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Massage therapy styles and health benefits

Massage comes in many styles, pressures, movements and techniques and will focus on different parts of the body using structured or therapeutic touch.

Muscles and other areas of skin and soft tissue will be pressed, rubbed, kneaded the with the massage therapist's hands and fingers, and sometimes forearms, elbows, or feet.

Massage is often part of a daily routine for professional sports people, for others it may be chosen to help them relax.

There's evidence massage therapy may help cancer patients with pain, nausea, anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Here is information you can use to help you decide what types of massage will work best for you.

Which massage styles are best?

You may have noticed that different massage styles are popular at different times. And you may have wondered whether each was just part of a passing fad or the latest, greatest massage technique? Even more important is how can you tell whether the latest style will actually help you?

Styles used in massage therapy range from long, smooth strokes to short, percussive strokes. Some massage therapists use oils and lotions - others do not. Most massage therapists ask clients to undress for a massage, but some do not. A massage can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours.

Before you can decide which massage style is best for you, you need to ask yourself a question. Do you simply want a massage for relaxation and stress control? Or do you need symptom relief or help with a certain health condition? Before booking a massage, let the therapist know what you're looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many use more than one style. Or the therapist may customise your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.

What follows is a list of some of the more popular massage therapy styles. The first four are especially popular.

Swedish

The most common type of massage is Swedish massage therapy. It involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on topmost layers of muscles. This is also combined with movement of the joints. By relieving muscle tension, Swedish therapy can be both relaxing and energising. And it may even help after an injury.

The four common strokes of Swedish massage are:

  • Effleurage: a smooth, gliding stroke used to relax soft tissue
  • Petrissage: the squeezing, rolling, or kneading that follows effleurage
  • Friction: deep, circular movements that cause layers of tissue to rub against each other, helping to increase blood flow and break down scar tissue
  • Tapotement: a short, alternating tap done with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand

Deep tissue

Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff 'trouble spots' in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage can be quite therapeutic - relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain and strain.

WebMD Medical Reference

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