By Karen Reed, Managing Editor at Positive Health Wellness. Shared with permission of PositiveHealthWellness.com
Massages may seem like a modern way to treat yourself and relieve stress, but they’ve been used for centuries. Each country has its version, with other types slipped in between. You can get a massage that is gentle and involves aromatherapy or others that involve elbows or feet digging deep into the muscles.
The type of massage you need will depend on the goals you have at the end. It will depend on the things you want to get out of your massage. Do you want something that is good for deep tissue relaxation or are you after a more sensual with mental benefits?
It’s possible to get massages specifically for pain relief. Others can help you overcome ailments, relieve symptoms, or heal injuries.
Just because your friend believes one type of massage is better, doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Here’s a look at all the types of massages you could try, with their benefits explained.
The Most Common Swedish Massage
There are high chances that you’ve heard of people get a Swedish massage. Phoebe from Friends often performed this type of massage and had plenty of clients visit to receive the benefits.
Swedish massages are therapeutic. They involve long and soft strokes that knead gently into the muscles. Between the strokes, there are tapping, rhythmic ones to help the upper layers of the muscles. Together the strokes will help to improve joint movement, relieve tension, and energize the body. There are also studies that show individuals receive help after suffering an injury.
During the Swedish massage, your professional will perform four strokes. The first is a smooth stroke that glides across your tissues known as the “effleurage.” This stroke is designed to relax the soft tissue in your body to get you ready for the next set of strokes.
Your professional will then move onto the “petrissage,” which involves rolling, squeezing, and kneading of the massage. Thiscan offer more relaxation benefits. It’s possible to release knots in the muscle and help to create a sense of stress release throughout the body. When receiving the massage, you will feel the muscles physically relax, helping you get rid of the build-up of stress hormones in the body.
The next stroke is called “friction,” and involves deep movements that are circular in nature. They will force the tissues within the muscles to rub against each other causing friction across them. This friction helps to get rid of the scar tissue and increase blood flow around the body. Your muscles will gain more oxygen helping you to feel revitalized and ready for action.
Finally, the professional masseuse will perform the “tapotement,” which is the tapping strokes many people have seen performed in a Swedish massage. The masseuse will either use the edges of the hands, the fingers, or cupped hands to tap away at the muscles quickly and sharply. The upper layers of the muscles are affected, improving blood flow here and getting rid of surface knots or pain.
If you’ve never had a massage before, the Swedish massage is one of the best options. It’s an introduction, as it uses alittle pressure to help get major benefits.
Manipulate Soft Tissue with the Neuromuscular Therapy Massage
If you suffer from chronic pain, you want to consider a neuromuscular therapy massage. This type of massage focuses on the soft tissue, helping to improve the nervous and muscular systems—as the name suggests.
You will need to make sure the masseuse is trained in this type of massage. It has a medical element, targeting specific trigger points in the body depending on the type of chronic pain you suffer. These trigger points are the most tender sections of the body, aiming to improve circulation and posture. The improved blood flow will mean that all muscles get enough oxygen to help them relax and work effectively. The improved posture will help to eliminate unnecessary pressure on nerves.
Those who suffer pain from repetitive movements wherever they are in the body will also find benefits. The massage targets the pressure points in these specific parts of the body.
This type of massage is commonly mistaken with the trigger point massage. There are many similarities between the two, as the trigger point massage will focus on the muscles where the injury or pain is. The masseuse, in this case, will treat the trigger point that is sending the signals of pain to somewhere else in the body—causing referral pain. By treating the trigger point, the referral pain disappears as there is no signal sent to that part of the body.
However, the neuromuscular therapy massage is a subtype of the trigger point massage, which is why there’s a common misconception. The neuromuscular therapy massage is more focused on treating muscles spasms, which cause chronic pain in other parts of the body.
There is often some pain experienced with a neuromuscular therapy or trigger point therapy massage. The pain is due to the pressure on the tender parts of the body. As more blood flows to these parts of the muscles, the pain will subside.
Deep Tissue Massage for Trouble Spots
If you have a certain part of the body that is continually causing trouble, you may want to consider a deep tissue massage. This is exactly as it sounds: a massage deep within the tissues of your muscles. It’s one of the most painful types of massages you will experience, but also one of the most beneficial options. It’s also one of the most popular for those with sports injuries and chronic, acute pain.
A massage therapist needs to be trained in deep tissue massages to avoid doing damage to the muscles. Rather than focusing on the whole body, the masseuse will focus on the troublesome spots, focusing not just on the muscles, but on the tissues and tendons deep within the skin. There is less focus on the rhythm and more focus on the deliberate and slow strokes.
Pain can be caused by an injury, poor posture, or strain and stress. This type of massage will get right into those muscles and rectify the issue right away.
The therapist will use the elbows or knuckles to get into the muscles because the fingertips and heels of the hands just aren’t accurate enough. You will need to speak up during the massage if it isn’t right. It is possible to go too deep or not deep enough, so talk about the pressure you feel and don’t be embarrassed to ask for the pressure to be lessened or heavier.
Do not opt for this massage while still physically healing from an injury. It is best during physical therapy after the healing process to breakdown the scar tissue that is left behind. If you want a treatment during the injury healing process, you want our next option.
Heal with a Sports Massage
There are individuals training every day in creating the best sports massage for healing needs. Every professional athlete will have a trained professional with them when they travel to make sure they are free from injuries and pain. In fact, athletes hire a sports massage therapist for before and during their events, not just after.
Some sports massages can help to improve flexibility. It is possible to prevent injuries from occurring. However, most of the massages are used to treat current injuries, especially strains and sprains.
The actual massage combines a few massage techniques, including the Swedish and Shiatsu massages. This type of massage can be useful for getting rid of stress felt throughout a sporting event, helping to relax and unwind after the event. The massage will boost fluid and blood circulation, making sure the muscles don’t cramp, and there is no pain after the event.
There are some mental health benefits noted. Some studies have shown that sports massages can help to reduce anxiety.
Opt for a Quicker Chair Massage
Have you ever seen the weird looking chairs in shopping malls or airports? These chair massagers are extremely comfortable, relaxing, and beneficial to the body. No, they aren’t just a money grab. However, you need to get the massages for long enough to gain all the benefits.
Most chair massages will last 5 minutes for a couple of bucks. If you want all the benefits, you need a 15-20-minute massage.
Because you remain seated, you will benefit by taking up less space. Companies can add more massage chairs, so they get to charge a little less than if you were to book a massage at a spa. You’re also not taking up an individual’s time.
You will be fully seated, with vibration elements around your neck, back, shoulders, hands, and arms. You can feel the vibrations work away at the muscles that commonly hold the tension in your body, causing pain including chronic headaches. One of the downsides is the distraction of people around you, meaning you don’t quite get a deep and relaxing massage.
If you want relaxation, you’ll want to talk to a spa about a chair massage. You can hire a person to give you a chair massage rather than one lying down, getting deeper into the muscles than a vibrating chair will.
These aren’t great for relieving a lot of deep pain. However, they’re great for those on their feet all day at work and just need some quick relief.
Get Acupressure with a Shiatsu Massage
It’s time to head to Japan for your next massage. The good news is you don’t have actually to get on a plane for the treatment. A Shiatsu massage is available at most Oriental spas and beauty parlors, using acupressure to work on boosting energy and relaxing the body.
Shiatsu means “finger pressure,” which perfectly describes the type of massage you will get. The masseuse will use their fingers to work on specific pressure points in your body, boosting blood flow and energy flow around your whole body. The focus is on the “chi,” which is an ancient belief. If the chi is blocked, the body’s energy doesn’t flow naturally, and you end up with hormonal imbalances.
While there are plenty of alternative doctors who will tell you to try this to relieve pain, there is currently no scientific evidence to show it works. Patients commonly rate it for headaches, back pain, and fatigued.
One benefit for many patients is there is no need to undress.
Improve Joint Movement with a Thai Massage
While the Japanese improve the chi, the Thailand option is to use acupressure and muscle compression to improve the movement of joints. A Thai massage therapist will use their own body to move their client into positions. The idea is that the muscles will compress and cause friction to improve blood circulation and break down scar tissue.
It is extremely invigorating and will require you to move around a little. The positions are likeyoga, but you don’t have to do a lot of the movement physically. A Thai massage is nicknamed “yoga for the lazy.”
Some of the stretches will help to improve your flexibility. There is the possibility that you’ll be walked on during the massage, but this is something your therapist will talk to you about first. If you have a bad back, it will likely be avoided.
Relax with the Hot Stone Massage
If you want to relax and you’ve already tried the Swedish massage, you may want to move onto the hot stone massage. This uses warmed stones, which are placed on strategic parts of the body. Most of them are placed on acupressure parts, utilizing the idea of the chi to improve your energy flow and reduce stress at the same time.
The stones can be left in place for time or the massage therapist can use them to work away tension in the muscles. You’ll feel the heat working its way into your deeper tissues, helping you relax deeper than with a Swedish massage.
You won’t feel like drifting off because of the heat. It can be too hot for some, so you may want to ask to wait for the stones to lose some of their heat before you get this massage.
This is one of the most common types of massages on offer in spas around the world. Sometimes it can be used in aromatherapy to improve mental wellbeing.
Promote Health with a Reflexology Massage
Not all massages are done on the back or necks. They don’t all involve targeted areas of the body to improve those area-specific injuries. The reflexology massage works on the feet to treat various health problems. Yes, your head, chest, and digestive system are all connected to your feet.
The masseuse will use the fingers and thumbs to get into specific parts of your feet to work on corresponding body parts. If you have a problem with headaches or eye strain, your toes will be the focus. If you find digestive issues, a common complain, the instep will be the focus of your massage.
A reflexology therapist can work on multiple areas at a time. This is also a massage that you can safely do yourself. You don’t need to use your hands. Get a tennis ball or ping pong ball and slowly move it around your feet in targeted locations based on pain and ailments.
Find a Specialist in Pregnancy Massages
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience, if you’re not in pain. Your body goes through so many changes. Your stress levels are all over the place, your arms and legs can swell, and let’s not forget the joint pain as the muscles relax and stretch.
You can’t get a traditional massage during pregnancy since you can’t lie on your stomach. You can get a pregnancy massage though. This is performed by someone who specializes in pregnancy massages and will have pillows and equipment designed to help you and bump get comfortable.
It’s possible to ease the stress in your shoulders and relieve some of the pain on your lower back. All this is done without putting pressure on arteries or certain areas that can cause problems for the baby. Once you’ve had the baby, you can go back to your regular types of massages.
Which Massage Will You Focus On?
Now it’s time to book your massage. There are so many benefits. Some will help to relieve overall stress and improve your mental health. Others are designed to target specific areas. If you have chronic pain, you’ll want to focus on the areas that are causing the problem and not where the referred pain is.
It’s time to think about the goals for your massages. Do you just want to treat yourself and ease the tension? A Swedish or hot stones massage could be perfect. Do you need to target your legs after a hard session training for a marathon? Consider a deep tissue massage to get you back on the mend.