One of the things that I’ve embraced is the power of the massage. It’s amazing how this procedure can make you feel sooooo much better and in so many ways. It helps you move better by easing tight muscles and easing stress. And if you are an avid exerciser, you’ll find that your range of movement will be much better the day after a massage.
I first experienced a massage – actually, a 20-minute chair massage – about 20 years ago as part of a wellness program that my employer offered. I quickly became a devotee because it felt so good. But then, an interesting thing happened. The massage therapist was working on my hands. “Ouch!” was my response to her rubbing the pad of my hand below my thumb. “What caused that?” I asked. She told me that according to acupressure that part of the hand was connected to the digestive tract. I filed that in the back of my mind right after the massage – and was quickly reminded of it a few hours later when I experienced a sudden and overwhelming case of stomach flu.
Since then, I’ve moved up to a monthly full body massage because it loosens up tight muscles (plus – most of the time -- it feels good)! It's helped me deal with a locked-up neck, stiff shoulders as well as plantar fascitiis. And I've found -- and you will too -- that a massage is a good way to get in touch with what is happening with your body.
But there are a lot of different types of massages so which ones are best for active people? There are more than 250 variations of bodywork, many of which are used in a single massage. Here are some types to check out at a local spa or health club, as well as information about each type of massage, courtesy of massagetherapy.com:
- Deep Tissue Massage –This therapy uses massage to affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia. Massage therapists who do this type of massage have to have advanced training in anatomy and physiology. This therapy helps with chronic muscle pain and injury rehabilitation; it also helps reduce inflammation-related pain from arthritis and tendinitis.
- Swedish Massage – This therapy is designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. A combination of kneading, rolling, vibrational, percussive and tapping movements is used by the therapist; these movements aid with relaxation and circulation and also help heal scar tissue adhesions.
- Neuromuscular Therapy – This therapy consists of soft-tissue manipulation to balance the body’s central nervous system. This therapy is also used to identify and release spasms and tissue hypercontraction. It also eliminates trigger points that cause referred pain and rebuild the strength if injured tissues. This therapy also can help you get back in balance through aligning your posture and restoring proper biomechanics and flexibility to tissues.
- Myoskeletal Alignment Technique – This therapy includes concepts and principles from Rolfing, osteopathy and related physical medicine. The therapist works to detect and correct strain patterns to prevent back/neck pain. This technique uses deep-tissue work, assisted stretching and non-force spinal alignment.
- Acupressure – This therapy is an ancient healing art in which the massage therapist presses key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate natural self-curative abilities. When pressed, these points release muscular tension and promote circulation. This therapy, which also can be self-administered, is used for relieving headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle aches, stress tension, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation and indigestion.
- Ai Chi. This therapy is a water exercise and relaxation program that uses t’ai chi concepts with shiatsu (a finger-pressure technique using traditional acupuncture points) and Watsu (aquatic shiatsu). This therapy encourages relaxation, stability and coordinated breathing and improves flexibility, mobility and strength.
Also, know that some health insurance plans may cover the cost of a massage if it’s prescribed by a chiropractor or osteopath. But even if you don’t have a prescription, get in the habit of getting a massage. You’ll feel – and move – much better afterwards!