Massage therapy dates back thousands of years, with roots in many different cultures. The term “massage therapy” includes many different styles and techniques in which the therapist uses varying degrees of pressure and manipulation to muscle and other soft tissue.

A lot of the scientific research on the clinical effects of massage therapy has been carried out. While often preliminary or conflicting, much of the evidence points toward beneficial effects on pain and other symptoms associated with a number of different conditions. For example, there is evidence that massage may help with back pain and may improve quality of life for people with depression, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. However, much of the evidence suggests these effects are short term and that people need to keep getting massages for the benefits to continue.

This issue of the digest provides information on what the science currently says about the clinical effects of massage for several health conditions, including pain, cancer, depression, and others.

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Massage Combined with Resistance Reduces Hamstring Tightness

posted 9/14/2013

New research shows massage combined with eccentric elastic resistance significantly improves hamstring flexibility.

“A great deal of research has been conducted on a wide variety of techniques that improve hamstring flexibility,” explained Jeffrey Forman, Ph.D., N.C.T.M.B. “However, little research has been done on the effects of combining deep stripping massage strokes (DSMS) with eccentric resistance.”

This research investigated the effects that DSMS alone and combining DSMS with eccentric resistance have on hamstring length and strength.

Sixty-four people between the ages of 18 and 62 who had one or both hamstrings tight, and with no history of knee, thigh or lower back problems for one year before the study, participated. For the study, a tight hamstring was defined as a 15-degree or more deficit in passive knee extension.

On the more flexible hamstring, or non-dominant if of equal flexibility, participants received a deep stripping massage, which consisted of 15, 10-second DSMS that covered the entire breadth of the hamstring from insertion to origin at a pressure of seven out of 10 on a verbal pressure scale.

On the tighter hamstring, eccentric resistance was added using a Green Thera-Band® professional resistance band. To perform the Active Muscle Therapy intervention, the participants were prone with the band attached to their ankle with a Thera-Band extremity strap. The other end of the

band was attached to the massage table so that there was no slack through out the full range of knee extension motion.

After being passively placed into 90 degrees of knee flexion, they lowered their leg against the pull of the resistance band for a 10-count while a massage therapist provided the same DSMS that were applied to the other leg. On both hamstrings, the massage therapist used a Green Thera-Band Hand Exerciser as a shock absorber in their massaging hand and Prossage® Heat as a lubricant.

The participants’ hamstring flexibility and strength were recorded before and after the two interventions. Both techniques resulted in significant increases in hamstring flexibility; however, the hamstring receiving the deep stripping massage with eccentric resistance increased significantly more than the hamstring receiving massage alone.

Massage alone increased 6.3 percent, while massage with eccentric exercise increased 10.7 percent. There was no significant change in strength after either intervention.

“The results of this study indicate that utilizing DSMS with eccentric resistance improved flexibility to a greater extent than DSMS alone,” said Forman.

The study was conducted at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, in collaboration with the Wichita State University Department of Human Performance Studies. Their findings were published ahead of print in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

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