Once thought of as a relaxation or spa treatment, massage is increasingly seen as part of a basic health and fitness regimen. In fact, doctors and physical therapists increasingly prescribe massage to help treat muscle and joint pain, back and sports injuries, and more. And many workplaces now offer massage as a benefit, bringing masseuses into the office with massage chairs.
Recent research shows that massage has numerous health benefits, including improving circulation and boosting immunity. Massages can relieve back pain, headaches, and arthritis, and improve sleep. And of course massages are a great way to ease stress and combat anxiety, too.
Consider adding regular massages to your self-care routine. To make massages more affordable, look for discounts on Groupon and other websites, or purchase multiple appointments at once for a package discount.
Reflexology massage is often quite affordable, and massage schools may offer lower-cost appointments with masseuses getting their training hours. Here is a guide to the most popular forms of massage.
Deep Tissue Massage
One of the most common types of massage, deep tissue does as the name suggests and goes deep to loosen and realign muscles and connective tissue. Deep tissue massage is particularly effective for back, neck, and shoulder pain, muscle tension in the legs, and chronic joint pain.
Using longer, slower strokes than deep tissue and gentle kneading, Swedish massage is best for relieving muscle stiffness and and loosening joints to increase range of motion.
This type of massage, often offered by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners and in Asian massage clinics, focuses on pressure points, often primarily in the feet and hands. The ears, neck, and scalp are other important areas, and some reflexology massages are full-body massages. In Chinese medicine, specific pressure points correspond with different parts of the body, releasing energy, or “chi” and focusing healing.
Used by athletes to condition their muscles, increase range of motion, and prevent or treat injuries, sports massage can be used by anyone pre- or post-workout. A skilled sports massage therapist will hone in on problem spots, particularly the junctions between muscles and tendons.
The sense of smell is incorporated in aromatherapy massage through the use of essential oils that have individual properties, such as lavender for stress release, eucalyptus for energy and clarity, or wintergreen for joint pain. Aromatherapy can be incorporated into Swedish, deep tissue and other massage techniques. Aromatherapy massage is particularly effective at reducing stress, improving sleep and boosting mood.
Pressure Point Massage
Related to reflexology, this type of massage is directed at relieving pressure on specific points and easing knots of tight tissue. Other specific types of pressure point massage include acupressure and myofascial trigger massage.