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Today in Health & Wellness
FITNESS AND FUEL

Spa Massage Therapy

"Massage therapy dates back to several thousand years."
By: James BarramedaSpa Massage Therapy

The term "massage therapy" actually encompasses many different techniques of pressing, rubbing and manipulating soft tissues and muscles of the body. Therapists use their hands, elbows, forearms, even their feet during sessions.

There are several types or styles of massage therapy. Here are the more popular ones we know today:

  • Swedish massage – gently uses kneading, long strokes, deep circular movements, tapping and vibration to help you achieve total relaxation.
  • Deep tissue massage – use of more forceful, slower strokes to manipulate the deeper layers of connective tissue and muscle. This technique is used commonly to assist with muscle damage caused by injuries.
  • Sports massage - more targetted towards preventing or treating injuries in athletes or enthusiasts of sport activities
  • Trigger point massage - focuses on areas where fibers that have tightened due to overuse or formed after injuries muscle. This type of massage focuses on myofascial trigger points (i.e. muscle "knots" which when pressed can be painful and can cause symptoms in other areas of the body)
  • Shiatsu massage – originating from Japan, the term “shiatsu” translates to "finger pressure." This techniques uses varied, rhythmic pressure applied on precise points of the body called “acupressure” points. These special points are believed by the Japanese to be essential in the flow vital energy or “chi” in the body, so shiatsu massage is used to help relieve “blockages” in these acupressure points.
  • Thai massage – makes use of muscle compression, acupressure and joint mobilization. A Thai massage therapist uses her body to move the client into various positions.
  • Hot stone massage – makes use of warmed stones that are used by the therapist as tools to gently knead tired and aching muscles. The stones may temporarily left in specific points in the body to further transmit heat deep into surrounding tissue.
  • Reflexology – works along the premise that certain areas of the feet correspond to different parts of the body. The massage uses the therapist’s fingers and hands to stimulate target areas of the feet. Reflexology aims to promote overall wellness and better health.
  • Pregnancy massage – specially trained massage therapists can help pregnant women in reducing their stress, relieving muscle and joint pain as well as decreasing swelling in arms and legs. Special massage pillows are used to assist the therapist in moving the client into comfortable positions for the duration of the massage.

Health benefits of massage therapy

Apart from offering relief from tired muscles, massage therapy is generally also considered part of CAM or complementary and alternative medicine. This means, is can be offered alongside standard medical treatments for a wide range of medical conditions.

Here are some of the reported health benefits that one can enjoy from receiving massage therapy:

  • beats stress
  • relaxes the muscles
  • releives pain, such as head aches and back pain
  • rehabilitates sports injuries
  • improves restricted range of motion
  • lowers levels of anxiety
  • helps fight depression
  • helps improve digestive function
  • improves blood circulation
  • exercises weak and atrohied muscles
  • increases joint flexibililty
  • stimulates release of endorphins, which acts as the body’s natural pain killer
  • eases medicine dependence
  • speeds recovery from surgery
  • reduce cramping and spasms
  • enhance quality of sleep
  • promotes healthier skin, reducing stretch marks and scar tissue
  • stimulates lymph flow, increasing strength of the body’s natural defense system
  • for expectant mothers, may help make labor easier and shorter
  • improves symptoms of osteoarthitis such as stiffness, pain and joint function
  • reduce symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, swelling, nausea, pain and depression

Risks and side effects

Doctors warn its patrons that it isn't meant to replace regular medical care. If you feel chronic pain or have difficulty moving without feeling pain, consult your doctor. For as long as you book your massage with a well-trained and qualified therapist and you have no pre-existing condition that might be exacerbated by massage, the risks of any long term negative effects is very minimal. If it’s your first time to get a massage, you may experience temporary discomfort, some swelling or soreness, and bruising afterwards. You can also be allergic to the massage oil used.

Other cautionary tips include the following:

  • If you have bleeding disorders, are taking blood thinners or have low blood platelet count, avoid vigorous massage. Tell your therapist about your existing condition prior to your session to be safe
  • If you have open or newly healed wounds, burns, fractures, blood clots skin infection or weak bones, you should not avail of any type of massage as this might injure you only further
  • Although generally, massage therapy has been safe for cancer patients, they must consult their oncologist first before having a massage
  • For pregnant women, do not just avail of massage unless you have your go signal from your doctor. Also be careful in choosing a therapist. Make sure this person is trained in conducting massage techniques for expectant mothers.
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