Navigating Massage Therapy
Which type of massage is best for you?
Whether you’re new to massage or you’ve never ventured past the traditional Swedish technique, it might be confusing to navigate through all the different types of massages. There are are many forms of massage therapy that focus on different parts of the body for different healing methods. Knowing which one caters best to your needs can make all the difference.
Swedish massage is the most well-known form of massage therapy. It relaxes the body by enhancing circulation and blood flow to the large muscle groups. This full body massage consists of kneading, long strokes, deep circular movements and passive joint movements in order to stimulate nerve endings and increase lymph drainage and blood flow.
A hot stone massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in addition to their hands. The added heat from the stones helps to relieve muscle pain and tension. During the massage, smooth, heated stones (usually made of basalt) are placed on specific parts of the body. The therapist then uses the stones for the same long strokes and kneading found in a Swedish massage. A hot stone massage can benefit those with muscle tension, insomnia or stress.
Sports massage therapy is geared toward athletes of every sport and level. The techniques used in the massage are specific to an athlete’s specific sport, focusing on areas of the body that are overused and stressed during practice and competition. This technique can be used as a means to both enhance pre-competition preparation and reduce recovery time after a competition. Many athletes use sports massage to increase flexibility, reduce fatigue and improve or help prevent injuries for optimal performance.
Similar to a Swedish massage, a deep tissue massages uses the same long stroking and kneading movements to relax the body and alleviate pressure. Once the body is warmed up, the massage therapist will begin to work deep into problem areas, targeting the inner layers of muscles, tendons and fascia. To add more pressure for a deeper massage, the therapist may use their forearms and elbows in addition to their hands. This form of massage therapy is best for those with chronic muscle problems, soreness, injury or imbalance.
A shiatsu massage is a Japanese form of massage therapy that uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain points of the body. The therapist will use their fingers, thumbs and palms for a pulsing and rhythmic massage that is believed to improve the flow of the body’s vital energy. This relaxing form of massage is best suited for those who want to relieve stress and tension.
Unlike traditional forms of massage therapy, a Thai massage uses stretching, pulling and rocking to relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility. The therapist uses their hands, knees, legs and feet to move the body into yoga-like stretches. They also will use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to the muscles. A Thai massage improves flexibility and circulation, and is best for those who want a more active form of massage.
Trigger Point Massage
Trigger point massage therapy focuses on relieving pain in specific areas of tightness in the muscle tissues known as trigger points. It is best suited for people with injuries or chronic pain. In this technique, the therapist uses gentle, flowing strokes combined with stronger, deeper pressure to massage the whole body and target the specific areas of pain. These cycles of isolated pressure relax the body and relieve painful trigger points.