There are many different types of massage therapies and each has their own benefits. Sports massage, Swedish massage, prenatal massage, or deep tissue massage are some of the common names you might have heard. Some massages can be full body massages, on the other hand, some are focused on one area of the body, such as the low back. After reading all this you might be wondering which kind of massage therapy is the best suited for you and what your body needs. In this blog, I will be discussing the different types of massages available to you, and how to best prepare for your treatment. Typically, it is best to receive therapeutic and sports massage in a Chiropractic office set up ONLY if the massage therapist performs strategic techniques based on the chiropractor’s instruction. At my clinic, for instance, I explain to my therapist what is going on with the patient and I have a systematic approach to tackling the problem. My massage therapist is the team member that works on the muscles, perhaps performs specific stretching I would like done as a part of my patient’s care and of course, all my therapies complete patient chart with their findings and what was done on each session. Massage therapy at my clinic, therefore, is not a relaxation massage but therapeutic.
How do I Prepare for My Massage?
I get asked this question a lot! The best way to prepare for your massage is to increase your water intake before and after treatment since to flush out the lactic acid that is released in the blood as a result of pressure applied over the body and the ‘knots’ that the therapist works on. While massage can be done in a chiropractic office or at a spa, it is important to communicate any and all health issues that may contribute to what you are seeing the massage therapist for. Any previous broken bones HAVE to be mentioned because there may be a lack of range of motion that is structural (bone and joint related) which will not be released as a result of a massage session. In my clinic, your pain level, the location of your pain, all contributing muscles are discussed with the massage therapists ahead of time. Almost everyone at the clinic sees our massage therapists as a part of their care and working on the diaphragm is a must in order to strengthen the axial line (midline of the body) which is the foundation of rebuilding the correct posture and establishing the proper patterns of movement.
Sports massages are great for treating and preventing sports injuries. I also recommend this type of massage to help improve flexibility and enhance athletic performance. However, don’t think this type of massage is only for athletes! Sports massage is used to help a desk worker with reducing muscle pain and increasing limited range of motion. The concept behind sports massage is to manipulate your body’s soft tissue and to really concentrate on specific areas of your body to improve your muscle performance: in the targeted massaged area, increase the range of motion, increase blood flow to the area, and enhance flexibility. Sports massage requires faster strokes than Swedish massage, and is typically used with pressure point therapy to release the knots or Lactic Acid build up.
This type of massage is what we usually think of when we think of massage. Swedish massage is based on western medicine’s theories on physiology, anatomy and biomechanics (movement). With this type of massage, the therapist uses oil or lotion and works on your muscles using long or broad strokes; it is then followed by the transition to more specific strokes, such as
- effleurage which is smooth massage strokes,
- petrissage which is more of a rolling or lifting strokes
- tapotement which is more of a percussion type of stroke to treat the area of complaint or pain. This type of massage is recommended for patients who are feeling muscle soreness, pain, or stress!
This type of massage is also known as pregnancy massage, and is tailored to expecting moms’ needs. The goal of this type of therapy is to help moms relax, de-stress and reduce their pain levels if present. Many new moms experience low back pain and headaches during their pregnancy. It is important that this type of massage be performed by a certified prenatal massage therapist since there are certain points on the body that facilitate labor or can cause contraction of the uterus which is to stay clear of during the first trimester. Most massage therapists perform this type of massage with the patient lying on the side if not able to be on their stomach. At our clinic, we have tables that lift to accommodate the growing abdomen so our pregnant moms are in fact, safe to lay on their stomach with the pelvic part of the table lifted up.
Deep Tissue Massage
This type of massage therapy targets adhesions or what we commonly call muscle knots and specific areas in the deeper layers of the muscles and tissue. Here, the therapist uses deliberate and slow strokes across the muscle to address chronic muscle pain and postural problems. This type of massage can sometimes be very painful compared to other massage techniques. However, it is never beyond what a patient is able to tolerate. My personal recommendation for this type of massage is to NOT think the deeper the therapist can go, the better off you are, regardless of the level of pain!! A trained therapist can feel the reaction of the tissue in response to the amount of pressure she/her applies; when the muscle where a pressure is applied on eases down, then she/her applies more pressure incrementally.
The theory behind this type of massage therapy is that there are certain reflex points on the feet that correspond to specific organs or body parts. For example, applying pressure to the arch of the foot, which is a common reflex area, reduces blockages that may affect the liver, pancreas, and kidney. One of the other main theories of reflexology is that the pressure placed on the specific reflex points can potentially help balance out the nervous system, release endorphins (which are common feel-good hormones, naturally found in the body), decrease pain, and reduce stress. Reflexology has been shown to be effective at treating: low back pain, constipation, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sports injuries, arthritis, relieve cancer pain that is due to surgery, and so much more!
Myofascial release is a type of massage therapy that involves applying a continuous amount of pressure onto the fascia. Fascia known as the Fabric of Life, is a web-like tissue that connects muscles, bone, and nerves and all internal organs together; Working on the fascia is said to reduce pain levels and increase to restore the range of motion in your joints. Fascia can get irritated from surgery and leave scaring of the tissue which then causes a pull on the scarred tissue. Myofascial release therapy can actually break up tissue scarring and help rearrange the fascia into a more continuous form and therefore, decrease the scar pain.
What do I do After My Massage?
As mentioned before, to ensure that your massage therapy session is a success you must drink plenty of water to flushes out lactic acid build up and to decrease the sore feel after your massage. It is common to actually feel nausea or a headache after massage when not enough water is taken. If you feel ‘bruised’ on the areas that the therapist worked on the next day or two, there was too much pressure applied. In my practice, I do not like unnecessary hard pressure applied to the area as it defeats the purpose!! I look at massage session as a cooperation of the external (therapist) and internal (your body) in accomplishing a common task (getting rid of tightness, increasing range of motion and flexibility). Too much pressure without paying attention to the tissue reaction to THAT amount of pressure simply shows the lack of synchronicity between the pressure applied and the tissue receiving the pressure!
Remember, nature is the best guide with the most perfect synchronicity. Listen to its wisdom!