Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It is a free-flowing and gliding movement towards the heart, tracing the contours of the body using the palm of one or both hands. Oil is applied with this stroke to begin the first stage of massage. The therapist applies a light or medium constant pressure. This stroke is used to warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm the nerves, improve blood circulation and heart function, and improve lymphatic drainage.
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Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that’s mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues, such as strains and sports injuries. It involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.
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There are many types of massage therapy, from classics like Swedish and deep tissue to more exotic styles like shiatsu. Whether you'd like to branch out a bit or have a health condition or injury, choosing a style of massage can be confusing if you're not quite sure what it involves. Here is a list of the most popular types of massage (including some that may be new to you).
Reflexology is a practice in which different amounts of pressure are applied to specific points on the feet or hands. These points are believed to match up with certain other parts of the body. Reflexology is claimed to cause relaxation and healing in those parts of the body, but this has not been proven. In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, women with advanced breast cancer who received reflexology treatments showed improvement in a few symptoms, such as shortness of breath, but not others, such as nausea or pain. In this study, reflexology was safe even for the most fragile patients.
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Each type of sports massage uses different massage techniques. Effleurage is a light stroking that can be performed with the palms or the thumbs. The pressure and speed is varied depending on the muscle and the desired result. Effleurage increases blood flow to the muscle. Petrissage is a form of two-handed kneading in which both hands pick up the muscle and compress it. This technique loosens tight bunches of muscles. Percussive strokes are blows or strikes on the muscle, often performed with the little fingers. They are used to tone the muscles. Cupping involves percussing or striking the muscles with cupped hands. It stimulates the skin and causes muscle contractions that help tone the muscles. There are variations on all these strokes, such as deep cross-fiber friction to separate muscle fibers and break down scar tissue, and jostling to relieve muscle tension. A good sports massage therapist will combine techniques to achieve the maximum desired result. Sports massage sessions generally last 30-60 minutes.
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While this massage is designed to help ease the pain, you might experience discomfort during your appointment, especially when your therapist is applying pressure to a problem area. It is best to speak up and let your therapist know if the discomfort becomes painful; even though the Deep Tissue massage is meant to apply more pressure, pain does not mean that the massage is working. You might also experience some soreness and stiffness; this is perfectly normal and should subside within 24 hours. ElementsMassage.com recommends that you drink a lot of water in order to flush out the lactic acid that will have accumulated in the tissues; this may ease some of the soreness. Bruising after your massage may also occur; keep in mind that your therapist was applying more pressure in order to reach your troubled areas, light bruising is normal. Cathy Wong also points out that “case reports have reported venous thromboembolism, spinal accessory neuropathy, hepatic hematoma, and posterior interosseous syndrome after deep tissue massage.”
According to the Neuromuscular Therapy Center, NMT is one type of deep massage technique that focuses on applying manual therapy to soft tissue with “quasi-static pressure” in order to stimulate skeletal striated muscle. (17) In addition to massaging a painful or inflamed muscle, the area around the affected muscle that normally supports it is also massaged in order to release tension. NMT therapists often focus on several factors that can add to muscle or tissue dysfunctions, including joint pathologies, postural positioning, disruptive habits of use, nutritional components, emotional well-being, allergies and neurotoxins.
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Reflexology is a bodywork technique that uses pressure points in the feet and hands in an effort to stimulate organs and systems throughout the body. Reflexology practitioners claim they can treat a wide range of maladies simply by manipulating these pressure points. The general idea is similar to that of other forms of alternative and Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture: clear blockages in the flow of the body's life force (or Qi) and healing will follow.
Cancer. Used as a complement to traditional, Western medicine, massage can promote relaxation and reduce cancer symptoms or side effects of treatment. It may help reduce pain, swelling, fatigue, nausea, or depression, for example, or improve the function of your immune system. However, there are specific areas that a massage therapist should avoid in a cancer patient, as well as times when massage should be avoided altogether. Talk to your doctor before getting massage therapy if you have cancer.
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Plantar fasciitis. According to the JAMA Network, plantar fasciitis occurs when the fibrous band on the bottom of the foot becomes irritated and inflamed, causing pain in the heel and arch areas. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine further indicates that deep tissue massage can be an effective treatment for this particular condition as it helps “release the muscle tension, break scar tissue, and lead to its elimination.”
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Traditional Thai massage is a different experience if you’ve only ever had a Swedish or deep tissue massage. In Thai massage, you wear loose-fitting clothing (often provided by the massage therapist) and start by lying on a mat. Throughout the massage, the therapist moves your body into various seated and prone positions, which stretch and release your muscles and soft tissue. Although your body is moving, the therapist is doing all the work, making it feel similar to supported yoga. The massage therapist will bend, stretch, and compress and lengthen your body using their hands, forearms, elbows and even feet. Don’t be alarmed by the feet! Many studios have overhead supports that allow the practitioners to safely walk on your back, releasing tight adhesions and promoting ease. Thai massage can be both invigorating and relaxing. It is an excellent option for keeping your muscles in good health if you regularly work out, or if you want to overcome a lack of flexibility. Studies show that Thai massage can increase blood circulation, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension and enhance mental well-being.
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Swedish massage is a popular choice. It involves rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of the blood returning to the heart. Swedish massage goes beyond just a relaxation; it increases the oxygen level in the blood while decreasing toxins in the muscles, improving circulation while easing the tension. This is great for those who are in need of headache or insomnia relief.