All you need to know about massage therapy: definition, benefits, types and techniques
Nowadays massage is more and more a necessity for a variety of reasons. It can be for simple relaxation, preventive treatments or therapeutic. Everyone looks for a good massage to relief and give our bodies a break. This is due to several factors, including the increasing stress levels of our day-to-day activities, and a more sedentary lifestyle.
These factors negatively influence the muscles (contractions) and sometimes are the cause of mental health problems like depression. To alleviate these harmful consequences of everyday life, we can resort to massage, which can be easily fit into our habits and behaviours, and will gradually bring its benefits to light, reinvigorating our physical and mental health. Find out in this article all you need to know about massage therapy.
Definition – what is a massage?
From wikipedia, the word comes from the French massage "friction of kneading", which, in turn, comes from the Arabic word مَسَّ massa meaning "to touch, feel".
Using this definition from Medicinenet, it is the “therapeutic practice of manipulating the muscles and limbs to ease tension and reduce pain. Massage can be a part of physical therapy or practiced on its own. It can be effective for reducing the symptoms of disorders of or pain in the muscles and nervous system, and it is often used to reduce stress.”
Indeed, the hands (and feet) stimulate, through various techniques and movements, the entire human body. The effect of the hands or feet of a therapist are felt on the skin, ligaments, muscles and tendons. It promotes relaxation and the physical and mental well-being of those who use it.
The relaxation felt during the massage is the result of the relaxation of the muscular zones having accumulated the tensions generated by the day-to-day stress (physical and mental) to our bodies. Massage is particularly useful for the relief of pain in muscles and joints. It also can contribute to the assimilation of food and to the discharge of waste and toxic substances. Moreover, it helps reduce stress and anxiety levels. Whether it is lying on the floor, on a table or even sit down, you can enjoy a good massage and feel renewed after the session.
Benefits - What are the benefits of a massage?
Why having a massage is a simple question with many benefits to answer to with!
Massage therapy has many benefits on the human body. It reliefs the tensions accumulated at the muscular level but also helps decompress and relief the stress so that you can fight off the fatigue and tension generated by the day-to-day activities. There is nothing like having a message to decompress or relax at the end of the work day, and it constitutes a great opportunity to relax and relief all the tension from your soul and your mind and become fully embedded into a great sensation of relaxation, improved muscular tone and enjoy many of the benefits of a relaxing massage.
The benefits of massage can be separated into two big areas: the physical benefits and the mental well being benefits.
Physical benefits of a massage:
Most massage techniques serve the same purpose, to enhance our bodies’ natural ability to regenerate and restore a healthy state. Some example are:
relief pain in the neck
relief pain in the back
relief pain in the shoulder
soften and tonify muscles
strengthen the immune system
stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation
weight loss aid
fight against sleep and digestion disorders
soften and maintain the elasticity of the skin
evacuate toxins, waste and fat
optimize the functioning of vital organs
improve the flexibility of the body
improve posture and figure
Psychological and mental benefits of a massage:
As classic Latin put it: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body), by improving our body health, massage therapy can at the same time boost our mental health. Massage gives the receiver inner peace and positive energy, and many of the following:
reduce the level of stress and anxiety
confer a deep state of well-being
create perfect environment for mindfulness
connect with your inner self
explore the joy of living
relaxation and letting go
focus on the present
focus on things that are really important and essential
In view of its benefits, it is now widely recognized that massage is important for health, physical and mental well-being. However, in order for the benefits it gives you to be lasting on the body and the mind, you must get a regular massage.
Types – different types of massage treatments:
Across the world, there is a variety of forms of massage therapy. Although the overall goal is the same, not all of these forms of massage work on the same parts of the body and do not use the same techniques. To choose the massage that best meets your needs, it is necessary to understand all these practices in order to make an informed choice.
1. Swedish massage
Probably the most common type of massage in the world, it is therapeutic and gentle, but also invigorating and deep thanks to pinch-moves and long strokes. It is effective in toning and relaxing the muscles of the body.
2. Californian massage
Also called sensitive massage, it is very soft and gentle so it is better for relaxation than for pain relief. It is, therefore, very convenient for reducing stress levels.
3. Thai massage
This type of massage consists of a succession of stretching and pressing on muscles and joints. There are no oils or tools of any kind used in this massage: it is the skill of the therapist that will make you come out of the session completely renewed inside and out. Great for chronic pain relieve and increased blood flow.
4. Sports massage
It is recommended to heal and prevent injuries and pain. Contrary to what you might imagine, it is not intended exclusively for athletes. Sports massages are often delivered before or after physical activity depending on the customers’ needs, preferences and goals.
5. Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage therapy is similar to Swedish massage, but the pressure, being deeper, is more beneficial in releasing muscle tension. The focus is on the deeper layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia (the protective layer that surrounds muscles, bones and joints). Deep tissue massage is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal problems, such as tension and sports injuries.
Foot reflexology relaxes, balances and stimulates through the massage of the feet, which is full of nerve endings very sensitive to the touch. It is generally performed through stretching, gentle gliding and pressure at certain points.
7. Massage on the chair
It is a quick and convenient massage. It is usually done in less than 30 minutes. It can be done at work, during lunch breaks and more. Using a special chair, the therapist massages your upper body muscles such as those of the neck, back and shoulder. It is normally used as a quick relaxation and anti-stress massage fix.
8. Hot stone massage
It is very soft and soothing. You can get a massage with a hot basalt stone soaked in essential oil. It's a relaxing massage and it is applied on strategic points so that heat diffuses to your body and enhances the relaxing and health benefits of the massage.
9. Herbal Massage
It provides a moisturizing and detoxifying action for the skin and, simultaneously, a deep relaxation to the body, improving, above all, stress, insomnia and rheumatic problems. With the pressure, two effects are achieved: massage, when treating the body; and aromatherapy, a consequence of the content of the herbal compress.
10. Prenatal massage
It is naturally intended for pregnant women. It heals and relieves the small ailments that bother women during pregnancy. This type of massage reduces stress and anxiety due to discomfort caused by pregnancy.
11. Body Scrub
Great way to get a deep cleansing of the skin which will remove dead cells and leave the skin soft and glowing. It is generally followed by a relaxing aromatic massage will complete the body treatment and help you regain harmony between body and mind.
12. Four-hand massage
It is a massage that is done by two massagers simultaneously. Many of the above massage therapies can be performed ‘four-hand’ and it is a great way to maximise the benefits of the session and focus more on specific areas of the body.
Techniques – what are the different techniques used in a massage?
How to choose your massage treatment.
Each type of massage uses very different techniques with a specific goal in mind. This is a short list of the different moves and techniques most commonly used:
1. The touch
This is the first technique used by the massage therapist. It is an approach to create contact between the massaged person and the masseur. It prepares the body for future techniques and can be used after deep gestures (kneading). It is also convenient to finish a massage session smoothly. In practical terms, the touch consists of a sliding of the hands laid flat. The hands exert a low, slow but constant pressure.
It's a pretty deep and firm technique. Its goal is to soften the skin and relax the muscles. With flat hands, knead the skin. The pressure must be strong but it should not be painful. Kneading is done on the fleshy parts of the body such as the back, neck, shoulder, and yes, even the buttocks.
It's the action of tapping with your fingertips as if you were playing the drum. One hand makes the movement in one direction and the second does it in the opposite direction. It can be applied on the back, thighs, buttocks, face... With its vibratory effect, it shakes and relaxes the muscles and then acts on the nervous system and aids with blood flow.
4. The palper-roll
It's about taking a fold of the skin between your thumbs, index fingers and majors and then rolling it by moving your thumbs in the direction you want. It is a movement that needs to be done slowly. It aims to stimulate blood circulation, to evacuate fat masses and waste. It is also an anti-cellulite massage technique.
5. Sliding pressure
It is a very common technique used to get your body massaged (from feet to head). It is applied like a brush on the hair, but with a slightly stronger and sustained pressure. It aims to improve circulation and eliminate toxins stored in the muscles.
Its main objective is to tone the muscles. It is an exercise applied at the end of the session to invigorate the body. With the edge of the hand, the masseuse gives repetitive shocks to the fleshy parts of the body. These bouncing shocks must be fast, assured and timed. It is important not to hit the muscles but only the fleshy parts.
Final tip and considerations:
How to choose the best massage treatment for you
Every situation will require a different type of massage, and while they all have health, body and mental benefits, a tailored experience can really make a difference. Talk to your doctor before getting any type of massage if you have any health concerns or conditions.
Here at Namtip we have very skilled masseuses that can help you with your body relaxation and pain release needs. Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any doubts about our massage therapies, and we will gladly advise you on which services are best for your situation.