What Kind of Massage Should I Get?

As Physical Therapists, we utilize various forms of massage for rehabilitation purposes, however sometimes a full session of massage is helpful to prevent injuries or help recouperate from an injury.  Finding the right massage can be an intimidating task.  Is deep tissue massage better than soft tissue massage? Is massage about no pain no gain?  These are some of the many questions one may encounter prior to scheduling an appointment.   Essentially, what classifies a good massage is truly variable from person to person.  It is appropriate to feel pain at 6-7/10 on ones personal pain scale for therapeutic effects.  Anything over 7/10 pain will be counterproductive as you may resist the massage.  Furthermore, one Massage Therapist may be just as trained and competent as the next, but the comfort level you feel between one over another could make the difference in regards to your body’s reaction to their touch.  Just like there are many ways different restaurants prepare the same meal, there is one that makes it just the way you like it.  Please note that it may take awhile for you to find the right Massage Therapist.  Test a few out.  It’s a comfort thing.  So, below is a list of popular massage techniques that you may find helpful. 

 Swedish Massage

This is the basic massage that focuses on relaxation.  Long strokes are used to ease the body targeting the superficial muscles.  This type of massage can vary in pressure, so it is important to discuss the type of pressure with your massage therapist before and during the massage to get what you really want.

 Deep Tissue Massage

Most confuse strong pressure Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage.  Deep Tissue may use some of the same strokes as Swedish, but this type of massage is intended to reach deeper soft tissue slowly.  It’s slow because if too much pressure is applied too fast the muscles have an automatic response to protect themselves, and tenses up, which defeats the purpose because now the deeper structures cannot be reached.  A mild discomfort might occur with this type of technique, but nothing too painful.  Again, muscles will fight back to protect.

Cross Friction is also utilized here.  Muscle fibers travel in a specific direction, and so the therapist/practitioner will move perpendicular to the muscle fibers.  This allows for scar tissue to be broken up due to the chaotic remodeling of micro-damage to soft tissues caused by repetitive overuse.  This type of massage technique is usually a focused treatment of a specific body part and not necessarily a full body experience.

 Sports Massage

This is not just for athletes.  A Sports Massage session is not likely to have wind chimes and soft music with flickering candles, but can.  A good Sports Massage is a mixture of techniques to increase flexibility, to ease tight muscles, to prep muscles to do work (you’ll often see runners beating their legs with their fists), to reduce swelling that have recently been working, to relieve “knots” or contractures, address cramping, and helps reorganize soft tissue.

Trigger Point Therapy

A trigger point is a specific “knot” of the body that produces referred pain around or near the site.  Janet Travell, MD has pioneered treatment for myofascial pain. She has mapped out the specific trigger points and its referred pain pattern.  This type of therapy takes a knowledgeable Massage Therapist, as there are hundreds of trigger points and referred pain patterns.  Pressure is applied to the “knot” or attachment sites of the “knotted” muscle to release the tight muscle band. 

This is a very brief introduction to what can be encountered.  There are a whole host of other types of massage techniques out there that are not so mainstream such as: Rolfing, Shiatsu, Reiki, Lymphatic Drainage, Acupressure, etc.  Explore and enjoy the experience and find which technique benefits you the most.  Do not hesitate to call or do the research and inquire upon the qualifications of your massage therapist.  It’s a good idea to find a Massage Therapist who can assess your needs before and during a session so that any number of techniques can be used. 

Check out this website to learn more about the different types of massage: http://www.massagetherapy.com/glossary/index.php

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