Massage is simply the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body - the muscles, tendons and ligaments. A massage therapist's hands are his most important tool through which he not only treats the patient but also detects physical and emotional problems. The massage therapist palpates the patient's body to determine the condition of the tissues and the likely source of any pain, and thus the correct form of remedial treatment.
Massage works through the various body systems in one of two ways, a mechanical action and a reflex action. A mechanical action is created by moving the muscles and soft tissues of the body using pressure and stretching movement, thereby cleansing them of acids and deposits. This mechanical action breaks up fibrous tissue and loosens stiff joints.
A reflex is created when treatment of one part of the body affects another part of the body. Thus, by using reflex action, some therapists will treat a patient's stomach complaint by massaging the arms, and will alleviate pain in the legs by massaging the lower back.
All day spas offer massage treatment. However, not all offer a wide variety of massage types. This article explains the different massage techniques available at different spas:
A Swedish massage is meant to relieve muscle tension and loosen sore joints. It is performed over the entire body. There are five major strokes used in Swedish massage. The first is effleurage, or stroking. The second is petrissage. This is a grabbing and lifting of the muscles. The third is friction. This is where the massage therapist massages the thickest parts of muscles by working their fingers and thumbs in a circular motion. The fourth is tapotement, or tapping and chopping strokes. The final major stroke used in Swedish massage is vibration. This is where the massage therapist flattens their fingers on a muscle and then shakes rapidly in order to create a vibration.
Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with the addition of one or more scented plant oils called essential oils to address specific needs. The massage therapist can select oils that are relaxing, energizing, stress-reducing, balancing, etc. Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to stress-related conditions or conditions with an emotional component.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that targets the parts of muscle that lie far below the surface. All muscles in the human body have many layers, and the lower levels cannot be reached by normal massage techniques. Deep tissue massage therapists use their fingers, thumbs, and, occasionally, elbows to reach the deepest layers of muscle. Deep tissue massage generally involves quite a bit of pressure and friction.
Heated, smooth stones are placed on certain points on the body to warm and loosen tight muscles and balance energy centers in the body. The massage therapist may also hold stones and apply gentle pressure with them. The warmth is comforting. Hot stone massage is good for people who have muscle tension but prefer lighter massage.
A sports massage is not only used to relieve pain -- it is commonly used to prepare muscles prior to activity. Using techniques comparable to that of a Swedish massage, a sports massage can prepare muscles for activity and heighten an athlete's energy. After activity, a sports massage can cool muscles and prevent injury.
Thai massage is different European massage techniques in that it focuses on circulation and pressure points. Thai massage promotes internal health and muscle flexibility through peripheral stimulation. Thai massage therapists use their hands, elbows, knees and feet.
A Shiatsu massage consists of a finger-pressure technique that utilizes acupuncture points. Shiatsu massage is performed with the client in a reclined position. The massage therapist then applies varying degrees of pressure with their fingers, thumbs, palms, elbows or knees. Shiatsu treatment relaxes the body while stimulating blood circulation and lymphatic flow.
Also called prenatal massage, pregnancy massage is becoming increasingly popular with expectant mothers. Massage therapists who are certified in pregnancy massage know the proper way to position and support the woman's body during the massage, and how to modify techniques. Pregnancy massage is used to reduce stress, decrease swelling, relieve aches and pains, and reduce anxiety and depression. The massage is customized to a woman's individual needs.
Although reflexology is sometimes called foot massage, it is more than simple foot massage. Reflexology involves applying pressure to certain points on the foot that correspond to organs and systems in the body. Reflexology is very relaxing, especially for people who stand on their feet all day or just have tired, achy feet.
The massage techniques listed above are the most common forms of massage offered at day spas. However, there are many other massage techniques, and many go by alternate names. To determine what massage technique is best for your needs, discuss what you're looking for in your massage treatment with your spa of choice.