Massage therapy isn’t only an enjoyable way to work out kinks, cramps and stresses – it’s also therapeutically beneficial for improving circulation, enhancing muscle tone, aiding digestion, and boosting your immune system. Massage therapy is considered to be a holistic remedy, meaning that it benefits a variety of muscles, organs, and functions beyond just the body part that is being massaged. Common types of massage include Swedish, sports, deep-tissue, shiatsu, and reflexology.
Swedish massage may arguably be the most widely used and best known type of massage. With the intent of relaxing the body, Swedish massage combines long, flowing movements and focuses on improving blood flow while eliminating tension in your muscles. Trained massage therapists use a combination of five strokes to achieve maximum benefit.
Effleurage is the practice of using the fingertips to stroke from the base of your head to the base of your spine. It’s used by massage therapists to become familiar with their patient’s body and reactions. Petrissage is accomplished by gently lifting the muscles away from the bones while rolling and squeezing, to enhance circulation. The third type of stroke is applying friction – deep circular motions to break down knots and improve flexibility. Tapotement, the technique most commonly associated with Swedish massage, is when your massage therapist uses her hands to relieve tension by drumming on your back or limbs. Finally, your massage therapist will use a vibrating or shaking motion on various parts of your body to further enhance circulation.
Another common form of massage therapy is a sports massage. A vigorous form of therapy that targets specific muscle groups and joints, sports massages are useful for healing sports-related injuries, or preventing them from occurring at all. Most beneficial for enhancing range of motion and flexibility, sports massage is a great option for the non-sports minded, as well, and can also help reduce your recovery time between workouts when you are first beginning a new exercise regimen.
Deep-tissue massage is beneficial if you are seeking to improve your posture and overall muscle tone. In this form of therapy, your therapist will work to create overall relaxation in your body so that she can access the deepest layers of tissue within your body. A not uncommon side affect of deep tissue massage (also known as myofascial release, pressure point massage, or structural integration) is emotional release. Because emotions are processed within the deepest tissues of the body, a massage that reaches those points may result in a variety of emotions coming to the surface all at once. A good therapist will also guide you through these emotions with the goal of extreme relaxation.
Shiatsu, a type of Eastern massage, is the application of pressure from your therapist’s thumbs along the meridians of your body. Combining theories drawn from acupuncture and acupressure, shiatsu is effective in balancing energy within your body. A great stress reliever, shiatsu is also efficient in alleviating fatigue, muscle and joint pain and headaches.
Another common type of massage therapy is reflexology. Reflexology connects points within your feet to all the organs in your body. By applying pressure to these points, the overall function of various organs can be improved. Another form of Eastern massage, reflexology can be used to aid in recovery to a specific organ, or to help improve your overall health.
No matter which type of massage you choose to suit your specific goals or ailments, a therapy is available to provide a solution. Whether you are looking for a release from muscle soreness and pain through Swedish, deep-tissue, or shiatsu forms of massage, enhanced flexibility and muscle tone through a sports massage, or improved overall health through reflexology, enjoy and relax!