Everything you need to know about Massage Therapy
Massage treatments has been practiced in almost every culture throughout human history, but besides being very relaxing, what actually happens to your body?
It’s quite simple, as muscles and soft tissues in the body are manipulated it boosts your physical and mental health.
What is massage therapy?
Massage therapy involves different movements, pressures and techniques. The goal of slowing down your nervous system. Massage therapy can support wellness, heal injuries and provide relief from symptoms of stress and tension.
The premise of the treatment is the same – to rebalance and relax the body and to make you feel good.
Massage involves putting pressure on muscles, connective tissues, ligaments and tendons.
It can reduce anxiety and stress, help with pain, relax muscles and rehabilitate injuries.
Massage reduces levels of cortisol (stress inducing hormone) and increase other hormones that has a positive effect on your wellbeing including serotonin and dopamine.
With more than 250 variations of massage therapies available around the world it can get a little overwhelming. Below you’ll get to know the different types of massages, each achieving different results. We have explored all the different types and the benefits of each one.
The history of massage therapy.
Massage therapy dates back thousands of years. References to massage appear in writings from ancient Japan, China, India, Egypt, Arabic nations, Greece (Hippocrates defined medicine as “the art of rubbing”), and Rome.
Massage became widely used and recognized in Europe during the Renaissance. Two American physicians, in the 1850s, who had studied in Sweden introduced massage therapy in the United States, where it became popular and was promoted for a variety of health purposes. Massage fell out of favour in the United States with scientific and technological advances in medical treatment during the 1930s and 1940s. The interest revived back in the 1970s especially among athletes.
In 1989 the (MTA) Massage Therapy Association of South Africa – formerly known as the Holistic Massage Practitioners Association – was working towards the professional recognition of Therapeutic Massage Therapy in south Africa.
For 6 years since 1995 the Association had negotiations with the Chiropractors, Allied Heath Services Professions Interim Council and Homeopaths for the official registration of therapeutic Massage therapy as a statutory recognised profession.
The recognition was finally achieved on 12 February 2001 when the Allied Health Professions Act No. 63 of 1982 was duly amended to include the newly registered profession.
Different types of Massage Therapies
1. Swedish massage
Feeling stressed? A Swedish massage is the classic go-to for major relaxation.
This is probably the most well-known form of massage. It’s meant for deep relaxation of the body and increases the circulation by massaging the soft tissues gently. Massaging strokes include long, flowing strokes and light-to-firm pressure in the direction of the heart that will leave you feeling rejuvenated. The Swedish massage mainly focuses on relaxing your muscles and joints without going very deep.
Swedish massage is great for people that’s:
- new to massage
- gentle touch
- release tension
Four common strokes of Swedish massage are:
- Friction: circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase your blood flow and break down scar tissue
- Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue
- Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage
- Tapotement: a short, alternating tap with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand
For this massage, you’ll remove your clothes. You may choose to keep your underwear on. While lying on the massage table you’ll be covered with a sheet or towel. The massage therapist will work from area to area and will move the sheet to uncover the area they are actively working on.
You can usually book a 60 to 90 minutes session.
2. Deep Tissue Massage
As the name suggests deep layers muscles and surrounding tissue are targeted. Deep Tissue massages uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. Your muscles can get tight from repeated use — even from something less active like driving, hunching over your laptop or simply sitting. It’s a good option if you have muscles issues such as:
- chronic muscle pain
This type of massage uses much more pressure to reach deeper into muscles and tendons and focuses on relieving severe muscle tension. It targets the connective tissues that surrounds, supports and inhabit muscles, organs, bones and nerves. This results in an intense treatment, as nutrients and blood are caried to your muscles, helping to eliminate toxins. Deep tissue massage can help relieve chronic pain, it can also help with pain and stiffness from arthritis.
Massaging strokes include the use of slow strokes and deep finger pressure relieving tension from the deep layers of your connective tissues and muscles. Often knuckles, hands and elbows are used to really dig deep.
You can be naked during this massage or wear your underwear.
A Deep Tissue Massage can usually be book for30 to 60 minutes sessions.
3. Sports Massage
A sports massage is for athletes of all types of levels – from the weekend warriors to the major elite performers. A Sports Massage is a good option if you’re prone to injuries to help prevent them or as a warm up before a high-intensity workout or game. It focus on the impact of sporting activities on your muscle groups, joints, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues. This type of massage can help with blood flow, improving recovery times and preventing injuries.
It can also help with the following:
- reducing anxiety
- release muscles tension
- relieving pain
- promote flexibility
- improving athletic performance
- better sleep
- greater sense of wellbeing
A sports massage can be specifically aimed at a part of the body that need the most attention or as a full-body massage. Lots of different movements are involved in a sports massage including: Swedish style massage, soothing strokes can be altered with deep pressure depending on your needs, kneading, friction, compression, vibration, gliding, striking, stretching, percussion and trigger points.
You can have a sports massage while clothed or naked. If you prefer to wear clothing, make sure it’s loose, thin, and allows the therapist access to your muscles.
The massage will likely last 60 to 90 minutes.
4. Hot Stone Massage
A Hot Stone Massage uses heated stones to massage and relax sore muscles with or without pressure. During this type of massage, hot smooth, flat stones will be placed on different parts of your whole body combined with a Swedish Massage technique. The stones are usually basalt, a type of volcanic rock that holds heat.
Typical places to place the stones would be your stomach, chest, spine, face, palms, feet and toes.
Hot Stone Massage may help with:
- Improving blood flow
- Ease muscle tension
- Sleep quality
- Promote relaxation
- Alleviate pain
- Relieves stress
- Treat painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. The Hot Stones can be quite soothing and relaxing as they transmit heat deep into the body. Cold stones may also be used to soothe the skin and calm swollen blood vessels.
You don’t wear clothes for hot stone massage, unless you’d prefer to wear your underwear. You’ll be covered with a sheet.
Usually, the massage is 90 minutes long.
5. Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massage integrates essential oils into the massage experience generally using base line of Swedish or Deep Tissue massage techniques. The use of essential oils dates back thousands of years and was practiced by ancient cultures for centuries.
Popular scents includes lavender, peppermint, rose, and lemon, ginger, cedarwood and chamomile to name a few. Not only do they produce a wonderful smell, but each scent has a different chemical composition that effects how it’s absorbed and impacts the body.
Aromatherapy Massage promotes:
- Better sleep
- Emotional healing components
- Relieve muscle tension and pain
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Relieve symptoms of depression
Essential oils are diluted before being applied to the skin. During the massage, you’ll be given a full-body massage while inhaling essential oils through a diffuser and absorbing them through your skin. Sometimes, an aromatherapy massage will only focus on your shoulders, back, and head.
If you have a fragrance sensitivity or any known allergy to scents, you should avoid an Aromatherapy Massage.
You won’t wear any clothing, but underwear is optional.
An Aromatherapy Massage is generally between 60 and 90 minutes long.
6. Reflexology Massage
According to the Reflexology Association of Canada, Reflexology relies on the theory that parts of your body map to other areas of your body and is also known as ‘zone therapy’. For example, pressure on a certain part of your foot could help with stomach pain. The Massage Therapist will follow a reflexology map and use techniques such as thumb and finger walking to stimulate reflex points on your hands and feet that often corresponds to a related organ on the reflexology map. Reflexology complements holistic health practices.
Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the hands, feet and ears. It’s best for people who are looking to restore their natural energy levels or just to relax. It’s also a good option for those who aren’t comfortable being touched on the entire body.
Benefits of Reflexology include:
- reduced pain and the need for pain medication
- reduced fatigue
- improved sleep
- Stimulates endorphins, promoting an improved mood and overall mental health
- reduced anxiety and stress
You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.
A Reflexology Massage lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
7. Thai Massage
Thai Massage is different to other techniques. You actively participate, while lying on the floor or massage plinth and is best for people who want a more active form of massage.
This massage works the entire body using a sequence of movements that are similar to yoga-like stretches that fill the body’s tissue with oxygen. The Massage Therapist will use their body to move the client into a variety of positions.
It can also help improve:
- energy levels
- pain and stress
This type of massage includes mobilization of joints, acupressure and compression of muscles.
You can wear loose, comfortable clothing during the massage.
A Thai Massage lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
8. Couples Massage
A couples massage is a massage that you do with your partner, relative, or friend in the same room. It brings all the benefits of a regular massage, but with the chance to enjoy the relaxing experience with someone else.
You can each choose different types of massages, depending on your preference.
You’ll both be placed in the same environment while you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
9. Myofascial Release
Despite its potentially misleading name, Myofascial Release isn’t actually related to your face. Myofascial release therapy is all about easing pain in the thick connective tissues that support your muscles, also known as myofascial tissue. Myofascial tissue is a network that connects joints, muscles and bones. It provides support and keeps your organs in the right place.
Your therapist will massage apply pressure with their hands, elbows, ball or foam roller.
Benefit from myofascial therapy include:
- Alleviate stress
- Overall relaxation
- Improve restricted movement
- Relieve pain
Do not expect this to be gentle, it’s a very hands-on approach to pain management.
These massages usually last 60 minutes or longer.
Surprising Benefits of Massage Therapy
It can help you relax — but massage therapy can do much more than that.
Massage Therapy has a wealth of different benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
- Helps anxiety and depression
The phrase ‘human touch’ can be incredibly therapeutic and relaxing when in the context that is friendly, safe and professional.
- It can counteract all that sitting you do on a daily basis
Do most individuals are struggling with some kind of postural stress. The stress tends to manifest in the shoulders and neck. More advanced forms of postural stress show up as pain or weakness in the lower back caused to prolonged periods of sitting.
Massage Therapy can counteract the imbalance caused from sitting. Meaning you can keep your desk job as long as you schedule a regular massage.
- Improves sleep
Massage promotes relaxation, not only does massage encourage a restful sleep but it also helps those who can’t comfortably rest at night. Getting a massage can decrease cortisol (a stress hormone) and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters known to stabilize your mood.
- It eases muscle pain
Massage increases and improves circulation. The concept is the same as rubbing your elbow when you knocked it to relieve the pain.
- Boosts Immunity
According to a study done in 2010 – Massage boosts white blood cell count, which plays a big role in defending the body from disease.
- Relieves headaches
Massage is proven to decrease frequency and severity of tension headaches.
- Lowers stress
Having a massage prompts the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of wellbeing.
Levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine, are also reduced.
- Improves physical fitness
Elite and recreational athletes alike can benefit from massage theraphy. It’s proven that having a massage can reduce muscle tension, improve exercise performance and prevent injuries.
- Relieves constipation
A study shows that for those dealing with constipation, an abdominal massage may help with bowel movements.
- Promote faster healing
Massage can speed up the muscle healing process by activating molecules that not only reduce inflammation but also promotes mitochondrial growth.
- Enhance skin nourishment
Massage increases blood circulation allowing nutrients to stretch and replenish the skin. It improves the elasticity of your skin and can also open pores to allow your skin to breathe by means of removing dead skin cells.
- Improves blood circulation
Massage techniques actually moves blood through congested areas and facilitates the circulation because pressure is created. Good circulation brings tense, damaged muscles the oxygen rich blood they need to heal.
In Conclusion to everything about Massage Therapy
After the treatment it is encouraged to drink plenty of water since there can be detoxifying effects from a therapeutic massage. The real key is that it always takes more than one session to see any real improvements in a specific area of the body but even one massage can have a profound effect on your physical and mental well-being.
When a massage is applied in a correct and professional environment, it is definitely one of the most powerful methods of preventing and treating pain as well as helping one achieve a over-all state of well-being in a safe and healing way.
In todays’ life, given the high levels of stress under which many people live, Therapeutic Massage Therapy is not only a high beneficial therapy, but also the healthiest option to improve one’s quality of life.
Go on and book your Massage today for total relaxation…