Swedish massage is rooted in Western practices of anatomy and physiology. To perform this type of massage, licensed therapists apply an arsenal of pressure styles that include stroking, kneading, striking, rubbing, and vibrations. Using massage oil to help their strokes glide, they focus the pressure along the muscles that run the length of the body.
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AD 1878: Dutch massage practitioner Johan Georg Mezger applies French terms to name five basic massage techniques, and coins the phrase "Swedish massage system". These techniques are still known by their French names (effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles), friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements), tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements), and vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)).
A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.
One difference, however, is that you may not want to drift off the same way you might during a conventional massage. "The only times I run into issues with people not liking their treatment is when they just plop down on the table and go to sleep," Colin says, adding that you should "be honest with your therapist, let them know what your goals and expectations are, and have that conversation."
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I expected to feel hoodwinked, but instead I felt . . . hopeful. Someone had listened to me. Someone had shown me compassion. Someone had offered me a path to recovery (albeit one unlikely to succeed, one for which no remotely plausible mechanistic explanation exists). Reflexology and many other forms of alternative medicine may be bunk, but they get one thing right: the experience matters.
During the massage, Debbe will use her hands, forearms, knuckles, elbows, hot stones, and fingertips to target specific muscle areas. She will try different pressure intensities to ensure you are comfortable. When trying to alleviate pain, pressure intensity matters, higher intensity massages may hurt but often provide the most relief. Massage therapy helps to relieve tension by relaxing the lower layers of muscular tissue. If you’re suffering from an old injury, or are nurturing a new injury, your intensity level may change. Don’t be afraid to let Debbe know.
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Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.
Deep tissue massages are usually “cross-grain,” moving against the muscles to relieve aches or pains rather than moving with them. This can sometimes feel a bit more painful as a result compared to standard “relaxation massages.” However, the pressure involved in deep massages is actually a good thing. It provides many of the benefits that this type of therapeutic massage has to offer. Deep tissue massages also tend to be slower-paced and longer than many other massages, ideally about 1.5 hours long, which gives bodily tissue enough time to warm up and then relax.
Want more treatment choices for you and your partner-in-crime? Check out Faina, where there are 15 options for the two of you to choose from. We suggest the Decadent Duet ($279), which includes a European manicure for her, a European pedicure and foot scrub for him and a 50-minute joint aromatherapy massage, complete with bubbly and decadent chocolate. But if you’re looking for the ultimate pampering sesh, the Champagne Extravaganza for Two ($229) includes a steam shower, a boozy body scrub and an aromatherapy body massage (30mins) followed by champagne and chocolate.
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Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.