massage therapy basket

What to Know When Choosing  a Massage

When you’re looking at a spa menu or choosing how to spend your time on the massage table, it can be helpful to understand more about some of the different popular massage techniques and modalities. Here is our guide with the info:

Swedish Massage

This technique includes long soothing strokes, usually with light to medium pressure, on the full body. A Swedish massage is done with oil and should feel like a warm hug. It resembles a dance, with fluid movements that flow and glide from one stroke to the next. I believe that this is one of the best modalities for overall stress reduction.

Firm Swedish

Just like Swedish, but with a firmer pressure. This is often what people who feel they need deep tissue really require. Since deep tissue massages are a higher priced service, many clients may be upgraded when they just need firmer pressure. Be discerning.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue involves locating knots or sources of pain then working intensely and pointedly in an area to break up the stagnation. Often this involves creating manual inflammation so the tense muscle will have a chance to release toxins and repair itself. Sometimes a deep tissue massage will only involve working a certain area of the body for the entire session. And, there are times when you may feel a bit beat up after it. So choose wisely and be prepared.

Sports Massage

Similar to deep tissue yet usually concentrated on an area affected by the repeated use and motion of a sport the client participates in regularly. Like deep tissue, this may not necessarily be a relaxing experience. The intensity can hurt—even after the massage. But, by the third day, your muscles should feel considerably looser and better for having gone through the pain.

Shiatsu

Like acupuncture, shiatsu works specifically with the meridians identified in Chinese medicine. The therapist uses their hands to find particular points that are blocked and applies pressure with their fingers the same way acupuncture needles are used to help move the energy. Shiatsu is a dry massage and no oil is used although the practitioner may use powder in certain areas of the body. A client is generally given loose clothing to wear as many stretches are performed during the treatment. Often the therapist will be stepping on you and it is not unusual to have a traditional Shiatsu treatment on the floor on a mat or futon.

Ayurvedic Abhyanga

This form of massage treatment originated in India and is an integral technique in Ayurveda. Abhyanga includes the use of warm sesame oil infused with specific herbs tailored to your unique elemental or energetic constitution based on a combination of the doshas. Abhyanga can be much like a Swedish massage except oilier! The oils are meant to soak into the body to help balance the constitution so they are used in abundance and meant to stay on after the massage.

Cranial Sacral Therapy

This very specific and gentle form of bodywork is meant to release compression in the head, neck, and spine. Cranial Sacral work is very exacting and quiet as the practitioner is seeking to align the movements of the hands with the pulsations of the body. This can take the form of simply holding the head or laying the hands on a specific area and waiting for the right moment to change positions. It is excellent for people who may be wary of massage or have experienced trauma that has made them skittish or tense.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage is a very light pressure massage meant to gently guide the circulation and flow of the lymphatic fluid from the extremities to the center of the body. After an illness or surgery, there can be lymphatic stagnation and build up in the tissues. Unlike the blood which is pumped by the action of our heartbeat, lymph does not circulate on its own and instead requires muscular movement or massage. By gently guiding the lymph towards the nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin, this fluid can return to the general circulation.

In addition to being relaxing and detoxifying to the tissues, lymphatic draining can support the healthy functioning of the immune system. Because of its strong effects on the fluids in the body, be prepared to be thirsty and to increase your water intake after a lymphatic massage.

Thai Massage

Sometimes called Thai Yoga or Thai Yoga Stretch, traditional Thai massage is done primarily on a futon on the ground. You will be given loose clothing to wear. This type of   massage is basically a series of assisted stretches with also added pressure applied by the practitioner to specific areas of the body. Neither oil nor powder is used. Thai massage can feel (and actually is) a workout! It can be helpful for improving flexibility and mobility.

Reflexology

While most people associate the feet with reflexology, it can also be performed on the hands and ears. Much like Shiatsu, the practitioner will apply firm and directed pressure moving along meridian lines to release stagnant energy. Sore spots found are held until they release to allow the flow of chi (life-force) to resume. Reflexology is more sophisticated than simply rubbing the feet.

Reiki and Energy Work

These modalities are performed clothed with the practitioner placing their hands lightly on or slightly above the person receiving the session. The practitioner then channels energy into areas where they may be detecting physical, emotional or spiritual pain. Since this type of healing work is a direct transfer of life-force energy, it is even more important to go to someone you trust. This work is excellent for anyone with whom touch may be more challenging and can feel very nurturing. Reiki and energy work can boost your sense of well-being and assist the body’s ability to heal itself.

Lisa Avebury
Lisa Avebury CMT is a massage therapist who has been practicing in Southern California since 1995. She is nationally certified by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards and is also a yoga instructor, meditation guide, sound healer, and wellness consultant. When she’s not busy working with her private and corporate clients she loves doing anything to help the plight of dogs in need everywhere: www.circleseeker.com