Swedish massage is defined by four or five (somewhat familiar) techniques, which have French names: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic choppings), and friction (rubbing). Some therapists now incorporate advanced techniques that have rehabilitating effects and stretches for improving your range of motion. But the ultimate goal here is relaxation. As the default Western massage, Swedish massage is an extremely popular, simple, soothing touch therapy. For more, read our Guide to Swedish Massage.
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The best we can say is that there is some reason to believe that painful pressures on muscles might be therapeutic for some people some of the time. Pretty decisive, eh? This is why it drives me nutters that so many therapists insist that strong pressures are “essential” to achieve “a complete release.” It really isn’t possible to know! It really does depend! Why would anyone pretend to “know”?
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Until recently, reflexology was mostly ignored by science and relied on anecdotal evidence to buoy its good name. Today, though, there are many associations and organizations promoting and supporting the work of reflexologists from around the world. There is even an International Council of Reflexologists which has produced a Research Analysis Document that contains over 300 reflexology research studies, mainly from such places as China, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Even in North America, a study has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Some of this research studies examined the effects of reflexology upon certain health conditions such as: asthma, back pain, cancer, chest pain, childbirth, PMS, heart disease, constipation, gout, migraine, headaches, multiple sclerosis, and nervous exhaustion.
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The first thing to bear in mind is that deep tissue massage is used for therapy and rehabilitation, not relaxation. So you need to be prepared to feel some discomfort during a deep tissue massage and even after. You will most probably lie on your stomach or back while the massage therapist applies various degrees of pressure on tight muscles that have issues and are lying dormant in your body.
It’s important to be open with your massage therapist about the level of pressure and discomfort you wish to endure. This may be different for certain areas and throughout the massage, feel free to communicate with your massage therapist before and during the massage. Some massage therapists find pain to be counterproductive to the process and expect you to speak up if the pain is too much.
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In Malaysia, reflexology has been applied widely but without any certification and qualification from the Ministry of Health. Tighter control is needed to overcome this problem. Practitioners who conduct this therapy may not have the accurate knowledge about reflexology and may lead to any contraindication for certain conditions. The government should take serious enforcement about this practice among practitioners who are not certified. Each practitioner must have a proper training. The ministry of education could provide vocational training in the local community colleges throughout Malaysia to upgrade the skills and knowledge of reflexology practitioners.
There are five main techniques in Swedish massage: effleurage, friction, petrissage, tapotement and vibration. Within each category there are various movements, all intended to ease muscle tension and pain. Each movement has a specific purpose for loosening, warming, soothing or stimulating your muscles during your massage. Here is a breakdown of each of the five Swedish massage techniques:
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“Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform,” says Gammal, who recommends incorporating regular massage—even if it’s just a 30-minute session once a month—so as to prevent injuries and the overtraining of muscles. Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout stretching. “Massage isn’t a luxury, Gammal says. “It’s an investment.”
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Massage therapy is also being investigated as an aide to patients with more neuromuscular disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). A Iranian 2013 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation looked at 48 individuals with MS who participated in a five-week massage experiment. They were assigned to one of four groups: massage therapy, exercise therapy, combined massage-exercise therapy and control group.
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“The number one thing therapists should do to protect themselves from injury is avoid doing too much work,” says Bykofsky. She also recommends not over-scheduling, working too many hours, or holding too many deep massage sessions a week. Also, take advantage of other “tools” at your disposal, such as different parts of your hands and arms, using them for leverage to take some of the pressure off your thumbs.
Reflexology is a bodywork technique that uses pressure points in the feet and hands in an effort to stimulate organs and systems throughout the body. Reflexology practitioners claim they can treat a wide range of maladies simply by manipulating these pressure points. The general idea is similar to that of other forms of alternative and Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture: clear blockages in the flow of the body's life force (or Qi) and healing will follow.
“It is your body, your session, your outcome,” advises Rotenberger. “There’s a fine line between pain and discomfort, and it’s unique to the individual.” What’s more, deep pressure is not the same as deep tissue. It’s a common misconception, Rotenberger explains, and in reality, a therapist that is muscle-specific needs to exert little pressure to be effective.
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Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length.
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In the US, licensure is the highest level of regulation and this restricts anyone without a license from practicing massage therapy or by calling themselves that protected title. Certification allows only those who meet certain educational criteria to use the protected title and registration only requires a listing of therapists who apply and meet an educational requirement. It is important to note that a massage therapist may be certified, but not licensed. Licensing requirements vary per state, and often require additional criteria be met in addition to attending an accredited massage therapy school and passing a required state specified exam (basically the certification requirements in many states). In the US, most certifications are locally based. However, as of March 2014, some states still do not require a license or a certification. However, this is thought to change eventually as more regulatory bodies governing the profession of massage are established in each state. Furthermore, some states allow license reciprocity where massage therapists who relocate can relatively easily obtain a license in their new state. Not all states provide this option.
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The Swedish body massage has become the most common massage practice in the West, and the one that’s associated with that quintessential massage blissfulness. That’s because of the soothing strokes and gentle kneading, which are meant to relax, not stimulate, the body. And yet studies have shown, Swedish massage reduces stress, promotes health, and prevents injuries. At most spas, Swedish massage is the most popular treatment, and it’s for good reason. It helps jangled nerves and release neck knots without being too demanding of the spa-goer.
Detoxification: 7 best acupressure points for complete detoxification of the body include the Great Rushing point on the webbing between the big and second toes, the Three Yin Crossing on the ankle, the Shu Mansion just below the collarbone, Union Valley on the hand, Inner Gate on the arm, Upper Sea of Qi on the sternum, and Lower Sea of Qi below the umbilicus. They claim that pressing on these points will flush out toxins, improve the immune system, reduce weight, prevent chronic diseases, and improve mental clarity.
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With possible benefits such as improved fitness endurance and performance, increased flexibility and recovery time, and injury prevention, sports massage is way more than just a massage for athletes! Traditionally, sports massage is a deep tissue massage that targets the deepest layers of muscle in order to stimulate blood flow. It is best done before or after the event as a means to later restore or rehabilitate. For more, see our Comprehensive Guide to Massage.
For Pietrunti, an interest in sports massage began as part of his military experience. Serving as a Navy Chief Petty Officer where he was a fitness leader at various naval commands, Pietrunti says, “I began to look into corrective exercise to help my sailors and clients with athletic performance and pain management, but I felt that something was missing.”
In India, massage therapy is licensed by The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (India) in March 1995. Massage therapy is based on Ayurveda, the ancient medicinal system that evolved around 600 BC. In ayurveda, massage is part of a set of holistic medicinal practices, contrary to the independent massage system popular in some other systems. In Siddha, Tamil traditional medicine from south India, massage is termed as "Thokkanam" and is classified in to nine types, each for specific variety of disease.
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Increased blood flow. Your Swedish Massage Therapist should use effleurage – a long, stroking motion in the direction of blood flow towards the heart – in order to open up your blood vessels and increase your blood flow. Increased blood flow means that your muscles are getting more nutrients and oxygen and that your body is removing toxins more efficiently.
Foot Reflexology massage can be a deeply relaxing and therapeutic modality for those suffering from plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries or even everyday work and play. At Massage Envy, your massage therapist will apply traditional Swedish and sports massage techniques to the foot, calf and upper leg. This will not only help relieve toe pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and common forms of arthritis, but can also decrease stress and anxiety in the entire body. In addition, a variety of stretches can be beneficial. With pain and sensitivity in the foot, heel and calf areas, be sure to communicate your pain levels with your massage therapist during your treatment. It is also a good idea to rest after receiving the reflexology massage.
The reason the Pressure Question exists is that it’s hard for patients to tell the difference between nasty pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive. Not everything that hurts is therapeutic, but not every therapeutic procedure is painless! How can we tell if an intense massage technique is therapeutic or not?