One of the most commonly taught and well-known massage techniques, Swedish massage is a vigorous system of treatment designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. Five basic strokes, all flowing toward the heart, are used to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. The disrobed client is covered by a sheet, with only the area being worked on exposed.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.
A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).
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The therapist might use Swedish massage to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids, and trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles), and stretching to increase the range of motion. Other techniques could include myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and orthopedic assessment. The therapist should also have a good foundation in hydrotherapy modalities including cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which can help with recovery, repair and healing processes.
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Like massages, chiropractic care can be beneficial for lowering pain and improving recovery. It’s also been shown to lower stress, headaches and more. One way that chiropractors help treat pain is by lowering mechanical compression and irritation of spinal joints, which can send nerve signals throughout the body that increase inflammation and irritation.
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The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are certain points or "reflex areas" on the feet and hands that are connected energetically to specific organs and body parts through energy channels in the body. By applying pressure to reflex areas, a reflexologist is said to remove energy blockages and promote health in the related body area.
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Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Light massage is also used in pain management and palliative care. Carotid sinus massage is used to diagnose carotid sinus syncope and is sometimes useful for differentiating supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from ventricular tachycardia. It, like the valsalva maneuver, is a therapy for SVT. However, it is less effective than management of SVT with medications.
Aspects of sports massage therapy are gaining popularity as useful components in a balanced training regimen. Sports massage therapy can be used as a means to enhance pre-event preparation and reduce recovery time for maximum performance during training or after an event. Athletes have discovered that specially designed sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind for optimal performance.
Deep Tissue Massage reaches into deeper layers of tissue than Swedish Massage. It focuses on more specific areas than Swedish Massage which tends to work the entire body. A practitioner implementing Deep Tissue Massage uses slow and strong strokes. He or she works against the grain of the muscle or follows the flow of the contours of the muscles, fascia or tendons. Deep Tissue Massage Therapy works to relieve lower back pain and loosen tight muscles.
Several mechanisms for deep massage’s natural stress-relieving effects include its ability to dilate blood vessels and also lower activity of the limbic system (including the hypothalamus), which is responsible for autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion. Massage has been shown to improve relaxation by boosting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by heart rate, blood pressure and heart rate variability. (8, 9)