7 Massage Techniques & Their Health Benefits

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sports-massageThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Massage is a natural remedy that has been practiced by cultures all over the world for thousands of years, with evidence in ancient civilizations from China to Egypt to Rome. And there’s a great reason that it has been practiced so widely: it’s good for you.

Studies show massage is quite effective for reducing pain and anxiety, improving blood pressure, stimulating joints and improving sleep.

In this article we review the various types of massage, the specific techniques of each and their benefits for various body systems.

#1: Swedish massage

Also known as “Classic massage,” Swedish massage is the most widely recognized type of massage. With a primary focus on relaxation, the techniques of Swedish massage focus on stimulating the body with friction, long strokes and gliding motions. Unlike the majority of the Eastern massage philosophies, the methods by which Swedish massage breaks up muscle adhesions, or knots, are based upon anatomy rather than energy points, and are therefore the most secular of the massage types.

How your body benefits from Swedish massage:

  • Increases the level of oxygen in the blood
  • Flushes toxins from the body’s tissues
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces tension

#2: Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage is similar to Swedish massage in the sense that it is also based upon anatomy and physiology, although deep tissue massage has a strong focus on working on the muscle fascia and connective tissue in order to realign imbalances and relieve tension. While it can be relaxing, deep tissue massage is best suited for providing relief from chronic pain, stiffness and strain. The technique is a mix between quick, intense strokes and deep pressure using the hands, forearms and elbows. Due to the intense nature of the technique, you may feel mild soreness in the days after your massage, although this will fade.

How your body benefits from deep tissue massage:

  • Realigns muscle imbalances
  • Reduces tension
  • Relieves chronic pain

#3: Sports massage

If you’re active at the gym, play organized sports or are training for an upcoming event, sports massage may be the type of massage you’re looking for. It is also suitable for those who suffer from chronic pain or restricted movement due to past injuries. One of the most specifically therapeutic types of massage, sports massage is not the go-to style if you’re just looking for relaxation; it typically focuses on problem areas and, just like deep tissue massage, may cause some discomfort at first. Sports massage can range from fairly light, fast strokes to very deep movements that stretch the muscle fascia and connective tissue.

How your body benefits from sports massage:

  • Removes knots within muscle
  • Increases range of motion
  • Stimulates blood flow

#4: Shiatsu massage

With origins in Chinese culture, the thing that stands out about shiatsu, which literally means “finger pressure,” is the incorporation of hypothetical high-energy points within the body. Shiatsu massage seeks to improve blood flow by unblocking and stimulating these points, also sometimes referred to as meridians, with applied pressure using fingers, thumbs, palms, knuckles, forearms and elbows. Known as “acupuncture without needles,” shiatsu massage is intense but also very therapeutic, and many people find it as enjoyable as Swedish massage. The masseuse will vary the amount of pressure depending on how you respond, so you needn’t worry about it being too much for you to bear.

How your body benefits from shiatsu massage:

  • Reduces tension
  • Increases relaxation
  • Improves circulation

#5: Thai massage

Thai massage, like shiatsu, follows the principle that there are energy points within the body that become blocked over time, and that these points need to be stimulated in order to regain proper balance and flow. If you’ve never had a Thai massage before, you’ll notice that the session is a lot more dynamic than other forms of massage, and, in essence, you’ll be taken through a series of assisted stretching poses that boost relaxation. Thai massage is particularly useful in helping with lymphatic drainage and restoring blood flow.

How your body benefits from Thai massage:

  • Stretches muscles
  • Reduces tension
  • Improves circulation

#6: Hawaiian (Lomi) massage

Practiced by the native people of the Hawaiian Islands, Lomi is a form of traditional massage that involves muscle stimulation with all parts of the arm, knees and feet as well as stones and even pieces of wood. Lomi-lomi (Lomi practitioners) will often play music during the session, using oils to enhance the technique and, at times, they may even dance around the table as they perform the massage. As Lomi has a basis in Hawaiian spirituality, the Lomi-lomi will usually begin the session with a prayer and will also work with the guest on breathing patterns in order to relieve feelings of past resentment and regret.

How your body benefits from Hawaiian massage:

  • Reduces tension
  • Increases relaxation
  • Improves blood flow

#7: Ayurvedic massage

Ayurvedic massage is a traditional Indian technique that involves elements of yoga and meditation alongside relaxing muscle stimulation. Warm oils and pastes are used, and the technique involves continuous strokes and dynamic pressure to release tension and circulate energy. In traditional ayurvedic massage, massage tables are not used, with guests usually either seated cross-legged or lying on a mat. Ayurveda practitioners in Western countries may include massage tables and chairs. An ayurvedic massage session can be very dynamic, and may include the use of warm oil on the body, head and even ears (with your permission).

How your body benefits from Ayurvedic massage:

  • Reduces tension
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Improves blood flow
  • Soothes skin

With all of the above types of massage you should make sure that the practitioner is certified, as this will ensure the quality of the massage and remove the chances of having an unpleasant experience. Take some time to research the most recommended masseuses in your area, and use this article as a guide when deciding which type of massage to go for. Most of all — enjoy yourself, your body will thank you!

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