Massage 101: A Guide To The Most Common Types
A massage is a relaxing experience, but trying to make sense of the varieties on offer at day spas and massage centres certainly isn’t. Massage therapies are able to treat a wide variety of issues – in both the body and mind – but knowing which one is right for you is not always a straightforward affair. Read on for an easy-to-follow guide on the six most common massage styles and the benefits you can expect.
1. Swedish massage
What it is: Swedish massage is usually what springs to mind when people think of a massage. This common style is designed to relax the entire body with the application of long strokes that run in the same direction as blood flowing to the heart. It also involves light tapping strokes and the gentle movement of joints.
The benefits: It can help to oxygenate the blood, flush out muscle toxins, improve circulation and flexibility, and ease muscle tension. Studies have also shown it can also help lessen the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body.
2. Thai massage
What it is: Thai massage is a traditional therapy originating 2,500 years ago that draws on influences from India, China and Southeast Asia. This style involves a combination of assisted yoga postures and the stimulation of acupressure points.
It uses the technique of blocking and releasing blood flow by applying continuous pressure (around 30 seconds) to the areas where the limbs meet the torso. The therapist uses their body to move the patient into a variety of positions. Unlike Swedish massage, oil is not always used so the patient may not need to be undressed.
The benefits: Thai massage is designed to leave you feeling relaxed but energised. It can also help to loosen tight muscles and provide relief for joint pain.
3. Deep tissue massage
What it is: Deep tissue massages focus on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia (the protective layer that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints). The therapist will use slow and deliberate strokes to reach through your skin to these deep layers.
The benefits: Deep tissue massage is the preferred method for improving chronic muscle tension and treating pain and muscle injuries. Patients may also see a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as a boost in mood through the release of oxytocin and serotonin.
4. Hot stone massage
What it is: During a hot stone massage a therapist will use smooth, heated stones as an extension of their own hands. While prevalent in many cultures, this practice has been used in China for more than 2,000 years. The therapist will warm up the patient’s body with Swedish-style massage techniques prior to using the hot stones with their hands or placing them at certain points on the body.
The benefits: The warm sensation can help to relax tight muscles and improve energy flow.
5. Pregnancy massage
What it is: Pregnancy massage is a combination of relaxation and deep tissue massage techniques. The therapist will adapt these to the varying stages of pregnancy and the associated changes in the body. In the early stages, the massage will work on relaxing the body. In the second trimester, the techniques will change to accommodate the lower body region (particularly the hips and the legs).
In the third trimester, flowing movements will help to move any problematic fluid build-up and loosen tight muscles in the lower body. The arms, hands and feet may also be involved in this stage to help treat any swelling.
The benefits: Can help to relieve the stress, aches, pains, headaches and swelling related to the different stages of pregnancy.
6. Aromatherapy massage
What it is: Aromatherapy massage combines essential oils with massage oil or lotion. The nostrils are attached to the limbic system in the brain, which controls emotions and directly influences the nervous system.
Inhaling essential oils means that messages are transmitted to the limbic system that can improve stress levels, blood pressure, memory, breathing, digestio, and the immune system. Each essential oil has different healing properties – some calm the mind while others energise.
The benefits: This style is best used to treat conditions involving stress or emotions, such as headaches, PMS or digestive disorders. Talk to your therapist to find the best essential oils for you.