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Massage, in its simplest form, refers to the many adaptations of touch that occur naturally; for example we instinctively start gently stroking a baby on the back to stop her from crying, we instinctively start to rub our hands together when we feel a bit cold, we naturally start to rub an aching back. As humans became aware of the power of touch, they started using it for wellness, stress relief, relaxation, as well as treatment of various physical issues. Over the course of time and as people gained knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the human body, massage was adopted as a profession. As the popularity of massage therapy grew, individual massage therapists started developing their own new methods of massage. Today, there are more than 80 different types of massage therapy in practice throughout the world. From the classic Swedish massage to Shiatsu, we are spoiled for choices when it comes to choosing a style of massage that suits us the best.
Here is a list of a few of the different types of massage that are widely practiced in different parts of the world.
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage offered at massage centres, spas, gyms, and wellness centres. It is basically a relaxation-focused massage style and is the foundation of most massage practiced today. Swedish massage therapists use a combination of the five basic strokes; i.e. effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement, and vibration with less pressure and intensity and concentrate only on the superficial tissues of the skin. The basic aim of this type of massage is to ease muscular pain and promote overall relaxation.
This type of massage is especially helpful for those who are recovering from an injury or for those who are new to massage and want to just relax and unwind.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage as the name suggests is a more focused, intense, aggressive, and methodical treatment that targets the deep muscles/tissues of the body. The basic aim of this type of massage is to strip out muscle tissues in order to reach the deeper layers and work on knots or myofascial trigger points that produce pain. In doing so, the massage therapists deliberately apply more pressure and use intense strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, which sometimes leaves you feeling sore. Sometimes experiencing a little pain is the only way to get relief from it.
This type of massage is ideal for those who suffer from chronic pain or lingering injuries that affect their mobility. Deep tissue massage is ideal for treating various musculoskeletal issues, such as stiff neck and upper back, sore shoulders, leg muscle tightness, low back pain, as well as sports injuries.
Although in many ways common to the Swedish massage, Hotstone massage uses heated basalt stones along with hand-on massage to ease muscle tension, improve blood flow and relieve pain. The combined effect of heated basalt stones and massage helps reduce stiffness and discomfort. The therapist may use these heated stones as a kneading tool or place them on key areas on the body to loosen tight (knotted) muscles and melt away tension.
This type of massage is best for general relaxation and for releasing the tension in your back and shoulders.
Shiatsu which literally means “finger pressure” is a form of Japanese bodywork. The basic aim of this type of massage is to unlock the blockages within the muscles and tissues that stop the body’s energy (known as “Qi” in Chinese medicine) from flowing freely. The disturbances in the free flow of “Qi” are believed to be the cause of stress and pain. Massage therapists use pressure with their fingers to release the tension from various parts of the body such as limbs, joints, back, legs, etc. Sometimes they also use their elbows, knees, palms, or thumbs or even their knees to work out tension from the body.
This type of massage is ideal for treating conditions like back and neck pain, arthritis, sciatica, insomnia, and even sinus problems.
As the name suggests, this type of massage is designed for people who are physically active regardless of whether they are professional athletes or not. Sports massage therapists use a combination of Swedish massage and Shiatsu massage techniques and concentrate only on specific areas/parts of the body that are related to your sports.
Physically active people receive this type of massage before or after the event to enhance their field performance and prevent any sports-related injuries. In addition to this, sports massage can also be used to treat some sports-related injuries, improve flexibility and speed up the recovery process. People who do not participate in any sports can also benefit from this type of massage as it can help in muscle pain and restricted range of motion.
Unlike all the other different types of massage techniques mentioned above, Thai massage is different in the sense that it does not use the relaxing kneading and gliding motions to relieve pain and tension, rather this type of massage uses stretching, pulling, and rocking techniques similar to yogic moves to produce the desired results. This is the reason, Thai massage is sometimes also referred to as “Yoga massage”. Another aspect that makes Thai massage different than other forms of massage therapies is that you remain fully clothed during the massage sessions.
Since this type of massage involves intense stretching, rocking, and pulling, it is ideal for those who want to improve their flexibility and range of motion.
There are many other different types of massage therapies practiced in different parts of the world that offer an array of physical, physiological, and mental health benefits beyond simple relaxation.