Find the kind of massage that works for you

Published 8:26 am Monday, February 8, 2010

Massage therapy is the manipulation of muscles and soft tissues of the body for the well-being of the recipient, and massage therapists are the people trained to perform such therapy.

Massage “works on the physical, mental and sometimes spiritual levels.” This is based on the principle that these three levels are connected and can affect each other.

Physical and mental stress both can lead to physical or mental pain, of which often manifest in muscles as what are commonly known as “knots.” Stressors range from work, children, bills, genetic disorder, all the way to what to wear on that first date. Each person reacts to stressors in their own way, so just because a person has five young children and debt doesn’t mean they have tight, painful shoulders or horrible migraines. People are individuals, and the massages they receive should be as well.

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Many people have and can benefit from massage. Massage is linked with the lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, the increased circulation of blood and lymph, as well as a stretching and relaxation of muscles. Through a release of endorphins, massage has been also said to promote a general feeling of happiness, and endorphins are also known as the body’s natural pain relief. Clients with mild depression often start to feel a baseline happiness, no longer mostly sad and “blah,” after several sessions. With increased blood and lymph circulation, immune systems also often see some improvement, helping keep the client’s body healthier. The stretching and relaxation of muscles improves mobility of joints and improves proper function of the body’s muscular system.

Massage is not a cure-all, nor is it meant to take the place of a doctor’s visit. If you have an illness or medical disorder, we urge you to check with your doctor first to see if a massage is indicated for you. Someone wanting a massage who has a contagious illness is best to wait until they are over that illness. A massage could spread the contagion to the therapist, and the massage could make the symtoms worse while the person is ill, due to the increased circulation of blood and lymph flow.

Massages come in various forms. There are specific modalities like sports massages, which tend to be meant to invigorate the senses of the client. Trigger point massage is based on points on the body that are prone to becoming tight, and the idea that pressing on these points when tightened reduces blood flow to the spot, thereby reducing pain associated with the “knot.”

Deep tissue massage works with the underlying muscles. Swedish massage is a form that is widely practiced throughout the United States using five basic movements, which are gliding (effleurage), friction, gentle tapping (tapotement), vibration and kneading (petrissage). For those with less time or are not fully comfortable yet with touch or lying on a table draped with sheets and blankets, they can choose a chair massage, or perhaps, a hand or foot massage. There are several other forms of massage out there, so feel free to look them up and learn something new.

The practice of massage has helped many people reach a more relaxed and happy state of being. Even a few minutes can make a world of difference on your muscles and mobility. When stress tightens your muscles, talk to a massage therapist. They might just be able to untangle the “knots” in your life.

Sarah Katzenmeyer is a massage therapist at Classic Reflections Salon & Spa.