Beyond the feel-good effects of the treatment, the practice and purpose go deeper than the skin and muscles by taking specific reflex points on the foot to induce a healing response in corresponding organs and areas of the body, as seen in the chart to the left. Kneading the soft fleshy ball of the foot, pulling on the toes, tracing around the heel and pushing deep into the arch are just a few of the many small, intense movements you’ll experience during a reflexology treatment.
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A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point. If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.
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As the name suggests, deep tissue massage applies deep pressure onto specific trouble points. It feels very much like someone is torturing you on purpose by pushing into your knotted muscle, and the massage can leave you feeling sore. It's not just more pressure all over your body, however (which would be true torture), it's very specific, methodical treatment. As Moyer Wellness explains:
“Good pain” is at the heart of the pressure question: a strange, potent sensory paradox that many people actually seek out as the goal of therapy, consciously or unconciously. Either it isn’t literally painful (just intense), or it’s painful but desired anyway because of relief or belief: an actual biological relief or at least the belief that there is one. But it’s important to note that not all satisfying, relieving sensations are genuinely helpful (e.g. scratching a mosquito bite).
When the body is experiencing pain, it reacts with tension. During a deep tissue massage, discomfort is normal and will be felt if there are inconsistencies within the tissues. Discomfort is described as a "good hurt", the kind that feels good at the same time. On the other hand, pain can be described as being uncomfortable and not tolerated well by the body.
Thai massage works your entire body. It's one of the most invigorating types of massages, as the therapist rigorously manipulates your body, moving it into yoga-like stretches. (It's sometimes referred to as "Yoga for the lazy".) The therapist uses every part of his or her body—hands, knees, legs, and feet—to not only stretch you but also apply pressure on your muscles and loosen your joints. You might even get walked on! This type of massage is both energizing and, at times, relaxing.
That is, regardless of all other considerations, a massage therapist must talk to you about pressure, respect your preferences (they are more important than any treatment ideology), and be careful about stumbling into areas that need much less pressure (for comfort) or much more pressure (for satisfaction). Far too many therapists make the mistake of setting a “default” pressure for a client early on, and then using roughly that much pressure everywhere.