Swedish massage, Hot Stone therapy, Deep Tissue, Japanese Shiatsu, Thai--varieties of massage therapy are myriad. Add to that the proliferation of many websites, for which massage deals are among the most popular and frequent offerings. But how do you know if you want that style of massage? There are literally dozens of styles of massage, from all over the world, each with its own movements, focus, and purpose. (Some will even leave you sore for days after; but that's part of the therapy.) The thing to consider is what you need, in terms of pain, relaxation, stress relief, or concentrated focus on an injury or specific muscle group. Here are the five most popular styles of massage in the U.S., plus a few other variations that are growing in popularity, with descriptions of method and purpose.
1 Learn about the various types of massage. They are very different.
Swedish: The basic, simple method most people imagine when they think “massage." It employs long strokes, kneading and circular movements to release tension and soothe muscles. A Swedish massage therapist will often use lotions or oils. Aromatherapy adds the element of essential oils to provide an emotional component to the therapy: reduce stress, energize, provide a sense of balance, or treat chronic emotional conditions.
Hot Stone: This therapy uses heated stones placed along the spine or other points on the body to loosen tight muscles and bring balance to the body’s energy centers. The density of the rock allows for slow release of heat over a long period of time. Sometimes the therapist will gently press the stones, increasing the depth of the heat. Cold stone therapy is a variant.
Deep Tissue: The purpose of Deep Tissue massage is to go much deeper than Swedish massage in order to affect the deep muscles and connective tissues of the body. It also employs slower strokes, more pressure, and cross-grain friction on muscles, providing increased flow for the body’s lymphatic system. It is especially helpful for chronic muscle pain, recovery from injury, or repetitive motion strain. Deep Tissue massage often leaves you sore for a day or two.
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