Thoughts of massage often conjure images of exotic locations and feelings of pampering and indulgence. While that can be the case, massage is also a powerful tool in your arsenal of well-being that can happen at the local health club, in your place of work or even in an airport.
It’s time to consider massage not as a luxury but as a healthy habit leaving you feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Massage is the process of pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. The pressure can vary from light to deep pressure.
There are many different types of massage, some are meant to relieve muscle pain and injuries, while others are aimed to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Benefits include relief for chronic pain conditions, back pain, headaches and muscle tension. Massage has also been shown to lower blood pressure, alleviate joint stiffness and reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
Human touch can be calming for many but not for everyone. If the idea of another person touching you creates anxiety, consider an alternate style like reflexology.
A few common types of massage include:
A gentle whole-body style using long strokes, kneading and circular movements to help relax muscles and joints. If you’ve never had a massage before, this is a good place to start.
Slower, more forceful strokes characterize this style that targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It targets chronic muscle problems like soreness, injury or imbalance. This style is more intense so if you’re sensitive to pressure, it may not be for you.
This style focuses massage on specific spots with tight muscle fibers that result from overuse or injury. These tight spots can cause pain in other areas of the body so releasing them can provide relief. If you have a chronic pain condition, this may be helpful.
Reflexology focuses on applying firm but gentle pressure to specific points in your feet, hands and ears. You can easily be fully dressed for this type of massage, so if you are uncomfortable undressing or being touched, this may be a good option for you.
This is a Japanese style of massage that relieves tension. The therapist will use their hands, palms and thumbs to apply pulsing or rhythmic pressure. This can be done with clothing on and is another good option for those uncomfortable with undressing.
There are also specialty forms of massage that target a specific population like Pre-Natal, Couples or Sports massage and other forms that add a different experience to a massage like Hot Stone (added heat) or Aromatherapy (added essential oils).
Here are some common questions:
How Do I Choose A Therapist?
First off, it is recommended to use a licensed or certified therapist. You can always inquire about their credentials. From there, it is a matter of personal preference. Everyone has different needs. Keep trying different therapists until you find one that you like.
Do I Have to Completely Undress?
Generally, the point of a massage is to be able to relax. Thus, undress to the level you are comfortable. Most commonly, patients leave their underwear on and body parts not being massaged are covered with sheets and blankets. Do what works for you.
Should I Talk?
During the massage, talk if you like or don’t speak at all, the choice is yours, however, you should always feel empowered to communicate with your therapist:
- Mention any health concerns or conditions at the beginning. Areas of pain, injuries, or open wounds should be noted.
- If the pressure is too much, let them know. Massage should not hurt. If you are gritting your teeth, tell your therapist it’s too much.
- If the environment is too cold, too hot, the music is too loud, etc. don’t be afraid to speak up. Your therapist’s primary job is to help you enjoy the experience. They want you to come back.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Avoid eating a big meal before a massage.
- Also avoid strenuous exercise like lifting weights, running or swimming right after a massage. It is better to relax and absorb the effects of the therapy.
- Don’t stress about falling asleep. It indicates you are relaxed (mission accomplished) and your therapist will wake you at the end if you nod off.
- While massage can help with a chronic pain condition, don’t expect it to disappear in one session. You probably developed your backache over a cumulative amount of time and it will likely take repeated sessions to feel relief.
Everyone feels differently after a massage and how you feel will likely correlate with the type of massage you had. A calming style may leave you feeling relaxed and drowsy. Deep tissue may leave you experiencing a little soreness for the next day like you had a workout. Other styles may leave you feeling energized and able to take on the world.
If you have never had a massage, now might be a good time to give it a try. There are many benefits that can improve your well-being and many styles to cater to your specific needs.
As the holidays approach, stress levels may rise and massage can provide relief. Plus, it makes a nice gift!