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A good massage is truly a treat and offers many health benefits, but as you've noted, massage places tend to offer lots of options on their services menus. In fact, there are over 200 different massage techniques and types, all treating different needs and providing various benefits. Let's break it down. Here are nine of the most popular types of massages and when you might want to choose them.
Before you and your partner book your appointment, be sure to brush up on your spa etiquette. For many, a couples massage may be your significant other’s first visit to the spa. And while a trip to the spa should be a relaxing experience, if it’s your first spa-going encounter, it can be anything but if you don’t know what to expect. To calm those nerves, note the following spa protocol tips: For many, nudity may very well be the most nerve-wracking aspect of spa-going. Bear in mind, though, that maintaining guest modesty is a key priority for most therapists in the U.S. Male or female therapist? It’s your call. Spas make every effort to accommodate guest wishes in this regard, but it’s recommended to make advance reservations, particularly during peak hours. Speak up (if you wish). Couples can feel free to converse during their massage, or stay silent. It’s entirely your preference. For more on Couples Massage, see our guide.
Typically, sports massage therapists hold a certification and maintain licensure. A good option is to become board certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and have an active membership with an association, like AMTA, to keep up to date with industry trends. Exact requirements depend upon the state in which the sports massage therapist practices.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies. Because deep-tissue massage increases the flow of blood through through the body, it helps reduce the inflammation that causes pain. Deep-tissue massage can also help alleviate muscle tension that is often a side effect of chronic pain by loosening the tight tissue clusters.
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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.
This is not only an inaccurate and potentially harmful picture of this type of therapy, but such misguided practices can bruise muscles, elicit a defensive reaction in a client’s body, and worsen pain cycles. Properly executed deep tissue work should not cause the client to grit their teeth in agony as the therapist coerces the body into submission! If you find yourself clenching, shortening or holding your breath, or gritting your teeth, then it’s TOO DEEP. Even when it gets intense, it should not go above about a 7 on the pain scale: enough to “hurt so good,” but not enough that you want to leap off the table (and never come back).
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Swedish massage is the most common and best-known type of massage in the West. If it's your first time or you don't get massage often, Swedish massage is the best place to start. The Swedish body massage is the combination of many different techniques rolled into one session. During this therapy session the therapist will work with the soft tissues and muscles in the body to help restore balance and health.
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Deep Tissue is a very specific massage treatment in which the therapist uses knuckles and elbow's to "strip out" muscle tissue as far down to the bone as possible. Sound invasive? It is! It is definitely not for everyone. However there are millions of people out there that would never have their treatment any other way. This modality can be helpful to the following people: athletes who are considerably harder on their bodies than the average person, people who are undergoing physical therapy to aid in the breakdown process of scar tissue, (AFTER PROPER HEALING FROM THE INJURY HAS OCCURED), or anyone who has very dense tissue and thus responds better to the work.
The massages are geared towards athletes and their sports. For instance, working on a runner will require doing a lot of leg work, but the upper body work will be minimal. Moreover, massages will target those areas that tend to become injured. For example, a massage session with a tennis player will involve a forearm massage that is preventive in the development of tennis elbow. If necessary, a whole session could be spent only on important areas, and skip completely muscles that are not overused in a particular sport.
No. Bottom line, massage should never hurt if you don’t want it to. Some clients specifically say that they do not want to be in pain, and that should be respected. However, there are certain techniques that might cause discomfort. If the client and therapist communicate and agree on increased pressure, you can incorporate these deeper or more aggressive techniques into the massage. They can cause a little pain at the time, and a little bit of soreness the next day. I like to compare it to how you feel after a good workout. A good Massage Therapist will also be very skilled at warming and softening the tissue layer by layer to decrease the amount of pain felt by the client.
Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research, which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage, and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials, which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.
“I decided to go into sports massage when I experienced its effects on me as an athlete,” says McElroy. “Despite having no experience as a competitive runner in high school or college, I joined a team and realized I was pretty good. I trained while working full-time and ran my first marathon, missing the Olympic trial qualifying time by 21 seconds.