How Massage Therapy Works? A Definitive Guide

How Massage Therapy Works? A Definitive Guide

If you have ever gotten a massage by a professional, you probably felt great afterward. But did you know that there is scientific evidence to suggest massages are good for you? There are also different styles and techniques of massages that are commonly used for therapeutic purposes across the world.

In recent decades, massage therapy has become a term people use to describe massages that are part of a larger treatment for various illnesses. Many doctors and physicians have discussed the benefits of massage therapy and explained how it can improve both mental and physical ailments.

This article will give you an introduction to massage therapy, beginning by describing what massage therapy is. It will then provide a definitive guide on a variety of massage styles and techniques, and finally discuss the various benefits that it has.

By the end of this article, you may be able to decide which type of massage therapy you would like to go for, either to help you with a physical ailment or even just to help relieve some bodily tension.

What Is Massage Therapy?

While the phrase might be relatively new, massage therapy has been around for ages and can be found almost across every culture around the world. It is essentially a type of treatment that involves the manipulation of the human tissues – muscles, skin, tendons, etc. – for a variety of purposes.

Massage therapy involves using hands to apply pressure of different intensities onto various parts of the body at varying speeds. To provide this service one typically has to be trained in medicine to a certain degree as well as massage therapy.

Normally massage therapy is considered a part of “integrated medicine” in which it is combined with other forms of treatment, such as medicinal for example. But this does not mean that people cannot exclusively opt for massage therapy if their condition allows.

There are many different benefits to massage therapy and a variety of different styles and techniques that have emerged over the years. Each style may be suitable to treat a variety of conditions, while also being used according to the preference of the client.

How Massage Therapy Works

Massage therapy works by allowing for certain physiological changes to take place in the body. These changes, otherwise termed responses, are of two categories; mechanical and relaxational. Both these responses can improve the physical and mental health of a person.

1.    Mechanical Responses

The two major physical developments that result from massage therapy are greater blood and lymph circulation and the relaxation of muscles, joints, and overall tissues within the body. On a physical level, muscle knots and tension, joint pains, and stiffness in the body can be alleviated with massage therapy.

2.    Relaxational Responses

When receiving a massage, your heart rate will slow down and as your body begins to relax, the production of stress hormones in the brain also reduces. Alternatively, the production of serotonin, the hormone that makes one feel happy, relaxed, and positive in general, may increase.

Both the mechanical and relaxational responses are connected to one another, therefore massage therapy works by having a calming effect on both the body and mind at the same time.

Types of Massage Therapy

There are quite a few types of massage therapy, some of which come to us from specific parts of the world. However, each type is unique and can offer specific as well as overarching benefits. Here are five popular types of massage therapy techniques.

  1. Swedish Massage

This type of massage is considered a gentle full-body massage that involves using kneading, vibrations, tapping motions, long strokes, circular motions, and passive joint movement techniques. When these techniques are combined, the Swedish massage can be quite fruitful to relieve stress or tension within the body.

This type of massage may be suitable for people who are new to massages in general or are sensitive to touch. It normally involves removing clothing (save for undergarments) after which the therapist will cover most of the body with a towel, only exposing the area they are working on at once. Typically, a Swedish massage lasts anywhere between sixty to ninety minutes.

  1. Aromatherapy Massage

As the name suggests, aromatherapy involves creating a relaxing atmosphere for the client while providing them a gentle massage using essential oils. In most aromatherapy massages, the therapist will have you inhale essential oils through a diffuser while getting the massage, allowing the oils to nourish your skin.

This is also a full-body massage, but you can opt for the therapist to focus on your head, shoulders, and back if you prefer. So, if you are looking for more of an experience as opposed to just a massage, aromatherapy is something you should consider getting.

Ultimately, aromatherapy can also help reduce bodily tension, while improving your mood and alleviating anxiety among other benefits. Like the Swedish massage, an aromatherapy session also lasts anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes.

  1. Deep Tissue Massage

For ease of understanding, think of a deep tissue massage as more intense in terms of pressure than a Swedish massage. What this means is that this type of massage involves applying more pressure to help remove knots, soreness, or chronic muscle pain for starters.

In this massage, the therapist will typically use slow strokes that apply significantly greater pressure onto your tissues as opposed to other massage techniques. While it might be more pressure, it shouldn’t feel like your muscles are hurting from it.

The idea here is to relieve pain (if experienced) or remove knots from the deepest layers of muscles and tissues in the body, so to reach the inner layers of your muscles, greater pressure is required.

  1. Hot Stone Massage

While it might not be the most common form of massage therapy, a hot stone massage can be quite useful to relieve stress and reduce muscle tension. In some ways, this is quite similar to the Swedish massage, but also incorporates hot stones that are placed on the body.

Hot stone massages are said to relieve more tension as opposed to a Swedish massage, as the warm stones provide added benefit to the body in terms of muscle stress. A hot stone massage also lasts around ninety minutes and is known to be more expensive in comparison to other types of massages.

  1. Trigger Point Massage

This style of massage is largely used to treat injuries or chronic muscle problems in targeted areas of the body. The techniques used in this type of massage normally include identifying pressure or “trigger” points in the body which may be contributing to pain elsewhere in the body.

Therefore, this type of massage places special importance on localized parts of the body, while also massaging the entire body. It utilizes flowy, broad strokes that are gentle but have relatively more pressure to treat identified areas.

This type of massage is recommended to those that are experiencing chronic pain due to some injury or illness as it focuses attention on the trigger points of the body. This massage also typically lasts around 90 minutes.

If you are in search of massage therapy from experts to help you manage stress or help with chronic pain, call Body of Beverly Hills Wellness at 310-652-2099.

Author
Michael Kaliko DC

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