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There are so many options - which one do I choose?


When people contact me, the second most common question I get asked is "Which service should I choose?" Some are unsure of the difference between therapeutic, sport, and relaxation massage. Let me explain some of the different terms and types of massage.


You may have heard some of the following massage related terms - therapeutic, remedial, relaxation, chair, table, corporate, hot stone, cupping, deep tissue, trigger point, neuromuscular, lymphatic drainage, reflexology, Swedish, Ashiatsu, Lomu Lomu, Shiatsu, Thai, effleurage, petrissage, myofascial release, and so on. When you consider that there are many different types of massage, and many terms that relate to massage, it is no wonder that people are sometimes left wondering.


Some of those mentioned, like Swedish, Ashiatsu, Shiatsu, Lomu Lomu, Shiatsu, and Thai are types of massage. They employ techniques that can vary considerably. Swedish is done with the hands, Ashiatsu with the feet. Shiatsu is finger-point pressure. Practitioners may be trained in just one of these types or sometimes more than one. Within the various types, like Swedish and Ashiatsu, there can be the option of therapeutic or relaxation massage.


I tend to keep it simple on my website and refer just to Swedish, therapeutic, sport, and relaxation massage. I am trained in Swedish massage and within that, there are therapeutic, sports, and relaxation options. Cupping may be used to work with particularly tense muscles or for enjoyment.  Techniques such as myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy may also be used - they are simply various ways of addressing tension, pain, and restricted range of movement (ROM). I won't go into them all of the terms mentioned above but will attempt to explain what most people need to know. 


Relaxation Massage

Relaxation massage aims to relax body and mind and is great for relieving stress and anxiety. Usually, the strokes used are lighter and slower than for sport or therapeutic massage and are known by the general terms effleurage and petrissage. Long sweeping effleurage strokes may start at the feet and end at the shoulders or vice versa. Petrissage may include kneading, wringing and skin-rolling and usually follows effleurage once the tissues have been warmed. The end of the massage may include tapotement, a rhythmic chopping like technique with the edge of the hand, cupped hand, or tips of the fingers, designed to quickly tense and relax the tissues.


The aim of relaxation massage is to totally relax and 'reset' - to take time out and to forget about life and all it's cares. It is thought that deeper relaxation comes at around 45 minutes into the massage, but this is dependent on many factors such as the client's ability to 'let go', the skill of the therapist, the ambience and temperature of the room, comfort level etc. Often it will occur quickly and some clients fall asleep on the table. This is often a sign of relaxation and a good massage.


Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic (or remedial) massage is designed to address painful or tense areas and even muscle spasms, by easing muscle tension. Often just one or two areas of the body that are indicated by pain and tension are worked on, rather than the whole body. Usually, therapeutic massage will involve a series of regular massage sessions - even if you have long-term pain or tension, joint dysfunction or postural strain, symptoms can often be improved through regular massage. Therapeutic massage can also help with issues such as headache and migraine, period pain, sinus pain, rotator cuff issues, frozen shoulder, neck pain, back pain, restless leg syndrome, hip and groin pain, calf tightness, achilles tendon issues, and foot pain.



The Process

First, we assess your condition and the history of your complaint. How long has it been occurring? What type of pain are you experiencing (aching, shooting, sharp etc)? Where is the pain or tension? What are you doing when you feel it the most? We may look at posture. Is one shoulder or hip elevated? Is there a difference in the distance between shoulder blades and vertebrae? Is one leg longer than the other? Once the assessment has been completed, a plan is formulated and agreed on. The plan may include a series of massages as complaints can rarely be resolved in one massage session. Sometimes the assessment reveals that it is appropriate to refer out to another health professional, e.g. GP, physiotherapist, chiropractor, etc, rather than engaging in massage, or, as well as massage. Once the massage has been completed, the session and any changes can be evaluated for effectiveness. Has the pain decreased? Has range of movement increased or become easier? Has mobility increased? At this point the next step can be discussed and further sessions booked if required. Progress will often be quicker if massage occurs every week rather than every two or three weeks, or on a monthly basis.


Deep Tissue Massage

Therapeutic massage can include what is often referred to as 'deep tissue massage'. Deep tissue is used to deal with muscles that may be tense, tight or 'knotted/stringy'. Understand that muscles don't tie themselves in knots like shoelaces do. 'Knotted' and 'stringy' are terms that are often used to describe tense, tight, or sore points in muscles and other tissue. As the name suggests, deep tissue involves pushing into the sore point or 'knot' to release it and allow the pain to dissipate.


Sometimes the comment is made that the more painful it is, the more effective it is (more pain, more gain). This is incorrect. Good communication is required between the client and the therapist to ensure that this work is not too painful. Done properly, the result will be 'good pain' as opposed to you gritting your teeth and vowing not to return. Sore tissue can be worked gradually, moving from lighter pressure, to medium, to deeper pressure as pain subsides. Deep tissue is not used in relaxation massage as it is not relaxing. It is used during therapeutic massage.


Oh, and if you're still wondering what the most common question is that I'm asked, it is 'What's the date?' (when completing the intake form).

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