Ahhh or Ouch! What’s the Best Massage for You?

Different techniques help you relax or invigorate

woman getting massage with stones

Not all types of massage therapy serve the same purpose. Some types are relaxing and calming. Others invigorate and even leave you with a “good” ache.

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There are many massages from which to choose — deep tissue, lymph drainage, reiki, myofascial release, trigger-point, cranio-sacral, hot stone, Thai, Swedish, pregnancy and sports, to name a few.

Each technique has unique characteristics and gives you a different type of muscle relief, says licensed massage therapist Tracy Segall. They are sometimes used in complementary ways, but you should choose which type to get carefully.

“Many of these forms of massage easily flow from one technique to the next,” says Ms. Segall. “Your practitioner may incorporate multiple forms of massage into one session, depending on their training and what they determine your bodily needs are.”

Medical massage vs. relaxation massage

Massage falls into two categories – medical and relaxation.

Medical: Myofascial release, trigger-point, cranio-sacral and sport massage are medical massages.

Patients who get this type of therapy typically have specific things to work onjoint movement and scar tissue release, for example.

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Relaxation: Swedish, hot stone treatments and pregnancy massage aim to calm and offer tranquil relief.

RELATED: How Therapeutic Massage Can Be a Great Addition to Your Treatment

How do massage techniques differ?

  • Reiki – A Japanese technique known for “laying on of hands,” reiki centers on the theory that energy flows through the hands. Still, touching is minimal in this type of massage.
  • Lymph drainage – This massage is slow-paced and characterized by light pressure. It puts pressure on the muscles surrounding the lymph nodes to encourage toxin drainage.
  • Sports, deep tissue, scar tissue massage – These techniques get into the deep layers of muscle. You might experience some soreness.
  • Myofascial release, cranio-sacral, trigger-point massage – These massage options employ moderate techniques and similar speeds. The therapist pays attention to each patient’s sensitivity levels. Cranio-sacral massage in particular seeks to relieve pressure along the head and spinal column. The aim is to reduce migraines, and head and neck pain.

RELATED: Download our free treatment guide on back pain

What are the benefits and risks of massage?

Benefits: Overall, massage boosts dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, in your bloodstream, while decreasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Massage helps you relax. It can also bring nutrition – via the bloodstream – to areas of the body being massaged. It also carries away toxins that have built up in the muscles.

Risks: Avoid massage if you have high blood pressure, any infections or fever, or take blood thinners, Ms. Segall says.

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What does my massage therapist need to know?

Review your medical history with your massage therapist.

Remember to mention injuries, surgeries, medications or allergies that you have. There could be areas your therapist should avoid for your safety.

When trying to decide whether to get a massage or what type to get, talk with your family, friends and co-workers. They might have similar problems or want to recommend a favorite therapist.

Also talk to your doctor or chiropractor. They likely can offer suggestions about what type of massage is best for you.

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