Get to know the different types of Massage

What is Massage?

There are several types of massage therapy services available, with varying focuses and techniques used across the different styles. We will analyse the different types of massage, the benefits of them and how this relates to physiotherapy services.

The goal of all massage is to ease the body of pain and muscle tension. Massage can be a stand-alone service - or as part of a treatment administered by a physiotherapist.

The Top 9 benefits of massage

Below we will go through all the different types of massage and the unique benefits of each style of massage. Here we will discuss the benefits of massage generally, and how getting a massage can do wonders for your health and well-being.

  1. Reduced stress

We are all aware of the long-term impact of stress and how detrimental it can be. Stress can increase cortisol and adrenaline, which are both hallmark hormonal changes. Increases in these hormones will lead to a rise in blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. Massage can be beneficial as it will increase parasympathetic nervous system activity, relieve associated muscle tension and help reduce stress.

  1. Improved circulation

Especially in modern-day life, we spend far too much time sitting and sedentary, there's a good chance you're reading this article from your desk at work. All of this lack of movement reduces our circulation and causes postural tightness. Massage can loosen muscles, allowing for increased blood flow and improved flexibility. Blood flow is crucial in muscle repair and recovery.

  1. Lowers blood pressure

There are, of course, several factors that control blood pressure; diet, exercise, smoking, and drinking water are the most prominent. However, outside of these core health choices, massage therapy can also lower blood pressure through enhancing blood flow and by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to create a more relaxed state.

  1. Improved posture

As mentioned previously, sitting at a desk all day is certainly not optimal. Enduring hours of desk work can cause increased muscle tension, particularly in the neck and back, which will affect your posture. Massage therapy can help relax muscles, increase flexibility and allow your body to restore its normal range of motion.

  1. Relieves headaches

It is quite common for neck tension, to cause headaches or migraine symptoms. By routinely utilising massage therapy, you can expect to reduce muscle tightness around the neck and reduce the chances of headaches and migraine symptoms. Massage for headaches will focus on the head, neck and shoulders for optimal relief.

  1. Improves flexibility

Massage can help increase blood flow and improve flexibility. By focusing on muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, massage therapy can increase your range of motion which may decrease the chances of injury.

  1. Improves sleep

Serotonin is one of the critical hormones required for successful sleep. Massage can naturally assist in a good night's sleep by stimulating the production of serotonin. This will also create a feeling of relaxation and calmness.

  1. Decreased anxiety and stress

Low serotonin is also linked with an increase in depression and anxiety. Increased serotonin produced through massage therapy can be useful in reducing stress and symptoms of depression. Massage can also help reduce fatigue and the muscle tension that comes hand in hand with anxiety. Massage therapy can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which is the brain's "happy" neurotransmitter.

  1. Chronic pain relief

Many patients who suffer from chronic pain use massage therapy to gain some temporary relief from their symptoms. The combination of neurotransmitter activation, muscle relaxation and calming that occur during massage all aid in reducing pain and tension.

The different types of massage

Remedial massage

What is remedial massage?

The most common of massage treatments, a remedial massage is a standard form of therapy, focusing on improving muscle tension, relieving stress and providing a relaxing experience. Treatment will focus on slow and gentle techniques to allow the body to relax and unwind. Many practitioners are trained in remedial massage, be mindful that you book a practitioner who has appropriate accreditation.

What are the benefits?

The goal of remedial massage is to bring about a state of relaxation and calm in your system. We develop tension and muscle imbalances through our daily activities (or lack thereof) which can cause pain and stiffness. Postural muscles can become tight with prolonged sitting, combined with everyday computer and mobile phone use. We must take steps to try and unwind some of these poor lifestyle choices. Following a stretching routine, do regular exercise and try and make positive lifestyle choices would be the best place to start. Remedial massage can also be a part of this routine to help improve our overall health and well-being.

What conditions are best treated by remedial massage?

Remedial massage is a technique that can be appropriate for general tightness and relaxation, or something more specific. Here is a list of the most common conditions treated by a remedial massage therapist.

How long will treatment last?

A standard remedial massage will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If it is your first time having a remedial massage, it is recommended that you book at least a one hour appointment, that way your therapist will have time to talk to you about your goals for treatment.

What to expect for your first session?

Your first remedial massage should include an assessment by your therapist. In the evaluation, they will ask you what your goals are, discuss any current or long-standing injuries and work out a treatment plan. You should expect to remove most of your clothing to allow your therapist to work, so ensure you wear comfortable undergarments - towels will always be used to help keep modesty. It is beneficial to have remedial massage ongoing, so you can also discuss the likely frequency of treatment sessions.

Deep tissue massage

What is deep tissue massage?

A more intense massage than remedial or Swedish massage, deep tissue massage focuses on restoration of the musculoskeletal system, improving imbalances and tightness. Treatment with the therapist usually requires more pressure and firmer techniques. The treatment consists of kneading, deep pressure, mobilisations and firm flowing strokes. Not all massage therapists are trained in deep tissue massage. This type of massage is useful in more chronic injuries, muscle imbalances, and muscle tightness. Research suggests that deep tissue can also be effective at managing anxiety and stress.

What are the benefits?

The goal of deep tissue massage is to enhance physical function and correct any musculoskeletal impairment. Unlike remedial massage, which is aimed more at relaxation, deep tissue massage focuses on a specific injury or problem that needs attention. This could be long-standing muscle tightness or acute injuries or issues.

What conditions are best treated by deep tissue massage?

Specific injuries and injuries are usually the target of deep tissue massage - although relaxation can be a benefit as well. Here is a list of the most common injuries and issues.

How long will treatment last?

Treatment duration will depend on the complexity of your injury or complaint. A deep tissue massage will usually last around 60-90 minutes. Booking an hour-long initial appointment will allow your therapist enough time for assessment.

What to expect for your first session?

Your first session will begin with a thorough assessment, starting with a conversation about your current health, injuries and goals for treatment. Your therapist will then assess your physical condition and begin treatment. You may need multiple sessions to treat certain conditions or injuries and may find it beneficial to have therapy regularly. To allow proper access to your area of injury, make sure you wear appropriate clothes - or are prepared to remove certain items to allow your massage therapist access. Towels will be used to ensure you are covered.

Lymphatic drainage massage

What is lymphatic drainage massage?

A specialised type of massage therapy that focuses on gently encouraging the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system to the drainage points in the body. The lymphatic system is designed to remove toxins and waste from the body. Lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle technique that is primarily used in the management of lymphoedema. Patients who are at most risk for lymphoedema are cancer survivors who have had their lymph nodes removed as part of their treatment. Post-graduate training is required to perform this specialised style of massage.

What are the benefits?

The goal of lymphatic drainage massage is to improve the function of your lymphatic and circulatory system. This is achieved through a reduction of retained fluid - which minimises the likelihood of an impeded circulatory system. As the circulatory system improves - it has a greater capacity to remove toxins and waste that builds up over time. It is quite common to feel energised following treatment.

What conditions are best treated by lymphatic drainage massage?

Lymphatic drainage massage is a specialised technique that is appropriate for specific medical conditions and diseases. If you are suffering from anything below, contact your GP to discuss a referral to a lymphatic drainage massage specialist.

How long will treatment last?

Lymphatic drainage massage lasts around 30-90 minutes. You should book at least an hour for your first session so that there is adequate time for assessment and treatment. Your therapist will help guide you in working out how long each session will need to be, depending on your condition and the severity.

What to expect for your first session?

Your first session will first start with a conversation about your medical history, health and current condition - ascertaining what the best method of treatment will be for you specifically. Once a plan has been decided upon, your therapist will begin treatment. You may be asked to wear compression garments and also follow an exercise program to enhance the benefits of treatment.

Swedish massage

Similar to remedial massage, Swedish is a gentle style of full-body massage which helps release muscle tension and promote relaxation. The treatment consists of a combination of kneading, flowing strokes, deep, circular motions, vibration and tapping. This type of massage is right for minor injuries or aches and pains.

Benfefits of Swedish massage

A Swedish massage should last around 60-90 minutes.

Sports massage

Self-explanatory in the title, this style of massage therapy focuses on the treatment and management of sports injuries. It can be used for recreational athletes, right up to the elite levels. Sports massage is effective in managing repetitive sporting injuries. Sports massage is also used in injury prevention, aiming to increase flexibility and performance.

Benfefits of sports massage

Sports massage can be 30 minutes long, up to 90 minutes or more.

Pregnancy massage

During pregnancy, a woman's body is going through profound changes. Significant load and tension is placed on the mothers lower back as the baby continues to get heavier during pregnancy. This causes increased muscle tightness and fatigue, leading to pain. Pregnancy massage is focused on helping reduce tension and create a relaxed and calm environment for the mother. Research shows that massage can be quite useful in reducing stress during pregnancy. The techniques used are quite gentle and relaxing, with the therapist putting you in the most comfortable position for treatment (usually on your side).

Benfefits of pregnancy massage

A pregnancy massage can last up to 45 minutes or an hour if tolerated.

Therapeutic massage

Therapeutic massage is considered more of a "treatment" for specific conditions and injuries. Only a licensed massage therapist or physiotherapist can provide therapeutic massage, as it requires additional training. Treatment focuses on identifying an underlying injury or condition and using massage to alleviate the problem.

Benfefits of therapeutic massage

Therapeutic massage can be anywhere from 30-90 minutes.

Massage in Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists are highly skilled practitioners who use a "hands-on" approach to treating injuries. They will use techniques like mobilisations, stretching, manipulations and massage. Combining these techniques, along with advice, education and exercise prescription is usually the formula that yields the best outcome for patients. Depending on the patient's presentation, massage may be a primary tool that is used in treatment. A physiotherapist has a minimum of four years of training in hands-on therapy and is competent at using massage as a treatment technique for a variety of injuries.

Is massage helpful in treating injuries?

A physiotherapist has numerous tools available at their disposal; massage is one of them. When managing injuries, massage can be an effective form of treatment to ensure the patient achieves the best outcome. Any injury which results in increased muscle tension can benefit from massage therapy.

The injuries with the best outcomes from massage:

Or if you suffer from;

There are situations in which your physiotherapist may deem that more extensive massage treatment would be beneficial, in which case they will usually refer you to a massage therapist. Massage therapists focus specifically on massage as a treatment and are highly skilled practitioners. It is not uncommon for physiotherapists and massage therapists to work side by side to ensure the best result for a patient.

Frequently asked questions

These are the Top 5 questions regarding massage.

Can I have a massage whilst pregnant?

It is wise to be cautious when considering a massage during pregnancy. Within the first trimester, you may experience some dizziness and massage may even trigger morning sickness. Speak to your doctor before deciding on whether or not massage is right for you during pregnancy. After the first trimester, the risks reduce; howeåver, as you get bigger, finding a comfortable position will become more challenging. It is best to book a massage with an experienced women's health practitioner who has the appropriate training and accreditation.

Does a massage hurt?

Depending on the type of massage that you receive, sometimes massage can be painful. Before you begin your massage - you should discuss with your therapist how hard the pressure you wish to receive. The pressure is categorised as either firm, medium or soft. If you are unsure, start softer, you can always ask the massage therapist to increase pressure during the massage.

How often should you get a massage?

If you are receiving a massage for relaxation purposes, then once a month is usually a recommended frequency. If you are having a massage for a specific injury or issue, then your therapist will guide you as to the appropriate frequency. You may find that to begin with, more frequent sessions are advised until your injury has settled down.

What are the benefits of massage?

There are many benefits to massage, including;

Speak to your local massage therapist about your goals and if they can help you.

Which type of massage should I choose?

Your goals will help you decide what type of massage is best for you. If you want a relaxing massage, then a remedial or Swedish massage will be best. If you are after something a bit firmer and specific, then deep tissue or therapeutic is probably the best option.

People also ask

How much does a massage cost?

Massage therapy costs vary depending on the type of massage, length of time and also the experience and training of the therapist. A regular remedial massage that lasts 30 minutes can be as little as $50, whilst a more extended massage, like lymphatic drainage massage, can cost upwards of $150. This is due to the extra training and accreditation required to perform such massages, as well as the increased time that it will take.

Does health insurance cover massage?

Yes, health insurance will cover massage. Check with your massage therapist if they have HICAPS available, in which case you will be able to claim on the spot. If you are unsure if your policy includes massage, speak to your health insurer and ask them to provide you with a quote.

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