If you ask the average person what the word massage means or what a massage entails, they’ll probably say something along the lines of, “A therapist rubs away the stress in your back!” While this is definitely at least partly true, the real truth is that there is a wide variety of different strokes, techniques, and even accessories that all fall into the category of massage. While some are gentle and some more forceful, each technique has an accompanying philosophy and mindset, which many people don’t even think much about. Please enjoy the following guide that breaks down some of the most common massage strokes!
This is the type of massage that the uninitiated probably thinks of as a “typical” massage that you’d find if you walked into a regular salon or health clinic without searching for a specialty. Swedish massage utilizes prolonged strokes, gentle kneading, tapping, and application of slight pressure to help relax the muscles. Swedish massage focuses on the different structure of human anatomy to encourage blood flow in the direction of its return to the heart. Swedish massage therapy generally begins with broader strokes before focusing on smaller areas – for instance, beginning with the neck and shoulders, going down the arms, and then ending with your hands, all for the purpose of increasing oxygen levels and improving blood circulation.
Trigger points are areas in your body that form after muscle fibers have tightened abnormally. This is usually a result of overuse, injury, or hyperextension. Attention is given to the trigger point itself, of course, but unfortunately, pain and stress often radiate from the worn-out spot to other nearby parts of the body, so trigger-point massage also focuses on related body parts.
First, we have to say that there are many different types of Asian massage techniques, and we encourage you to look up each one individually. However, nearly all of the Asian massage techniques focus on energy levels rather than anatomy. Instead of connective tissue and muscles, Asian massage focuses on following these energy lines and releasing energy blockages. There are many complex strokes in all the different kinds of Asian massages that accomplish this, which all work to bring the body back to its ideal energy balance.
Nearly the antithesis of the gentle Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage therapy is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Using slow, strong strokes, deep-tissue massage seeks to reach the deeper layers of connective tissue.
Message therapists will even use their elbows in addition to their hands to really stimulate the deeper tissues. This massage technique can help with muscle damage, chronic pain, and other issues, since engaging the deeper connective tissues releases neurotransmitters including serotonin and oxytocin, both of which help regulate your mood. Not only will you feel a deep relaxation physically, you’ll feel calm and content for a longer period after your session. Additionally, deep-tissue massage has all the other benefits of gentle massage, including improved blood flow.
Similar to trigger-point massage therapy, sports massages are traditionally given to people who have injured or strained one of their muscles. Using similar strokes to the Swedish massage, sports massage therapy is designed to improve stamina and reduce fatigue, not to mention the mental preparation that will get you in the right mindset for a great performance.
Athletes will benefit from sports massage since their therapists will work with them to form a plan that best suits their physical routine to prevent or treat any injuries.
However, even if you don’t play sports regularly, if you have weak muscles or fatigued joints, this type of massage therapy may be right for you!
As a closing note, we strongly encourage you to talk to your health professional before consulting a massage therapist. If they refer you to a different type of physical therapy, don’t go running behind their back for a massage!
They know what’s best for you. On a similar note, be sure to disclose any medical issues to your massage therapist before the session begins. That said, there’s nothing wrong with doing on your own research on the different techniques and types of massage (and, just maybe, treating yourself to one).