Versing yourself in the varied art of this centuries-old medicinal craft will ensure you achieve a happy ending.
Your shoulders are knottier than a macramé hanging, your back feels like concrete, you have daily tension headaches and your neck cracks every time you look to the right. It’s quite possibly time to consider inviting the healing powers of touch to alleviate the post-workout pain and soften the tenderness that’s building from within. But, be warned, not all massages are created equal.
Take your massage one step further. Warm and hot stones are placed on the body and used as an extension of your masseuse’s hands. Contrasting temperatures manipulate the dilation and contraction of muscles, moving fluid through muscle tissue and the space between the joints to improve circulation, providing repair and relief. When paired with deep tissue massage, powerful detoxification can occur, leaving tired bodies invigorated.
Go if: You still feel stiff after deep tissue or Swedish massage. The heat warms up tight muscles so your therapist can work more deeply, faster. Also great for combating menstrual cramps.
Don’t go if: You are sunburnt, menopausal or don’t enjoy steamy hot showers. Those with diabetes or on medication that thins your blood should probably avoid.
Consisting of a specific set of massage movements – sliding, kneading, rubbing, vibration and percussion – traditional Swedish massage also includes the assisted stretching and bending of joints while offshoots of this technique can also encompass spa treatments like aromatherapy and body wraps.
Go if: You’d like to be in a better mood or need a good night’s sleep.
Don’t go if: You have chronic muscular pain.
Focusing on stretching the fascia – a three-dimensional web of connective tissue that surrounds, supports and penetrates all of the muscles, bones, nerves and organs – everything from fingers to forearms are used to work through to arrive at the deepest accessible layer of said tissues and muscles. This is where, by releasing scar tissue caused by injury, poor posture or inflammation due to repetitive motions, freedom of movement can be restored.
Go if: You sit at a desk all day or have been taking part in the same sport or fitness regime for the past six months or more.
Don’t go if: You aren’t sure of the therapist’s credentials. Deep tissue massage shouldn’t be painful; well-trained deep tissue massage therapists work very slowly, within the client’s tolerance, to stretch muscle layers without causing pain or damage. A little soreness is to be expected but you should feel better, never worse afterwards.
Akin to doing assisted yoga, holding poses slows blood to targeted areas but once released, fresh circulation rushes in. Twist and inversionfocused Thai massage positions, such as the plough, shoulder stand and spinal twist, are particularly effective.
Go if: Your chiropractor or podiatrist has told you that you have one leg shorter than the other.
Don’t go if: You want to relax by lying lifeless face down.
The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are ‘reflex’ areas primarily on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body. For example, the heart and chest are around the ball of the foot. If an area is tender, speak up because your reflexologist will need to pay special attention to this sore region.
Go if: You like people playing with your feet, or are undergoing treatment for cancer – a study in the American Cancer Society journal found that one-third of cancer patients used reflexology as a complementary therapy to post-operative or palliative care.
Don’t go if: You are ticklish or pregnant.
Lymphatic massage, also called lymphatic drainage or manual lymph drainage, is a technique developed in Germany to treat lymphedema related problems where an accumulation of fluid can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, most often a mastectomy for breast cancer. Also known for its ability to promote healing and shake off fatigue by increasing the lymphatic system’s ability to remove toxins, during a session, the therapist gently rubs, strokes, taps or pushes the skin in the direction that follows the lymphatic system, encouraging it to move along.
Go if: You suffer from lymphedema. Otherwise the occasional massage can help boost what the body already knows to do.
Don’t go if: You experience localised swelling and haven’t gotten the ok from your physician.