When you are feeling tired, stress, sore, or overwhelmed, which massage techniques would give you the most benefit? The goal of massage is homeostasis or balance. Most people have heard the term Swedish massage, which is the foundation of most massage styles practiced today. One of the primary “rules” of Swedish massage is that the majority of strokes are directed toward the heart to enhance blood flow. Along with the more general or common Swedish movements, let’s also explore some other specialized techniques of massage and their benefits as well.
1: Swedish Movements
A massage isn’t quite a massage without these elements. They include:
Gliding or Effleurage
Rhythmic strokes that skim or flow over extended portions of the body in smooth succession to enhance venous and lymphatic flow. When done with deeper pressure, it is commonly referred to as stripping.
Feather or Aura Stroking
Super light or non-contact strokes that affect just the nerves or energy fields around the body and which are used to elicit a sedative response that is perfect for both the beginning and ending of a massage session.
Kneading or Petrissage
In which the skin and muscle tissues are squeezed, lifted, and rolled in a kneading fashion to reach deeper tissues with firm pressure for the purpose of stretching muscles and creating deep relaxation.
Superficial strokes that create heat and energy in the skin and upper muscle tissue which increases circulation and healing. This can be accomplished either by the stretching of cross-fiber work, through circular movements, rhythmic compression with a pumping action, vigorous shaking, or vibration.
Alternating manipulations that are gentle, quick, and striking, such as tapping, cupping, chopping, and pounding movements that bring a healthy glow to the skin and tone the dense, underlying muscles through stimulation.
Passive and Active Joint Movements
In which joints increase mobility, flexibility, strength, and range of motion through stretching, rotation, flexion, extension, and therapeutic guided exercise. Resistive movements involve the participation of the one receiving the massage, while passive movements require quiet relaxation.
2: Lymphatic Massage
The lymphatic system is made up of a series of vessels and nodes that move circulatory fluid. When these fluids stagnate due to stress, fatigue, lack of physical activity, or emotional trauma, waste products accumulate and cause swelling of the extremities.
Lymphatic massage is designed to accelerate the movement of these fluids through slow, light, rhythmic, and gentle spiral-like strokes to release toxins and stimulate the immune system. It also affects the nervous system, providing deep relaxation and relieving depression, stress, and sometimes even insomnia.
3: Deep Tissue Massage
This category of massage can manifest in various regiments, but is characterized mainly by a focus on the deeper tissue structures of the body, primarily the muscle, connective tissue, and fascia, which is the fibrous tissue that encases the muscle.
This type of bodywork aims to release the tension or bonds at a more intense level.
While definitely used for a physiological effect, it is commonly also associated with a corresponding psychological release of deep-seated tension. Both physical and emotional trauma can cause tightening and shortening of connective tissue around muscles and deep tissue massage is sometimes the only way to truly get to the root of the problem.
4: Trigger-Point Therapy
A constricted muscle, whether obtained through injury, stress, repetitive activity, or trauma, can bring intense pain and lack of mobility that is best relieved by way of trigger-point therapy. This specific type of massage focuses on the problem area, without neglecting the surrounding areas which may also be affected by pain referral.
Palpitation is one technique for finding the taut bands of muscle and trigger-point pressure is the most common massage technique used to cause the muscle to release. This type of deep pressure is applied by a single point (such as thumb or elbow) to a specific spot and held long enough to deactivate the constriction. Though it can be quite painful, this type of therapy is very effective.
5: Craniosacral Therapy
This is a gentle method of massage that is used to enhance the semi-closed hydraulic system that protects the brain and spinal cord and related bony areas. Only a very light touch is used in craniosacral therapy in order to feel and manipulate the cerebrospinal fluid within the system. This technique is noninvasive and very gentle and includes moments of complete stillness while the therapist holds the head and neck. It has been found to relieve pain, improve function of the central nervous system, and increase resistance to disease.
6: Stone Massage
Also called Hot Rock Therapy, this is a common technique popular in spas around the world. One of the hallmarks of this therapy is its use of contrast between heat and cold. The stones are heated in hot water and then placed strategically on the body to provide heat and enhance circulation. It may also include alternating with stones that have been cooled in a freezer to create a stimulating effect. Sometimes the stones are used as instruments for deep tissue massage, and it is also common for some spas to incorporate the use of essential oils to add to the overall luxury feel of this type of relaxing massage.
Thank you for exploring these wonderful massage techniques and their benefits with me. I hope you are able to experience the wonderful effects of this celebrated art form that is sure to bring you to another level of relaxation.
Melanie is mom to five energetic kids, including a sweet little toddler. She enjoys homeschooling her children from a peaceful parenting perspective and traveling with her family whenever she can.