Body Massage – Types, Procedure and Benefits
Usually, body massage is a structured and systematic procedure of applying tension, motion or vibration, with or without the application of heat.
Various body parts used to apply pressure to massage are:
Machines that are used to apply massage in various parts of the body include:
- Vibration machines
- Heat emitting machines
- Rollers made of bamboo or rosewood
- Massage chairs
A professional massage involves the patient to lie down on a specialized massage table. Specialized massages such as aquatic massage are performed with the persons submerged in warm water or with water coming in as a strong jet.
There are different kinds of massages that are used by professionals, health workers and amateurs. The massage is named according to the procedure it is performed.
Active Release Technique: Deep tissues are manipulated with pressure using fingers. The technique of active release massage follows a specific pattern as prescribed for the patient. ART is used as a treatment for various conditions like pains caused by overuse of muscles. When muscles are subjected to tear, pull or undergo injury, they produce a tough and dense scar tissue at the site. The tissue does not allow the other muscles to move freely, which results in the muscles becoming shorter and weaker.
The massage specialists learn over 500 types of moves and they are able to identify and correct the specific problems that may be individually unique.
Acupressure: Originally from China, acupressure technique of massage enables the massage provider to identify specific points that are related to the patients pain and fatigue. Physical pressure is applied on the acupressure points with hand, elbow, palm, wrist, knees or using machines. Acupressure technique of body massage is believed to restore the balance of energies throughout the body.
Anma Massage: Anma massage, originated from Japan, involves vigorous manipulation of the muscles like kneading, tapping, rubbing and shaking.
Ayurvedic Massage: Also known as Abhayangam in Sanskrit, Ayurvedic massage is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. The massage technique is aimed at stimulating the lymphatic system to produce lymphocytes and improve immunity. It also helps in detoxification of the body. Ayurvedic massage relieves general body fatigue and pain, maintains young looking skin and improves longevity.
Balinese Massage: This type of massage adopts gentle skin folding, kneading, stroking and other techniques and helps the patient feel calm and relaxed during and after the therapy. It improves the flow of blood, oxygen and energy throughout the body. Applying Balinese hot stones is an option.
Craniosacral Therapy: The technique involves applying gentle strokes and touches to the skull, face, spine and pelvis. This regulates the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.
Reflexology: Reflexology is a special type of massage, used as a procedure in alternative medicine. The technique includes application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific movements and pressure using the therapists thumb and fingers on the feet and hands of the patient. Oil or creams are not used in this technique. It is based on the idea that specific areas of the foot and palm are connected to specific organs of the body. The pressure applied in these areas stimulates effective functioning of those organs.
Stone Massage: Using stones that may be cold or hot to apply pressure and heat to the body. The stones may be heated with water, oil and are usually Basalt stones or lava rocks that are smooth and polished.
Shiatsu: Application of pressure using the fingers and palm, stretches and other simple massage techniques constitute the Shiatsu massage.
Lymphatic Drainage: This is a type of gentle massage that facilitates the natural production and drainage of the lymph. A specific amount of pressure is applied in rhythmic circular movements to stimulate and propel the lymph flow in the right direction.
Swedish Massage: This technique involves five styles of strokes, namely sliding, kneading, rhythmic tapping, fiction and vibration or shaking. It helps in alleviating pain and joint stiffness.
Trigger Point Therapy: Trigger points of the body for relieving specific pain is identified and manual pressure, vibration, injection or other treatment is applied to the part.
The technique or procedure of body massage depends on the type of the massage and the purpose for which it is given. Each procedure concentrates on the trigger points or pressure points to be activated to treat the ailment for which the massage is given. Reflexology uses the hand, thumb and finger to stimulate the specific areas of feet that are connected by nerves to the other parts of the body, while Shiatsu massage identifies the precise pressure points of the body to which rhythmic pressure is applied to relieve pain or stress.
The most common massage type is a combination of shiatsu, reflexology and acupressure and is done in the following manner.
- Place the patient in a comfortable room, preferably in a private room. Let the room be warm and lit up with aromatic candles. Light soothing music helps in relaxing the mind.
- Use a massage oil, cream or lotion. If using oil heat it to a slightly warm temperature.
- Use plenty of towels. Ideally, the client must be wearing minimum clothes to leave skin exposed as much as possible and to allow free movement of hands for the massage strokes.
- Start with the feet. Use both hands to hold one foot and stroke the soles with the thumb. Use deep pressure on the arch, heel and the ball of the foot. Grab each toe at a time and give a gentle pull to relieve any tension.
- Give long relaxing strokes on the back of the lower leg and calf muscles. Work your way up to the upper thigh. Some people use kneading movement to work out the calf and thigh muscles as they remove any knots inside the muscles. Once the massage is done on one leg, move to the other.
- Back massage must be done by moving from lower to upper back. Place the palm of each hand on both sides of the spine. Press on the lower back and work your way upwards towards the shoulder. Once the hands reach the shoulder, hold the shoulders, give a little pressure and start again from the lower back.
- Use both thumbs on both sides close the backbone and rub your way up to the nape of the neck. Use the thumb and fingers to press against the muscles on both sides of the spine and rub your way upwards.
- When the clients lie down with elbows bent, you can massage the shoulder blade muscles. Gently remove the knots by rubbing repeatedly on and around the problem area.
- Shoulder massage must be done by kneading the thumbs deep into the shoulder muscles. Use thumb to press against the nape of the neck and shoulders to release any knots.
- Hold the hand of the client with one hand to lift the entire hand off the massage table/bed. Use your other hand to perform a deep massage stroke along the back of the forearm, moving towards the triceps, coming over the shoulder and coming back to the wrist along the upper side of the arm.
- Use fingers and thumbs to knead the lower and upper arms. Massage the palm with thumbs in circular motions and gently pull each finger to release any tightness.
- Ask the client to lie down in a supine position to work on the head and face. Massage the scalp with fingers and thumbs and move to massage the folds and lobes of the ears. Swipe the fingertips along the shape of the cheekbones and back to the ear.
- Lift the head using your hands and stroke along the back of the head at the base of the skull.
- Gently press your thumbs at the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows and move in circular motions towards the temples on either side.
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition characterized by generalized muscle pain, joint pain and muscle fatigue. When the symptoms occur in combination with anxiety or depression and decreased pain tolerance, it is termed as fibromyalgia syndrome. A therapeutic massage for fibromyalgia requires the manipulation of the soft muscles and releasing the muscle spasms, muscle knots and tender points. The strokes in the massage gently work on the stretching, softening, lengthening and realigning the connective tissue to ease the muscle movements and alleviate the pain.
The massage techniques used for the treatment of fibromyalgia include Swedish massage, Trigger point therapy, Hot-stone massage, Passive stretching and Myofascial release therapy.
Reduces Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety and Stress
Body massage helps in reduction of psychological symptoms like depression, stress and anxiety. When body is stressed, it releases hormones called cortisol that can cause elevation in blood pressure and suppress the immune system. Various research papers have proven that body massage lowers the cortisol levels by 50 percent. Further, massage strokes also help in the release of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that help in reducing depression and anxiety.
Massage techniques commonly used to treat anxiety and depression include Ayurvedic massage, Deep tissue massage, Balinese massage and Foot Reflexology.
Improves Blood Flow
The manipulation of the soft tissues and the chemicals and hormones relaxed during massage also improve the blood flow in the body. The pressure applied to the soft tissues and the muscles in the body helps push the blood further and improve the flow reducing the workload of the heart. A massage stroke is always given in the direction of the heart, making it easier for the blood to flow to the heart and then to the lungs for getting oxygenated.
Leg massage is known to varicose veins, while deep tissue massage helps in reducing the cellular debris and toxins in the body, increasing the bloods capacity to carry more oxygen to the tissues. Swedish massage and lymphatic drainage massage are effective in improving the blood flow in the body.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Long-term studies have revealed that some types of massage help relieve stress and consequently lower blood pressure levels. Massage therapy is most effective when used along with other treatments for lowering blood pressure. Regular sessions of full body massage help in reducing anxiety, depression and even hostility. Massage also decreases the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Deep tissue massages and massage techniques that apply significant pressure on the muscles do not seem to work on lowering blood pressure. Rather, Ayurvedic massage, Reflexology and Thai-massage seem to work on lowering blood pressure levels.
Young Looking Skin
Face massage is a natural way to keep your face away from wrinkles. A deep massage helps in the production of collagen and increases the elasticity of the skin, consequently reducing sagging and wrinkles. The improved blood circulation due to the massage and stimulation of the muscles helps in optimizing the blood supply. This in turn helps in healing acne, pimples and other blemishes. The relaxing massage and the collagen formed improve the tone, texture and appearance of the skin. The moisturizer used for massage helps in keeping the skin hydrated, giving it an overall shiny and vibrant appearance.
Massage techniques to give an young looking skin usually adopt slow and gentle stroking techniques rather than the deep or kneading ones.
Research has proved that massage therapy and treatment work can dramatically help in the management of many types of medical and non-medical conditions, sometimes as a part of the treatment for the specific disorder.
Some of the conditions where massage has been found to help are as follows.
- Low back pain
- Certain types of Cancer like Breast cancer and Prostate cancer
- As a part of obesity and weight management
- Pain relief in post-bypass surgery of heart
- Reducing ill-effects of chemotherapy like nausea
- Depression and Anxiety
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Frozen shoulder
- Sleeping disorders, Insomnia
For the client:
- Drink enough water for an hour before the massage session to help remove the toxins easily.
- Tell your massage therapist about your problem areas and other significant ailments.
- If required, do not feel shy to remove your clothing, more exposed the skin is, the easier are the massage strokes.
- Do not encourage any thoughts in your mind. Do not plan your day during the massage session.
- Breathe deeply when the stroke is painful.
- Drink more water after the massage.
For the Massage therapist:
- Maintain a calm and soothing ambiance in the massage room.
- Discuss the pain areas with the client and focus on releasing the tension and knots.
- Ask the client if the pressure is good enough or too much.
- Speak to them in a calm and soothing voice.
- Ask the client if the pain is tolerable and tell them to breathe deeply.
- Keep at least one hand in contact with the body from the beginning to the end of the massage. When you need to take oil in your hands, keep the back of your hand on the area you are currently working on.
- Never try to rush through the massage. Give full care and attention to each part and keep the strokes slow and long.