Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)
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A traditional Swedish massage involves the whole body. You will begin on either your back or your stomach and flip over at the halfway point. If you have an area of particular concern, such as a tight neck, you can ask your therapist to spend more time in this area. Depending on your preferences, you can ask your massage therapist to use light, medium, or firm pressure.
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Many training programs are now available throughout the world that require a minimum of 500 hours of basic massage therapy training, in addition to continuing education credits that can require up to another 400–500 hours. (19) Always make sure you’re “in good hands” by first checking that a therapist has proper qualifications and experience, specifically asking about training in NMT, trigger point therapy, sports massage, pain management, myofascial release and orthopedic massage.
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Ugly pain in massage therapy is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that are not going to offer even minimal, delayed benefits, and may even be dangerous. It’s important to be able to spot ugly pain for what it is and completely eliminate it from any therapy you’re receiving. What kinds of handling may cause “ugly” pain?
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As for the commonly held belief that extra liquids are needed post-massage: that’s a myth, explains Gammal. “Massage does not release or flush out any toxins from the body, which means it won’t dehydrate you. Massage helps with recovery from lactic acid but doesn’t get rid of lactic acid.” Post-massage, you can just resume your normal hydration habits.
Specialized massage tables and chairs are used to position recipients during massages. A typical commercial massage table has an easily cleaned, heavily padded surface, and a horseshoe-shaped head support that allows the client to breathe easily while lying face down and can be stationary or portable, while home versions are often lighter weight or designed to fold away easily. An orthopedic pillow or bolster can be used to correct body positioning.
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Reflexology is based on an absurd theory and has not been demonstrated to influence the course of any illness. Done gently, reflexology is a form of foot massage that may help people relax temporarily. Whether that is worth $35 to $100 per session or is more effective than ordinary (noncommercial) foot massage is a matter of individual choice. Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care or to unnecessary medical testing of people who are worried about reflexology findings.
A person receiving a deep tissue massage usually lays on the stomach or back in one position, while deep pressure is applied to targeted areas of the body by a trained massage therapist. The massage is beneficial mostly because it helps stimulate blood flow and relieve muscle tension, while at the same time lowering psychological stress and releasing “happy hormones” like serotonin and oxytocin.
The Swedish body massage has become the most common massage practice in the West, and the one that’s associated with that quintessential massage blissfulness. That’s because of the soothing strokes and gentle kneading, which are meant to relax, not stimulate, the body. And yet studies have shown, Swedish massage reduces stress, promotes health, and prevents injuries. At most spas, Swedish massage is the most popular treatment, and it’s for good reason. It helps jangled nerves and release neck knots without being too demanding of the spa-goer.
Friction strokes work on deeper muscles than the techniques previously described. The friction technique is a pressure stroke and is the deepest that is used in Swedish massage. The massage therapist applies pressure by placing the weight of his or her body on the flat of the hand and the pads of the thumbs, knuckles, fingers, or the back of the forearms, and then releases the pressure slowly and gently. This movement should be a continuous sliding motion or a group of alternating circular motions.
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Deep tissue massages are often utilized following injuries to help break up newly forming scar tissue that can make recovery more difficult and lead to stiffness. Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation and muscle spasms by stimulating blood flow, loosening up muscles to allow for more oxygen and also helping reduce the nervous system’s automatic stress response.
Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It is a free-flowing and gliding movement towards the heart, tracing the contours of the body using the palm of one or both hands. Oil is applied with this stroke to begin the first stage of massage. The therapist applies a light or medium constant pressure. This stroke is used to warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm the nerves, improve blood circulation and heart function, and improve lymphatic drainage.