While massage may have developed a reputation as a decadent treat for people who love pampering, new studies are showing it has a wide variety of tangible health benefits.
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.
Is massage just for pampering or does it have true biological effects? A recent study showed muscles rebounded better if massaged after exercising to exhaustion. Andrea Petersen on Lunch Break has details on Lunch Break.
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.
There's been a surge of scientific interest in massage. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, is currently spending $2.7 million on massage research, up from $1.5 million in 2002. The Massage Therapy Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds massage research, held its first scientific conference in 2005. The third conference will be in Boston next year.
The research is being driven, in part, by massage therapy's popularity. About 8.3% of American adults used massage in 2007, up from 5% in 2002, according to a National Health Statistics report that surveyed 23,393 adults in 2007 and 31,044 adults in 2002, the latest such data available. Massage was expected to be a $10 billion to $11 billion industry in 2011 in the U.S., according to estimates by the American Massage Therapy Association, a nonprofit professional organization.
"There is emerging evidence that [massage] can make contributions in treating things like pain, where conventional medicine doesn't have all the answers," said Jack Killen, NCCAM's deputy director.
The massage therapy field hopes that the growing body of research will lead to greater insurance coverage for its treatments. Washington is the only state that requires insurers to cover massage therapy.
About 8.3% of American adults used massage in 2007, up from 5% in 2002, according to a National Health Statistics report. Elsewhere, private insurers generally provide very limited coverage for massage. WellPoint, WLP -1.99%for example, doesn't include massage as a standard benefit in most of its plans, but employers can purchase alternative medicine coverage as an add on, said spokeswoman Kristin E. Binns. Aetna AET -10.59%doesn't cover massage therapy as a standard benefit but offers members discounts on massage visits with practitioners who are part of an affiliated network of alternative medicine providers. Providers such as chiropractors or physical therapists, whose visits are often covered, sometimes use massage as part of their treatment.
Massage therapists charge an average of about $59 for a one-hour session, according to the American Massage Therapy Association. Treatments at posh urban spas, however, can easily cost at least three times that amount.
Most of the research is being done on Swedish massage, the most widely-available type of massage in the U.S. It is a full-body massage, often using oil or lotion, that includes a variety of strokes, including "effleurage" (gliding movements over the skin), "petrissage" (kneading pressure) and "tapotement" (rhythmic tapping).
A full-body massage boosted immune function and lowered heart rate and blood pressure in women with breast cancer undergoing radiation treatment, a 2009 study of 30 participants found.
Children given 20-minute massages by their parents every night for five weeks plus standard asthma treatment had significantly improved lung function compared with those in standard care, a 2011 study of 60 children found.
A 10-minute massage upped mitochondria production, and reduced proteins associated with inflammation in muscles that had been exercised to exhaustion, a small study last month found.
.Another common type of massage, so-called deep tissue, tends to be more targeted to problem muscles and includes techniques such as acupressure, trigger-point work (which focuses on little knots of muscle) and "deep transverse friction" where the therapist moves back and forth over muscle fibers to break up scar tissue.
Massage is already widely used to treat osteoarthritis, for which other treatments have concerning side effects. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 showed that full-body Swedish massage greatly improved symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients who had massages twice weekly for four weeks and once a week for an additional four weeks had less pain and stiffness and better range of motion than those who didn't get massages. They were also able to walk a 50-foot path more quickly.
"If [massage] works then it should become part of the conventionally recommended interventions for this condition and if it doesn't work we should let [patients] know so they don't waste their time and money," says Adam Perlman, the lead author of the study and the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C.
Scientists are also studying massage in healthy people.
In a small study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine last month, a 10-minute massage promoted muscle recovery after exercise. In the study, 11 young men exercised to exhaustion and then received a massage in one leg. Muscle biopsies were taken in both quad muscles before exercise, after the massage and 2½ hours later.
The short massage boosted the production of mitochondria, the energy factory of the cell, among other effects. "We've shown this is something that has a biological effect," says Mark Tarnopolsky, a co-author of the study and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario.
A 2010 study with 53 participants comparing the effects of one 45-minute Swedish massage to light touch, found that people who got a massage had a large decrease in arginine-vasopressin, a hormone that normally increases with stress and aggressive behavior, and slightly lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their blood after the session. There was also a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions.
Mark Hyman Rapaport, the lead author of the study and the chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, says he began studying massage because, "My wife liked massages and I wasn't quite sure why. I thought of it as an extravagance, a luxury for only people who are very rich and who pamper themselves." Now, Dr. Rapaport says he gets a massage at least once a month. His group is now studying massage as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.
.Knead to Know Tips
• How can you make sure you get a good massage? Most states regulate massage and require therapists to be licensed. This usually requires a minimum number of hours of training and an exam. There is also national certification. Members of the American Massage Therapy Association must have 500 hours of training.
• Ask how many massages a therapist gives a day—and make sure you're not the 10th or even the seventh. 'It takes a lot of physical exertion to deliver a therapeutic massage,' says Ken Morris, spa director at Canyon Ranch, a health resort in Tucson, Ariz. Canyon Ranch limits its therapists to six massages in a day.
By : Andrea Peterson
March 13, 2012, on page D1 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal
Exposure to high levels of fluoride results in a condition known as fluorosis, in which tooth enamel becomes discolored. The condition can eventually lead to badly damaged teeth. The new study found that fluoride intake during a child's first few years of life is significantly associated with fluorosis, and warned against using fluoridated water in infant formula.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is of a similar opinion. According to their website:
"Recent evidence suggests that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing ... enamel fluorosis."
It was 2007 when the American Dental Association (ADA) first warned that parents of infants younger than a year old "should consider using water that has no or low levels of fluoride" when mixing baby formula, due to concerns about fluorosis.
Now the Journal of the American Dental Association has published a study that found increased fluorosis risk among infants who were fed infant formula reconstituted with fluoride-containing water, as well as used fluoridated toothpastes.
The authors noted:
"Results suggest that prevalence of mild dental fluorosis could be reduced by avoiding ingestion of large quantities of fluoride from reconstituted powdered concentrate infant formula and fluoridated dentifrice."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also followed suit, warning on their Community Water Fluoridation page that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing enamel fluorosis.
They also state:
"In children younger than 8 years of age, combined fluoride exposure from all sources—water, food, toothpaste, mouth rinse, or other products—contributes to enamel fluorosis."
This is as far as the CDC warnings go, however, and they continue to state that water fluoridation is safe -- and dental fluorosis is only a "cosmetic" problem. In reality, neither of these assertions is true.
Dental Fluorosis is a Sign of Excessive Fluoride Intake
Dental fluorosis results in white and brown spots on your teeth. It is only caused by fluoride -- typically due to ingesting too much fluoride during your developing years, from birth to about 8 years of age. According to the CDC, about one-third of U.S. children aged 12 to 15 years have very mild to mild forms of enamel fluorosis on their teeth.
Promoters of fluoridation say that these markings are "just cosmetic," but it can also be an indication that the rest of your body, such as your bones and the rest of your organs, including your brain, has been exposed to too much fluoride also.
As Dr. Paul Connett, a chemist specializing in environmental chemistry, explained in our recent interview:
"We know that 32 percent of American children have been overexposed to fluoride because you have this telltale sign of dental fluorosis, which in its mildest form is little white specs. But when it gets more serious, it affects more of the surface of your teeth and it becomes colored; yellow, brown and orange mottling of the teeth …
The teeth are the window to the bones. If you've seen the damage to the teeth, what damage can you not see?"
In other words, if fluoride is having a detrimental, visual effect on the surface of your teeth, you can be virtually guaranteed that it's also damaging something else inside your body, such as your bones.
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being replaced through cellular turnover. Bone building is a finely balanced, complicated process. Fluoride has been known to disrupt this process ever since the 1930s.
Why it's Dangerous to Swallow Fluoride
The United States is one of only eight countries in the entire developed world that fluoridates more than 50 percent of its water supply. It is added under the guise that it helps prevent and control tooth decay …
This is in spite of the fact that there never been any demonstrated difference in tooth decay between countries with fluoridated and non-fluoridated water, and no difference between states that have a high- or low percentage of their water fluoridated.
Even promoters of fluoridation concede that the major benefits are topical; fluoride works from the outside of the tooth, not from inside of your body, so why swallow it?
The fluoride added to your drinking water is in fact a chemical waste product! It is NOT something you should use as a supplement to your diet.
There are plenty of studies showing the dangers of fluoride to your health, such as:
- Increases lead absorption
- Disrupts synthesis of collagen
- Hyperactivity and/or lethargy
- Muscle disorders
- Brain damage, and lowered IQ
- Bone fractures
- Lowers thyroid function
- Bone cancer (osteosarcoma)
- Inactivates 62 enzymes
- Inhibits formation of antibodies
- Genetic damage and cell death
- Increases tumor and cancer rate
- Disrupts immune system
- Damages sperm and increases infertility
As far as tooth decay is concerned, this is not caused by lack of fluoride.
Tooth decay is caused by acids in your mouth, typically created from sugar being metabolized by bacteria (Streptococcus mutans), and as you may already know, the number one source of calories in the United States is high fructose corn syrup.
The acid produced then attacks your enamel. Eventually the bacteria can get into the dentine, at which point tooth decay sets in. So there are far better options for decreasing tooth decay than using a topical or ingested poison, with a chief one being minimizing your intake of sugary foods and eating a healthful diet.
You typically don't find dental caries in more primitive societies that do not consume vast amounts of sugar like in the United States.
Make Sure Your Children are Not Exposed to Fluoride
One of dentist Bill Osmunson's main concerns is water fluoridation for infants. The ADA and the CDC now both recommend that infants NOT receive fluoridated water for drinking, nor for making their formula, as fluoridated water contains 250 times more fluoride than mother's milk.
"We shouldn't fluoridate water and harm our most vulnerable," Dr. Osmunson says.
It is my strong belief and recommendation to avoid giving your children fluoridated water.
Unfortunately, the only way to ensure your water is pure enough to drink is by installing ahigh quality water filtration system in your house, such as a reverse osmosis filter that can filter out much of the fluoride and other dangerous water contaminants like disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
Remember that most bottled water also typically contains fluoride, even though it's not stated on the label, and whatever you do, avoid using "nursery water," which is fluoridated water sold specifically for infants.
Fluoride in your drinking water is one more reason why breastfeeding your infant is so essential. Nature has kept breast milk virtually fluoride-free for a reason.
If you are unable to breastfeed and are instead using formula, make sure the water you use is fluoride-free. Again, for now the best way you can provide pure, fluoride-free water to your family is by using a reverse osmosis filter, which you can install in your home.
Even better, if you are unable to breastfeed use this recipe to make homemade infant formula using raw milk and no water at all.
Keep in mind also that if you are a pregnant woman it is equally important for your water to be fluoride-free, as this chemical can harm your developing fetus.
The Ultimate Solution is to Get Fluoride Out of Tap Water
Even though the ADA and the CDC have issued warnings that parents not use fluoridated tap water to make infant formula, neither of them has openly informed the public!
So there are millions of parents out there using tap water to make up formula, oblivious of the fact that the agencies that promote fluoridation in this country have issued a specific warning against using fluoridated water for this purpose.
Not only that, but by fluoridating the municipal water supply you doom many low-income families to fail to protect their young children from this dangerous drug, even if they have this information, as they simply don't have the resources to install a reverse osmosis system.
This is why the only real solution is to stop the archaic practice of water fluoridation in the United States.
The Fluoride Action Network is an absolutely phenomenal resource for further education, and they're doing much to pressure the US government for change. We will be working together to devise a complete game plan to tackle this issue head on. Once we reach the tipping point, which may be as little as 5 percent of the population, we will be able to reverse the policies of water fluoridation.
Our strategy will begin with addressing Canada, because 60 percent of Canada is already un-fluoridated. If we can get the rest of Canada to stop fluoridating their water, we believe the U.S. will be forced to follow.
In addition, I highly recommend getting a copy of Dr. Connett's new book, The Case Against Fluoride, for more information on the bad science and political agendas that got this toxic chemical in our drinking water and is, at least for now, keeping it there.