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Who knew? Types of massage

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Types of Massage

The choice can be confusing when there are so many types available. A chat with your therapist before your treatment will high light your needs and preferences. This blog sheds light on some of the main differences between massage types. Ultimately my goal as a therapist is to help you and improve your quality of life.

What is Sports Massage?

Sports massage was developed to help athletes perform optimally in their chosen sport. It can be used for maintenance, injury prevention & rehabilitation, pre event and post event. It can also be used during the treatment of injuries & the rehabilitation programme. One of its main aims is to prevent injury by taking care of soft tissues such as muscles and tendons during training. A consultation is carried out to identify asymmetry in the body, muscular imbalances and areas of pain that could lead to potential injury if left untreated. The therapist will have a good knowledge of sport specific injuries like 'shin splints' in runners, tennis and golfers elbow, hamstring strains in footballers to name but a few. There are of course many more and injury type is not always sport specific. Pain is associated with sports massage but often a client will refer to 'good pain' felt during the massage. However the client's pain threshold should be the lead on how much 'good pain' is tolerable. Soft tissues including muscles are massaged using a variety of strokes & pressures and manipulated deeply to improve muscle length and elasticiy, to release tension, to re-energise tired muscles, to improve joint mobility and range of movement.

Other benefits are improved circulation, and healing.

Pre-event massage involves fast, vigorous strokes to warm up & stimulate the muscles, nerve endings and blood flow to prepare muscles for activity. Where as post-event massage strokes are slow and less deep, allowing tired muscles to recover post exercise. Gentle stretching is also incorporated.

Deep Tissue

Deep tissue massage has been around a very long time. It uses slow strokes with firm pressure to manipulate the deeper layers of muscle and surrounding fascia (connective tissue). The massage will work along the length of the muscle fibres but also across the fibres. It can be used to focus on persistent aches, knots or scar tissue that needs breaking down. The whole body may be massaged following a routine which will enhance musculoskeletal balance & well being. The deep tissue manipulation boosts circulation, enhancing healing and the body's natural detoxification processes. It can be a deeply relaxing massage, relieving tension, reducing blood pressure and promoting sleep.

Is sports massage for you?

Sports & Deep tissue massage are not just for athletes. As part of a regular routine massage will alleviate tension in the fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as stimulating the blood supply, reduce chronic pain which can be caused by every day life, poor posture, overuse & repetitive strain. Different techniques such as resisted stretching & trigger point release can be incorporated depending on what the therapist finds during assessment and massage.

For example muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back can carry tension, opposing muscles in the chest become weaker, through working at a computer or being on a gadget. This is becoming more common particularly in teenagers and young adults giving a hunched appearance. Massage & resisted stretching can help correct muscular imbalances, reducing pain and tension in these areas.

Deep tissue massage is often used to reduce post-operation adhesions and swellings. The body's response to the massage can have an analgesic effect reducing pain.

How often will I need massage?

Treatment may be needed on a weekly basis initially for up to 6 weeks. As the body heals a monthly massage is advised.

Pregnancy Massage

Pregnancy massage can be used during pregnancy and postnatally to combat aches, pains & tension that can be experienced during pregnancy and looking after a baby. Studies show that women who receive regular massage during their pregnancy have fewer complications during their pregnancy and labour. Pregnancy is a unique state for the body experiencing anatomical and physiological changes during the three trimesters, soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and muscles become more lax (elastic) to allow the body to expand so the baby can grow. This can mean joints are less stable than normal.

Benefits of pregnancy massage

Massage can alleviate common ailments during pregnancy such as pelvic, low back pain, headaches, stiff neck, leg cramps, oedema or swelling and nerve compression (sciatic type pain can be triggered during pregnancy). Pregnancy massage improves circulation & lymphatic drainage which helps the body to detoxify, can boost the immune system and lessen swellings or water retention that may occur.

Importantly pregnancy massage can be deeply relaxing at a what may be a stressful time and has been shown to benefit the baby through endorphins (feel good chemicals/natural pain-killers in the body) released by mum during the massage. Sometimes the baby can become quite active and responsive during massage.

Depending on stage of pregnancy and how big the baby bump is the massage can be carried out in side lying position to ensure maximum comfort for mum and the strokes can be adapted to maximise relaxation & comfort. Pregnancy massage is usually carried out after the first trimester or 12 week scan.

Relaxation Massage

Relaxation massage is a holistic massage which uses a variety of strokes and flowing movements with different pressures to work all over the body to create a state of deep relaxation. The massage will improve circulation of blood & oxygen around tissues, promote healthy skin, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, stimulate the release of endorphins and promote tissue healing, inducing calmness & relaxation. This type of massage can also be referred to as Swedish massage.

Remedial massage/Therapeutic Massage

This type of massage is used after injury and operations. After assessing a client's requirements, whether that be during rehabilitation after an injury or operation which may include scar work procedures, or whether it be a chronic condition, a range of massage strokes and advanced soft tissue techniques are used. In the long term the main aim is to deal effectively with the variety of musculoskeletal problems arising post trauma returning the client to pre injury/operation condition or better. In the short term help with recovery reducing the symptoms a client is experiencing, relieving aching muscles and any pain. Regular remedial massage can also help enhance the immune system, allow mental relaxation through physical relaxation of the soft tissues and realign scar tissue after injury allowing muscles to work freely and reducing potential for weak spots in the muscle.

Jing Massage

Jing massage is a fusion of East & West styles using a range of techniques including Amma fusion, power effleurage and trigger point therapy and myofascial release. It can be deeply relaxing whilst reducing chronic pain.

Indian Head Massage

Indian head massage is based on the ayurvedic system of healing and has been used in Asia for centuries concentrating specifically on the head and scalp, sometimes face, neck & shoulders. Tension and stress that has accumulated in the tissues in these areas can gently be released using slow strokes and circular movements.

This can be a very relaxing experience.

There are other types of massage such as Shiatsu, Thai, hot stone, chair and fusion, all of which can be beneficial depending on your needs.


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