If one of your New Year’s resolutions involves taking better care of yourself, massage can be instrumental. No longer just a luxury for the affluent, massage is an increasingly popular method of treating the body and mind, with certified massage therapists available in spas, health clubs, physical therapy clinics, standalone studios and more.
Most people equate massage with relaxation and stress relief, which indeed are valuable outcomes, but massage offers many more therapeutic benefits. Check out this summary of the many massage benefits and types, and then make an appointment!
Massage Benefits and Types
Research continues to support how massage can enhance physical and mental health, including:
- Alleviates stress
- Promotes relaxation
- Reduces pain – arthritis, headaches, low-back, fibromyalgia, sports-specific injuries, etc.
- Stimulates blood and lymph circulation
- Can boost immune system
- Improves posture
- Can lower blood pressure
- Eases anxiety and depression
- Improves exercise performance
- Can enhance balance
- Promotes better sleep
- Increases range of motion and flexibility
- Tempers effects of dementia
- Strengthens cardiovascular health
- Encourages post-operative recovery
- Helps heal injuries
- Boosts cognitive focus and attention
- Fights fatigue
The bottom line is that massage simply makes you feel better, and is a smart investment in your health and quality of life.
While a general rub-down usually feels great, today, there are many different types of massage that are effective at addressing various conditions and health issues.
- Swedish – This is the most common type of massage, and involves gentle, long, kneading strokes, along with circular motions and light, rhythmic, tapping strokes on the top layer of muscles. It can be both relaxing and energizing, and is ideal for first-timers.
- Deep tissue – Deep tissue massage encompasses uses slow, deliberate strokes that apply concentrated, firmer pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues under the skin. It can be used to address trouble spots or areas of chronic tension.
- Trigger point — Areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, or trigger points, can cause pain in other parts of the body. By relieving trigger points with broad flowing strokes and stronger pressure, this type of massage can reduce pain.
- Sports — Designed to prevent and treat injuries, improve flexibility, and improve athletic performance, sports massage focuses on specific muscle groups, depending on which sport the athlete plays. The massage strokes are typically faster than a Swedish massage, and treatment also may include pressure point therapy, friction and joint mobilization.
- Shiatsu – This form of Japanese massage reduces stress and muscular tension through pulsing or rhythmic pressure. It is intended to stimulate acupressure points on the body to improve energy flow.
- Hot stone – Ideal for pain and tension relief, hot stone massage incorporates heated stones that the therapist places on the body, along with Swedish massage techniques.
- Thai – This active form of massage involves stretching where the therapist moves you into different positions (yoga-like) while applying firm pressure. It improves flexibility and energy.
- Reflexology – This concentrates solely on the pressure points on the feet, hands and ears to relax.
- Chair – Here, you sit in a massage chair and remain clothed, while the therapist addresses your back, shoulders and neck. It’s great if you’re new to massage or short on time.
- Prenatal – Pregnant women lie on a specially designed table while the massage therapist works on the back, hips and legs, or other areas of discomfort, with Swedish massage techniques.
Ultimately, if you’re not sure what type of massage is best for you, speak with a therapist or spa staff first.