As many of you know, some better than others, I don’t like to be touched.
Well, actually, that’s now not necessarily always true.
During my past trip to Ojai, I re-discovered how relaxing and beneficial massages can be.
I know that most, if not all, of you get massages regularly…however today, I’d like to discuss the different health benefits and risks of the many types of massages.
For those of you who are as uninformed about massage as I was (until recently) the term is defined as the pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists use all parts of their body (hands, fingers, forearms, elbows and even feet) to “treat” their “patient”. The intensity of a massage can be from very a light stroking to deep pressure techniques.
The most common types of massages are:
Swedish: which involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on top most layers of muscles. This is also combined with movement of the joints. By relieving muscle tension, Swedish therapy can be both relaxing and energizing. And it may even help after an injury.
There are four stages of a Swedish Massage:
Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue.
Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage.
Friction: deep, circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase blood flow and break down scar tissue.
Tapotement: a short, alternating tap done with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand.
Deep-tissue Massage uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
Sports Massage is similar to Swedish massage but is geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
Trigger Point Massage focuses on sensitive areas (trigger points) of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Neuromuscular Massage is a form of soft tissue manipulation that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This medically oriented form of massage addresses trigger points, circulation, nerve compression, postural issues, and biomechanical problems that can be caused by repetitive movement injuries.
Chair Massage which is usually done on paitients that are fully dressed and seated back facing out of a chair. Usually lasting 15- to 20-minutes, they usually involve a massage of the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.
Shiatsu or “Finger Pressure” Massage
offers varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and are believed to be important for the flow of the body’s vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
Thai Massage is where the therapist uses his or her body to move the client into a variety of positions. This type of massage includes compression of muscles, mobilization of joints, and acupressure.
Hot Stone Massage involves the placement of warmed stones on certain areas of the body, such as acupressure points. The stones may be used as massage tools or be temporarily left in place. Used along with other massage techniques, hot stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body.
Reflexology uses hand, thumb, and finger techniques to stimulate certain areas of the feet. These areas are believed to correspond to different parts of the body. The massage, then, is expected to promote health and well-being.
During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with the various changes the body goes through during this nine month period. It can help by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during this time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get one into a comfortable position for this type of massage.
While most people get regular massages simply because they are physically and emotionally relaxing, they have now become part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations such as:
• Managing anxiety and depression
• Blood pressure control
• Infant growth
• Boosting immunity
• Cancer treatment
However, despite its benefits, massages aren’t meant to be used as a replacement for regular medical treatment.
Furthermore, there are some conditions one may have, where massage is contraindicated.
For example if one has unexplained pain, burns, certain types of cancer, blood clots, fractures, rheumatoid arthritis, severe osteoporosis, or is pregnant, massage should be discussed with one’s doctor to discuss the potential risks.
In rare circumstances, massage can even cause:
• Internal bleeding
• Nerve damage
• Temporary paralysis
• Allergic reactions to massage oils or lotions.
Massage can be performed by several types of health care professionals, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist or massage therapist. Ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a recommendation. Most states regulate massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential massage therapist such questions as:
• Are you licensed, certified or registered?
• What is your training and experience?
• How many massage therapy sessions do you think I’ll need?
◦ What’s the cost, and is it covered by health insurance?