Archive for Research

Take your Medicine – Get a Massage! Research Results Hit the Mainstream

Massage regulars have known for years that massage isn’t just a luxury item. Massage is a necessity to keep you able, moving and ready to face the day. For people with chronic pain, massage is a way to find relief without taking more pills. And research is starting to agree:

Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune function in women with breast cancer, improves symptoms in children with asthma, and increases grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Giving massages to the littlest patients, premature babies, helped in the crucial task of gaining weight.

The benefits go beyond feelings of relaxation and wellness that people may recognize after a massage. The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now include massage as one of their recommendations for treating low back pain, according to guidelines published in 2007.

New research is also starting to reveal just what happens in the body after a massage. While there have long been theories about how massage works—from releasing toxins to improving circulation—those have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence. Now, one study, for example, found that a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.

via Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine – WSJ.com.

This article from the Wall Street Journal shares details of the benefits of massage that have been verified via research. Massage research has prompted it to be recognized as a treatment for low back pain, and they’ve also documented a change in the stress hormone levels, cortisol, that takes place in tissue after just one massage:

New research is also starting to reveal just what happens in the body after a massage. While there have long been theories about how massage works—from releasing toxins to improving circulation—those have been fairly nebulous, with little hard evidence. Now, one study, for example, found that a single, 45-minute massage led to a small reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection.

via Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine – WSJ.com.

In addition, massage is also being touted as an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, and is now being studied in healthy people as well as people with chronic issues or injuries. Massage research is in its infancy, but its a growing field, so take a look at the WSJ article for more information on what has been confirmed and presented in the last few years of research of massage.

The findings presened in the article and elsewhere from research point out the need for a more systemic approach to research of massage and hint and broad benefits to both the body and the mind. Those of you who already receive regular won’t be surprised by this. Those of you who love massage may find it hopeful. And those of you who haven’t tried massage? Well, let’s hope some of this information talks  you into heading onto a table for some bodywork.

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The 8 Glasses Myth: To Drink or Not to Drink Water

Massage therapists as a group advocate getting plenty of water and staying hydrated. In fact, it’s usually the last thing I say to my clients as they head out the door. Last year I blogged about the claim that you needed to drink 8 glasses of water a day – and the fact that there was no serious science backing up that claim. Still, clients who’ve experienced kidney stones know the mantra by heart and follow it, so there’s now some evidence that drinking extra water actually helps kidney function. The NYTimes series called “Really?” looked at some recent studies related to the claim.

The question: Does drinking extra water help kidney function? Here’s what they had to say:

But research over the years has suggested that drinking extra water helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body. And in the past year, two large studies found a lower risk of long-term kidney problems among people who drink more water and other fluids daily.

via Really? The Claim: Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day to Protect the Kidneys – NYTimes.com.

In the first study listed in the article, an Australian team followed 2400 people who were 50 or above. The ones at the upper end of the spectrum, drinking about 3 liters daily, had a “‘significantly lower risk’ of chronic kidney disease.” In the second, Canadian study researchers following over 2100 people for 7 years and found that those who had the highest fluid intake were the least likely to experience a decline in kidney function.

It makes sense that the kidneys would benefit from an increase in water intake. The kidneys use water as a means to filter the blood, remove waste products and balance sodium and calcium levels in the body. The wastes are turned into urine and excreted through the bladder. An increase in hydration would give the body more fluids to use in the filtration process of the kidneys.

Still, the researchers found no evidence that excessive water consumption was healthy for the body. Both of the studies above seemed to indicate a lower risk of kidney function decline with two to three liters of water. Overconsumption of water can be deadly, and the research didn’t advocate flooding the system with water.

As always, a healthy balance is the key. In this case, the balance says around 8 glasses of water a day is beneficial to the kidneys. I’ll drink to that.

 

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Chronic Pain: How a Feather Can Feel Like a Torch

Earlier this month I posted a link to a video with information about chronic pain. The mystery of pain is one that physicians and scientists continue to study and unravel. In the previous post, one of the key points in the video was the fact that it is the brain that turns the sensation into the perception of pain.

The exact ways in which sensory input gets perceived as pain, and how that perception of pain can become overstimulated by the brain is still mystery. But, a TED talk I found recently talks about a specific example in which a young girl’s sprained wrist turned into a serious chronic pain issue. It also talks a little about the ways in which the sensory perceptions get tuned to pain and discomfort and the ways in which those patterns can be disrupted enough to bring sensations back into a normal neural response.

This is another post you may want to share with family and friends who may be dealing with chronic pain issues. And this is a helpful message, because in many ways we are at the threshold of being able to understand pain and rehabilitate the body through various means to retrain perception of sensory input to a normal level.

http://www.ted.com/talks/elliot_krane_the_mystery_of_chronic_pain.html

Photo credit: Flickr.com CCL; User: xlibber

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What you Need to Know about Chronic Pain: Found Video

Man in pain

 

For as common as it is, pain is still a mystery to scientists and researchers, let alone the rest of us. One of the hardest concepts to explain is that pain is not a specific message that gets sent from the body to the brain via nerves. Rather, the brain interprets the sensory data coming in from the body as pain. In this way, dealing with chronic pain is about more than just healing the body.

Often, as I work with clients dealing with chronic pain, it feels like we’re chasing something that’s one step ahead. When the body suffers from chronic pain, it’s as if the filter in the brain that catches sensory input and data from the world becomes too sensitive, and in a way overreacts to the input. That doesn’t mean that the pain doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t mean that the pain is in the brain. It means that pain is much more complex than we ever imagined.

Recovering from chronic pain – pain that’s lasted 6 months or more – can be a long, complicated process. We’re just now beginning to understand that chronic pain is affected by mental health, diet, and exercise in addition to many other factors. Pain centers across the country often recruit doctors and specialists in many different fields in order to treat chronic pain and help the nervous system retrain itself back to a normal sensitivity level.

This video gives a wonderful and accessible explanation of pain and its interconnection to the body and the mind. If you deal with chronic pain, or know someone who does, please share this blog post with them. I know from personal experience chronic pain makes you feel helpless and out of control. But this video gives me an excellent resource to share with clients dealing with chronic pain and it helps me remember what it takes to stay well, too.

Photo credit: Flickr.com CCL – User Alex E Proimos

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Put Away the Ambien and Get Into the Hammock

Hammock

Did you need another excuse to spend a lazy day in the hammock this summer? If you did, I’ve got the research study for you. A study out recently showed that adults who napped in a bed that rocked back and forth fell asleep faster and fell asleep deeper than the adults who slept in stationary beds:

The gentle rocking motion makes people fall asleep faster, and they sleep deeper. Those changes in brain activity may inspire new ways to help insomniacs, the researchers say.Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva rigged up a bed so it would sway gently from side to side every four seconds, considerably slower than the pendulum on a cuckoo clock. “This rocking is very gentle, very smooth, oscillating every four seconds,” Sophie Schwartz, a professor of neurology who led the study, told Shots. “It’s not like rocking like you would see some mothers rocking their babies, it’s more gentle.”

via Why Hammocks Make Sleep Easier, Deeper : Shots – Health Blog : NPR.

What’s interesting to me is that the rocking motion was so slow – a four second period. That’s considerably slower than my hammock, and reminds me more of drifting down the beach in a raft, another very easy way to fall asleep. If you click through to the blog article, you’ll find that the surprise for the researchers was the type of sleep and the quality of the sleep state that the rocking naps created. This might be promising for those with insomnia, but also those with brain injuries such as stroke which use these types of sleep periods to heal and restore the brain.

I’d love to see a study done on people sleeping during a massage when the client is gently rocked or moved in a slow fashion as described above.  Massage itself is relaxing, but perhaps part of that sleepiness that happens during a massage has to do with the slow, rocking movement of receiving a massage. I often have clients waken at the end of a session after sleeping for a good portion of the massage. And I have to confess, many of my best naps were on my massage therapists’ tables.

If you don’t have a hammock, or don’t like the heat, call your massage therapist for some gentle rocking and relaxation.

Photo Credit from Flickr.com CCL user: rosemilkinabottle

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