The Benefits of Massage Therapy
There are a number of reasons why you might choose to have a massage, from injury treatment to relaxation. According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, 93% of people view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness, while 92% believe that massage can be effective in reducing pain. In addition, many medical practitioners recommend massage for the treatment of both physical conditions, as well as for stress relief.
While massage may be just one part of an overall health and wellness plan to help you achieve optimal physical and mental wellbeing, on its own, massage offers a number of health benefits, including:
- Reduced muscle tension
- An increased range of motion
- Improved muscle stiffness and fatigue
- Improved blood circulation
- Better soft tissue function
Massage can be used to treat a number of physical conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, tennis elbow, headaches and migraines, and pain disorders such as fibromyalgia. Even if you do not suffer from a health condition that can be treated by a massage, having a massage helps promote overall relaxation, which can relieve stress and improve your mental wellbeing.
There are many different massage techniques to choose from. The type of massage technique you choose may depend on what symptoms you wish to have treated, or may simply be a matter of personal preference (you may prefer gentle pressure to deep pressure, for instance). Here, we’ll outline some of the most popular different types of massage therapy, and look at how they are performed and what conditions they treat, to help you choose the type of massage that’s right for you.
Swedish Massage Techniques
Swedish massage is the most widely known — and widely popular — type of massage. This type of massage focuses on stress relief and relaxation and relieves muscle tension and soothes chronic pain or injuries. This type of massage can be performed by a registered massage therapist, and is also often offered as a spa treatment for relaxation and pampering.
During Swedish massage, a massage therapist uses soft, long, kneading strokes, some rhythmic tapping strokes. It is generally practised on just the topmost layers of muscles (i.e. does not involve any deep-tissue stimulation). Sometimes, the movement of the joints is incorporated to increase relaxation and provide some energizing effects.
There are four common types of Swedish massage:
Friction: In friction massage, layers of tissue rub against each other, breaking down scar tissue and increasing blood flow. To perform a friction Swedish massage, deep, circular movements are used.
Effleurage: This is the most popular type of Swedish massage, as it uses smooth, gliding strokes to relax and restore soft tissue. While this type of massage can soothe pain and provide an increased blood flow, which helps relieve tension, it is primarily used for relaxation and stress relief.
Petrissage: Petrissage often follows or complements effleurage. This technique uses squeezing, rolling, or kneading to address muscle “knots” and deep tension. It is ideal for back or neck pain, including lower back pain, and for relieving tightness and stiffness of the muscles.
Tapotement: This is a short tap, usually done with the tips of the fingers, the edge of the hand, or with a cupped hand. Tapotement is commonly used to stimulate the back’s nerves and muscles and relieve lymphatic build-up in the back.
During a Swedish massage, your massage therapist may use essential oils or other aromatherapy tools, and play music to increase your level of relaxation. In addition to aromatherapy massage, hot stone massage, during which a massage therapist incorporates hot stones on the back or other parts of the body, is also a type of relaxing Swedish massage.
Deep Tissue Massage Techniques
Deep tissue massage is used to treat musculoskeletal issues, like muscle strains or sports injuries. During a deep tissue massage, slow, long strokes are applied to the back — or any part of the body where there is strain or an injury — and are accompanied by deep, sustained pressure. This type of massage promotes healing by reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow among the body’s connective tissues.
Deep tissue massage is ideal for treating conditions such as sciatica, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, and plantar fasciitis, in addition to being ideal for any sports injuries caused by repeated use or strain, making it an excellent therapeutic choice for athletes. While the motions used by deep tissue massage and Swedish massage may feel similar, deep tissue massage targets the inner layers of your muscles, as well as tendons and joints, whereas Swedish massage addresses more superficial layers.
Reflexology Massage Techniques
Reflexology is a type of massage that uses gentle pressure on specific points along your feet, hands, or ears to promote wellness and a sense of wellbeing. This type of massage is based on the ancient Chinese belief in qi, or “vital energy:” according to this belief, when a person is healthy, qi flows seamlessly through the body. But when an individual is stressed, qi is blocked, leading to illness. The purpose of reflexology is to promote the healthy flow of qi, which results in a healthy body.
In Chinese medicine, different parts of the body correspond with different pressure points, which, when stimulated, help facilitate the flow of energy. In reflexology, maps of these points in the feet, hands, and ears are used to determine where pressure should be applied. Applying pressure to the ears is meant to relieve headaches and jaw tension, for instance, while pressure to the feet may help promote healthy digestion and better sleep.
Reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure, in the way it targets specific pressure points on the body. It has shown to be beneficial for treating anxiety, pain during labour, arthritis pain, some multiple sclerosis treatments, and can help ease the emotional and physical pain caused by illnesses such as cancer. Reflexology has also been shown to effectively improve sinus issues, relieve back pain, and ease constipation.
Thai Massage Techniques
Thai massage is drastically different from the more popular, familiar Swedish and relaxation massage techniques. In Thai massage, the body is manipulated to stimulate organs and improve flexibility. Thai massage is rooted in ancient Thai medicine and — similar to reflexology — is meant to support the flow of energy through the body. In traditional Thai medicine, the body’s energetic pathways are known as “sen.”
To promote the flow of energy through the body, in Thai massage, you will lay on the floor — instead of on a table — and the massage practitioner will stretch, manipulate, and move your limbs to stretch joints and promote the flow of energy. They will also massage key areas of the body according to traditional Thai medicine. This combination of stretching, movement, and pressure is what makes Thai massage unique.
While Thai massage is a more active form of massage, it can still be deeply relaxing! It also has a number of significant health benefits. The deep stretching and manipulation of Thai massage can help promote flexibility and range of motion. Studies have shown that athletes are particularly responsive to this type of therapy, as it helps promote agility. Thai massage has also been shown to relieve stiffness and joint pain, to reduce back pain associated with tight, painful muscle clusters in the upper back (known as “trigger points”), and to relieve the intensity of chronic headaches. It has also been proven to be an excellent treatment for anxiety.
Shiatsu Massage Techniques
Like reflexology, a shiatsu massage uses pressure, applied to various areas of the body, to help promote the flow of qi, or energy, and correct imbalances within the body. Shiatsu is a type of massage that was developed in Japan, using elements of traditional Chinese medicine. Shiatsu practitioners believe physical ailments and diseases can be alleviated by encouraging energy flow through the body. Shiatsu means “finger pressure” in Japanese.
Before a massage, a shiatsu practitioner will determine where a patient is experiencing qi blockages by discussing where they are feeling pain or discomfort. Then, the practitioner will use various techniques, including applying pressure, kneading, tapping, and stretching, to encourage the flow of qi through the body.
Shiatsu can treat many conditions and is often used to relieve headaches, digestive issues, fatigue or insomnia, musculoskeletal pain, and fibromyalgia. Shiatsu can also help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
How to Find a Massage Therapist
These common types of massages are offered by the beautiful, talented hostesses at Le Penthouse. Whether you are looking for a sensual, relaxing treatment, looking to relieve stress and promote wellbeing, or both, contact us or call 514-564-3332 to book your treatment today!