According to experts, it's time to stop thinking of massage as a feel-good indulgence and start recognizing it as a valuable therapeutic technique. Massage treatments can be relaxing, pain-relieving, or used to speed injury after healing. Massage has been shown to be effective in treating stress, anxiety and depression, while chronic insomniacs report that they tend to sleep better after treatments. There are many different sorts of massage and it's worth thinking about what the purpose of your massage therapy is before deciding what sort of treatment will best suit you. A big thanks Weber, owner of The Spa, for all his help writing this!
1. PICKING the RIGHT MASSAGE
There are lots of different types of massages. Some have areas of overlap, and to add to the potential confusion, you may hear people talk about spa massage or clinical massage. It's worth defining these terms:
2. WHAT is SPA MASSAGE
Spa massage is simply massage that's delivered at a spa! The focus tends to be on client satisfaction rather than a specific therapeutic outcome. Spa treatments tend to be at the relaxing end of the scale. That's not to say that they don't have health benefits. Any competently delivered massage has measurable benefits, as all tend to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
3. WHAT is CLINICAL MASSAGE
Massage given at a clinic! Clinical massage is generally focused on a specific outcome, such as treating chronic pain or speeding healing after a sports injury. Clinical massage practitioners are often, though not always, more extensively trained than spa therapists.
Popular types of massage include:
4. SWEDISH MASSAGE
This is the most common sort of massage and often recommended as a first treatment for novices. The techniques of Swedish massage, including stroking (effleurage), kneading and rolling (petrissage), and friction form the basis for many other more targeted and deeper treatments. Swedish massage may also incorporate 'tapotement', tapping or even chopping movements, but these are generally avoided if the primary purpose of the session is relaxation.
5. DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
As the name implies, the purpose of this type of treatment is to work more deeply into the body, releasing long standing tension and knots. It's not unusual for a deep tissue massage to be accompanied by a degree of discomfort at the time of the treatment. Most patients reckon it's worth the short term cost however, as this is one of the treatments that can reduce pain from chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia.
6. AROMATHERAPY MASSAGE
In theory, it's possible to combine the use of essential oils with any massage approach. In practice, it's most likely that the masseuse will use Swedish massage techniques. Apart from smelling heavenly, essential oils have specific properties, and are selected depending on the outcome you're looking for. An aromatherapy massage can be relaxing, invigorating, or detoxifying. Aromatherapy massage could certainly be a contender if your main question is 'what is the most relaxing massage'.
7. PREGNANCY MASSAGE
Massage can be incredibly beneficial in treating common complaints of pregnancy including fluid retention, backaches, headaches and insomnia. Massage is safe for most pregnant women but it's worth checking with your doctor before you book a treatment.
8. FINDING a MASSAGE PRACTITIONER near YOU
Massage is popular and widely available, so there's likely to be a number of practitioners near you. Ask friends or family for recommendations, check your yellow pages or search the internet to find massage for relaxation. If you have a medical condition that you think may be helped by massage, speaking to your doctor is a good starting point.