There are a multitude of benefits to be found in massage therapy, but sometimes it seems that there are about as many types of massage therapy as there are benefits to be had. The choices can be overwhelming. Swedish, aromatherapy, hot stone, deep tissue, shiatsu, Thai, prenatal, reflexology, sports, trigger point, cranial sacral… the list could go on! How can one choose among such a host of options? Well, the primary recommendation is to go talk to your massage therapist, explain to them what you are feeling and experiencing and they will likely be able to supply a wealth of knowledge regarding what route would be most beneficial for you. In the meantime, here is a quick description of massage types, what they entail, and their primary benefits:
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage requested and can be used when you’re looking for relaxation and stress relief. The goal is to relax the entire body. This is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart. Additional techniques include circular pressure applied by the hands and palms, firm kneading, percussion-like tapping, bending and stretching. Swedish massage is exceptional for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.
AromaTherapy uses essential oils and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person’s mind, mood, cognitive function or general health. These are often incorporated into the massage oil to provide additional benefits.
Hot Stone Therapy melts away tension, eases muscle stiffness, and increases circulation and metabolism. Water-heated stones are placed at key points on the body to allow for deeper relaxation of the muscles. Hot Stone Therapy is ideal for muscular aches, back pain, stress and anxiety, poor circulation, rheumatic and arthritic conditions and fibromyalgia.
Deep tissue can help with muscle damage from an injury, such as whiplash or back strain. Deep tissue massage uses strokes across the grain of the muscles, not with the grain as in Swedish massage. The more intense movements and techniques such as deep finger pressure may be slightly uncomfortable and cause soreness that lasts a couple of days before resulting in the desired relaxation and pain relief
Shiatsu, Japanese for “finger pressure,” consists of finger and palm pressure, stretches, and other massage techniques.
Thai style massage involves stretching and deep massage.
Prenatal massage focuses on stimulating the lymphatic system, increasing immunity and the removal of excess toxins, while also stabilizing hormonal levels and balancing the glandular system. This can bring much relief to expecting mothers.
Reflexology is a branch of massage that focuses solely on the hands and feet. Originally developed as “zone therapy” in the early twentieth century, reflexology uses specifically targeted points on the extremities to send signals to the brain and balance the nervous system.
Trigger point work is specifically designed to alleviate the source of the pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. In this type of massage the recipient actively participates through deep breathing as well as identifying the exact location and intensity of the discomfort
Crania sacral is a gentle, noninvasive form of alternative medicine that deals with the movement of the fluid surrounding the skull and spine. Cranial sacral therapy seeks to restore misaligned bones to their proper position and is thought to eliminate the negative effects of stress as well as provide relief from migraine headaches, neck and back pain, temporomandibular joint disorder and more.
Sports massage is ideal for athletes who are looking for ways to help prevent injury by keeping the body flexible. If you have questions about what modalities might work best for your goals for massage therapy, ask your massage therapist for an explanation of the modalities they offer. Athletes have discovered that specially designed massage promotes flexibility, removes fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries, and prepares them to compete at their absolute best.