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 customize your massage, depending on your age, condition, or any special needs or goals you have.
To understand this difference, it’s helpful to first think of the body’s fascia and muscles in layers. Notice in this image the many overlappinglayers of these tissues. Fascia is a connective tissue which permeates the entire body – literally holding the body together, wrapping around every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel, and bone. These wrappings are all interconnected in a three-dimensional maze. The muscle layers run superficial to deep in the body.
Whenever athletes exercise heavily, their muscles suffer microtraumas. Small amounts of swelling occur in the muscle because of tiny tears. Post-event sports massage helps reduce the swelling caused by microtraumas; loosens tired, stiff muscles; helps maintain flexibility; promotes blood flow to the muscle to remove lactic acid and waste build-up; and reduces cramping. In addition, post-event massage helps speed the athlete's recovery time and alleviates pulls, strains, and soreness.
Addressing anything from headaches to sinus problems to stomach issues, if sensitivity or tenderness is experienced when certain areas of the foot are stimulated, it usually indicates bodily weaknesses or imbalances within the corresponding organ. With repeated practice of applying pressure and manipulating nerve endings (traditionally in the foot), reflexology can help to clear any channels of blocked energy through moving the flow of blood, nutrients and nerve impulses to ultimately improve overall health and balance. In addition to manipulating the pressure points on the foot, reflexologists sometimes work on the hands or ears to trigger relaxation as well.

In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
While there is certainly carryover between who can benefit from each type of massage, the deep tissue massage may be better suited for people who are experiencing a specific injury or who have chronic, nagging pain in a particular area. Athletes or individuals in the midst of training for a more intense event may also find this technique particularly helpful.

“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.


20 asthmatic patients were chosen to be the subject for active treatment and another 20 patients were chosen to have reflexology session. According to a recent research conducted by the author, there are no significant differences between the groups having active session and placebo session of reflexology.33 However, when the analysis of the symptoms diaries was carried out, the results showed that there were significant differences between both groups especially when it was conducted together with subconscious unblinding pattern of study.33
The most widely recognized and commonly used category of massage is the Swedish massage. The Swedish massage techniques vary from light to vigorous.[63] Swedish massage uses five styles of strokes. The five basic strokes are effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber or with the fibers) and vibration/shaking.[64] Swedish massage has shown to be helpful in reducing pain, joint stiffness, and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee over a period of eight weeks.[65] The development of Swedish massage is often inaccurately credited to Per Henrik Ling, though the Dutch practitioner Johann Georg Mezger applied the French terms to name the basic strokes.[66] The term "Swedish" massage is actually only recognized in English and Dutch speaking countries, and in Hungary. Elsewhere the style is referred to as "classic massage".

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Deep Tissue massages are designed to focus on a specific problem, usually something along the lines of chronic muscle pain, limited mobility, tennis elbow, etc. Cathy Wong explains that according to Consumer Reports magazine, at least 34,000 people claimed that Deep Tissue massages were more effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain than physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture or over-the-counter drugs. It is also especially effective in easing fibromyalgia pain, usually giving clients an improved range of motion immediately following treatment.
Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, said Monday's incident at Joy Feet Spa "underscores the need for statewide nondiscrimination protections." Smith's organization is backing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a state bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act.
Practice applying pressure to reflex points. When you identify which zone you want to engage, find the correct reflex spots on your foot by looking on a chart or consulting with a reflexologist. Apply gentle pressure to the area. The pressure you apply to these spots will stimulate your body to create endorphins that interrupt the pain cycle and relieve stress.
One narrative review in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine explains that the impact of using these two modalities combined are somewhat inconclusive, mainly due to research limitations; however, after looking at 21 randomized controlled trials, the author ultimately concluded that “the effects of cold and static compression are clearly better than no treatment.”
If you enjoy the therapeutic benefits of foot Reflexology massage, you should know that the benefits are compounded when utilized as a frequent therapy. The more you go, the healthier you feel. With a Massage Envy membership, you can enjoy these benefits as often as you'd like. Monthly dues include a one-hour massage session and unlimited additional one-hour sessions at the low membership rate­­. To make things even easier, there are hundreds of Massage Envy locations nationwide. So you can relax, rejuvenate, and continue to grow healthier wherever you go.

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“Good pain” is at the heart of the pressure question: a strange, potent sensory paradox that many people actually seek out as the goal of therapy, consciously or unconciously. Either it isn’t literally painful (just intense), or it’s painful but desired anyway because of relief or belief: an actual biological relief or at least the belief that there is one. But it’s important to note that not all satisfying, relieving sensations are genuinely helpful (e.g. scratching a mosquito bite).

In “bodywork,” as practiced at Haven, painful physical manipulations are just one part of a package of techniques explicitly designed to evoke and provoke emotional expression and vitality. While a participant lies on the ground breathing hard, two facilitators may be applying extremely painful pressures to key points in the body, deliberately pushing the participant well outside of his or her comfort zone. This may launch people out of emotional ruts (fairly dramatically), relieving intense emotional denial and suppression, and leading to vivid insights and profound new body awareness. BACK TO TEXT


In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.
This modality was first developed by a Swedish doctor, Dr. Per Henrik Ling, though it possesses more than just Swedish influence. With techniques borrowed from several countries, including China, Egypt, Greece and more, Swedish massage is worldly in nature and combines many practices to create a massage experience that has become popular for good reason. Swedish massage is very therapeutic and very relaxing.
Bastian B, Jetten J, Hornsey MJ, Leknes S. The Positive Consequences of Pain: A Biopsychosocial Approach. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Apr;18(3):256–279. PubMed #24727972. Bastian et al. write about “pain’s capacity to produce positive consequences, thereby decoupling the experience of pain from the experience of suffering” — pain’s silver linings, basically. BACK TO TEXT
Deal with general aches and pains. An overall reflexology session can relieve general aches and pains. Most reflex points should be pressed for about 10 seconds at a time. Take your time and press all the reflex points on each one of your feet. Use light pressure and pay attention to any spot that feels sore or painful. When you experience discomfort in a reflex point, the corresponding organ or limb is out of balance.

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AD 1776: Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, and Pierre-Martial Cibot, French missionaries in China translate summaries of Huangdi Neijing, including a list of medical plants, exercises and elaborate massage techniques, into the French language, thereby introducing Europe to the highly developed Chinese system of medicine, medical-gymnastics, and medical-massage.[8]
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One of the key benefits of Sports massage therapy compared to other modalities is its ability to target muscle-tendon junctions. A 2010 study in the journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that even a 30-second massage improved hip-flexor range of motion. Another study conducted by Margaret Jones, Ph.D. of the American College of Sports Medicine, demonstrated a notable trend toward decreased muscle soreness in the athletes who received massage either before or after exercise.
Deep Tissue massages are among the most effective forms of massage therapy available to clients. If you are interested in furthering your massage therapy education or pursuing a career in wellness, it is important to have this technique firmly under your belt. Fremont College offers an extensive program in massage therapy, sports therapy education and physical therapy education. Take a look at our programs page for a more detailed description of the courses and degrees we offer!

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Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.

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Reflexology (or foot reflexology) is a therapy based on the principle that there are small and specific areas of innervation in the hands and feet that correspond to specific muscle groups or organs of the body. In this system, the nerve endings in the extremities provide a “map” of the rest of the body. Examples are the base of the little toe representing the ear, or the ball of the foot representing the lung. Through the application of pressure on particular areas of the hands or feet, reflexology is said to promote benefits such as the relaxation of tension, improvement of circulation, and support of normalized function in the related area in the body.

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Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed depending on your comfort level. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.


During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.

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For starters, you bear in mind the things described above that tend to cause ugly pain, and you avoid that kind of therapy like the plague. Then you look for some clues that painful pressure is okay. Here are at least three reasons why unpleasantly intense pressure might be therapeutic — “bad pain,” but not ugly. In each of these situations, it might be acceptable to tolerate sensations so intense and painful that the only thing about them that is pleasant is the part where it stops.

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Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.

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That is, regardless of all other considerations, a massage therapist must talk to you about pressure, respect your preferences (they are more important than any treatment ideology), and be careful about stumbling into areas that need much less pressure (for comfort) or much more pressure (for satisfaction). Far too many therapists make the mistake of setting a “default” pressure for a client early on, and then using roughly that much pressure everywhere.

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People who suffer from the following conditions or disorders should consult a physician before participating in a sports massage: acute infectious disease; aneurysm; heavy bruising; cancer ; hernia; high blood pressure; inflammation due to tissue damage; osteoporosis ; phlebitis ; varicose veins ; and certain skin conditions. Individuals who are intoxicated are not good candidates for sports massage.
Until better evidence is published in peer reviewed journals, he remains skeptical of claims that by massaging or applying pressure to specific points on the hands or feet, a reflexologist can alleviate problems in corresponding organs or other systems throughout the body. He has seen no evidence showing that reflexology is effective for pain or any health problems unrelated to the feet and hands. He urges caution with regard to claims that reflexology can cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, promote weight loss, or successfully treat earaches, hemorrhoids, emphysema, heart disease, thyroid disorders or any other health condition.

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Accredited sports massage therapists must first complete a course in general massage from a school accredited by the American Massage Therapy Association/Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval (AMTA/COMTAA) or their State Board of Education. They must then complete an additional training program approved by the AMTA National Sports Massage Certification Program. Many sports massage practitioners also complete the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
Obviously, open sores to the hands and/or feet would be a reason to avoid reflexology. Acute injuries also must be handled with care. Anyone with active blood clots should avoid rubbing near the area of the clot. Burns, wounds, gout and infections to the hands or feet should also limit the use of reflexology. Lower extremity swelling or chronic skin changes that are a result of vascular problems to the feet should also limit this form of therapy. Recent removal of a cancerous tumor or other surgical procedures, such as wart removal, also make reflexology inadvisable. There is some evidence that rubbing of the feet during pregnancy might stimulate contractions, and so should be avoided in the later stages of pregnancy.
While there are numerous benefits to this branch of massage, elementsmassage.com reminds you that it is important to keep your expectations for the treatment reasonable. While Deep Tissue massages use more pressure to reach deeper muscle tissues and often yield immediately noticeable results, asking your therapist to apply more pressure and gritting your way through pain will do more damage than good. If you are in pain, your muscles will begin to contract, making the therapist’s efforts moot. Applying more pressure will not speed up the process. Like any treatment, Deep Tissue massages need time to be effective. Keep in mind that the injury or muscle tension that you are hoping to get resolved has had a great deal of time to form; it will take time to undo the damage. Like any treatment, often the therapy will not be enough; including other changes to your lifestyle, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or working on posture in addition to your massage appointments will help move the process along and help you see faster and longer lasting results.

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Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on "reflex areas" on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body's natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.

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Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.

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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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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.”

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