When the muscles in the body feel stressed and sore, one of the things that most people do is take some over-the-counter pain relievers. While that may help ease the pain, it is not a safe option to choose all the time. Aside from taking medications, another great way to relax your muscles and ease tension is through a massage. It involves massaging and kneading the body with the hands. A skilled massage therapist does it, using either light or firm pressure on the body’s muscles and joints to relieve tension and pain.
Based on a study in 2021 by the American Massage Therapy Association, 25% of men and 21% of women enjoyed a massage in the US, and more than half of them were motivated by health and wellness reasons. The goal of massage therapy is to slow down the nervous system. It is done to provide relief from symptoms, heal injuries, and support wellness. It also comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on what your body needs.
If you are thinking of getting a massage soon or searching for a good massage solution to relieve stress and body aches but aren’t sure of what to choose, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you a guide to selecting the right massage solutions for you.
Brief History of Massage
Before we give you a list of different massage therapy techniques that you can try, let us first learn about the origins of massage. Most people might think that massage therapy is a modern trend that natural healing practitioners are pushing. While this is a bit true, the medical benefits of massage are not new. In fact, massage is an element of an ancient holistic treatment technique that dates back roughly 5,000 years.
The roots of massage can be traced to 3000 BCE in India, where it was revered as a sacred kind of alternative treatment, especially by Hindus practicing “life health” medicine in Ayurveda. It was a practice that was passed down through generations to heal injuries, relieve pain, and prevent and cure illnesses. They believed that illness and disease are acquired when people are out of sync with the environment. It is believed to restore the natural and physical balance of the body, allowing it to heal naturally.
Around 2700 BCE, as culture and history developed, massage therapy made its way to China and Southeast Asia. Chinese traditional medicine, martial arts, and the meditative yoga practice of Buddhists and Taoists were all combined to create the massage techniques that are used today. The methods they used were very similar to those of the Indians.
Massage therapy reached Egypt by 2500 BCE. The Egyptians added their own bodywork techniques and were credited with developing reflexology, which involves applying pressure to certain points or zones on the feet and hands to effect healing. Later on, Monks studying Buddhism in China brought massage therapy to Japan in 1000 BCE. The Japanese put their own twist on massage, calling it “anma,” and it was later on known as Shiatsu. The technique was designed to regulate and strengthen organs by rebalancing energy levels through the stimulation of pressure points in hopes of bringing natural resistance to illness.
The Greeks and Romans were influenced by the Egyptians, and they used massage therapy in various ways. From 800 to 700 BCE, massage was used by athletes to condition their bodies before competitions. Doctors also often apply oils and herbs in combination with massage to treat different medical conditions. However, the popularity of massage therapy declined in the West until the 17th century, when new discoveries in pharmacology and medical technology changed modern medicine. But many doctors still saw the health benefits of massage.
As early as the 1700s, surgeons hired women to treat orthopedic problems with manual rubbing and friction, and they were referred to as “rubbers.” In the late 1800s, the terms “masseur” and “masseuse” became popular. These practitioners were trained in soft tissue manipulation.
It was in the early 1900s when the demand for masseurs and masseuses increased. Swedish massage had evolved in the 1930s, and the physiotherapists who used it in regular medicine helped massage therapy to become a legitimate and respectable form of medicine. When physical therapy was licensed in the 1950s, massage therapy had its own category.
The establishment of American Massage Therapy Association was established and laid the groundwork for massage therapists today. From 1970 to 2000, massage therapy experienced a transformation as more and more people chose to live healthier lifestyles and preferred more holistic approaches to health care and pain management.
What are the Different Types of Massage?
To be able to choose the right massage for you, learning about the different types can help. There are several massage styles that concentrate on different body regions or therapeutic techniques. Below are the different types of massage which may help you pick the right one for you:
1. Swedish Massage
A Swedish massage is a gentle, full-body massage that is perfect for those who are new to massage and are experiencing a lot of tension. It is also a good choice for people who are sensitive to touch. If you want to completely unwind, it’s fantastic for easing tense muscles. In this type of massage, you are required to remove your clothes. But you may also choose to keep your underwear on. You will be covered with a sheet while lying on a massage table. The sheet will be moved by the massage therapist to uncover areas that they are actively working on.
A combination of kneading, deep circular motions, tapping, vibration, passive joint movement, and long, flowing strokes in the direction of the heart are going to be used by the massage therapist. Most of the time, a Swedish massage lasts for 60 to 90 minutes.
2. Hot Stone Massage
For people who wish to unwind or who are feeling muscle stress and pain, a hot stone massage is ideal. It is quite similar to Swedish massage, but the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. A hot stone massage eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain through the heated stones.
During a hot stone massage, the heated stones are placed on various parts of the body. The massage therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of the body using Swedish massage techniques with gentle pressure. You also don’t wear clothes for hot stone massage unless you prefer to wear your underwear. You will also be covered with a sheet. Most of the time, the massage can take around 90 minutes long. 
3. Aromatherapy Massage
If you enjoy the scent and wish to have an emotional healing component to your massage, then an aromatherapy massage is a good choice for you. It is a type of massage that can help boost your mood, reduce stress and anxiety, reduce symptoms of depression, relieve muscle tension, and relieve pain. It combines soft, gentle pressure through essential oils. Massage therapists usually decide what essential oils to use, but you can also let them know about your preferences. Also, before the essential oils are applied to the skin, they are first diluted.
In aromatherapy massage, you will be given a full-body massage while inhaling essential oils through a diffuser and absorbing them through your skin. This type of massage usually focuses on the back, shoulders, and head. It can take around 60 to 90 minutes.
4. Deep Tissue Massage
Compared to a Swedish massage, a deep tissue massage uses more pressure. It is perfect for those who have muscle problems, including tightness, soreness, chronic muscle pain, imbalance, and injury. A massage therapist uses slow strokes and deep finger pressure during a deep tissue massage to relieve tension from the deepest layers of the muscles and connective tissues.
Even though deep tissue massage is more intense, you should not feel any pain or soreness after. It usually lasts around 60 to 90 minutes. You can be naked during the massage or wear your underwear.
5. Sports Massage
If you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle which is usually acquired from playing sports, a sports massage is great for you. It is also a good choice for those who are prone to injuries as it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. A sports massage is also used to increase flexibility and performance, as well as to relieve pain, muscle tension, and anxiety.
Sports massage can be done as a full-body massage, or the massage therapist can focus only on the parts that need the most attention. Deep pressure may be used alternately with soothing strokes, depending on your needs. You can have a sports massage while naked or clothed. If you choose to wear clothing, ensure that it is thin and loose and allows the therapist to access your muscles. A sports massage usually lasts for 60 to 90 minutes.
6. Trigger Point Massage
A trigger point massage is perfect for those who have injuries, chronic pain, or a specific issue or condition. There are times when areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, called trigger points, cause pain in other parts of the body. Therefore, by focusing on relieving trigger points, pain can be reduced.
In trigger point massage, tension is reduced by applying varying amounts of pressure to the trigger point. The entire body is worked on during this form of massage. However the massage therapist will concentrate on particular spots that need to be released. Lightweight clothing can be worn for this massage. You can also be fully or partially undressed. It usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes.
Reflexology is a type of massage that uses gentle to firm pressure on various pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. It is a good choice for people who are looking to relax and restore their natural energy levels. It is also great for those who are not comfortable being touched on the whole body. This massage is beneficial for relaxation, reducing pain, reduced fatigue, improved sleep, reduced anxiety, and improved mood.
During this massage, wearing loose and comfortable clothes that allow access to your legs is ideal. Reflexology massage can last from 30 to 60 minutes.
8. Shiatsu Massage
This type of massage is perfect for people who want to feel relaxed and relieve stress, tension, and pain. Shiatsu is a Japanese type of massage that promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation. It also relieves pain, headache, and muscle tension. In addition, it can help improve sleep and fatigue and may also improve mood.
Shiatsu massage works the whole body, but the massage therapist may also focus on areas that need extra attention. During the massage, the hands, palms, and thumbs of the massage therapist will be used to massage certain points of the body using pulsing or rhythmic pressure. You can be fully clothed during this type of massage, and it can take around 60 to 90 minutes.
9. Thai Massage
If you are looking for a more active type of massage to reduce pain and relieve stress, a Thai massage is perfect for you. Additionally, it can aid with energy levels, circulation, and flexibility. It works the whole body through the use of a sequence of movements that are similar to yogic stretching.
Massage therapists use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to the body during a Thai massage. In addition, you will also be stretched and twisted into different positions. Therefore, wearing loose and comfortable clothes during the massage is needed. This type of massage can last for 60 to 90 minutes.
10. Prenatal Massage
During pregnancy, women also experience body aches and pains, and prenatal massage is a safe way for them to get a massage. It can help reduce aches and stress and ease muscle tension. However, most facilities do not offer this massage to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage.
This type of massage uses mild pressure, similar to Swedish massage, and it focuses on areas like the lower back, legs, and hips. You can be totally or partially undressed, and you will either lie on your side or on a specially built table with a cutout for the belly. A prenatal massage can last around 45 to 60 minutes. Seeing a doctor before having a massage is important.
11. Couples Massage
This type of massage is what you can do with your partner, friend, or family member. It includes all the benefits of a regular massage. It also sometimes provides you with access to hot tubs, saunas, and other facilities offered. There are times when the massage also comes with pedicures, facials, and body scrubs.
In a couples massage, you can usually pick the type of massage you’d like to receive. You and your partner can both receive various kinds of massages. Both of you will be on tables side-by-side, each having your own massage therapist working on your body. It is a great bonding activity as you can talk during the massage if you want to.
12. Chair Massage
If you want a quick massage that focuses on the back, neck, and shoulders, a chair massage is a good choice. It is a comfortable introduction to massage if you have never experienced one before. It can help relieve stress and promote relaxation. Light to medium pressure is used for this type of massage.
During the massage, you will sit in a specially designed chair. To give the massage therapist access to your back, you will straddle the chair so that your chest presses into the back of it. A chair massage can last around 10 to 30 minutes.
13. Craniosacral Massage
This is a type of bodywork that helps release compression in the bones of the head, spine, and lower back. This type of massage is a gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, pelvis, and spine, which can help the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system and can also produce deeply relaxing results.
Some of the conditions that may benefit from craniosacral massage include headaches, migraines, scoliosis, constipation, sinus infections, neck pain, fibromyalgia, trauma recovery, mood disorders, and insomnia. However, it is not for those who have severe bleeding disorders, diagnosed aneurysms, and a history of recent traumatic head injuries. Therefore, before you undergo craniosacral massage, check with your doctor first. This type of massage usually lasts around 60 minutes or longer.
14. Abhyanga Oil Massage
This is a type of oil massage that originated from the system of Ayurvedic medicine in ancient India. In this massage, the oil is warmed and gently massaged all over the body. It focuses on nourishing the skin rather than deeply massaging the muscles. Based on research, Abhyanga oil massage can reduce stress, improve skin health, reduce blood pressure, and decrease muscle stiffness. It can last around 60 minutes or longer.
15. Myofascial Massage
This is another type of body massage that involves releasing stiffness in the fascia or the connective tissue system that contains each muscle in the body. Massage therapists stretch the areas that feel tense using light pressure. A myofascial massage is beneficial for those who have myofascial pain syndrome, headaches, and venous insufficiency. It can last for around 60 minutes or longer.
What are the Benefits of Massage?
Getting a massage is one of the best ways to relax after a long, tiring week. But aside from that, massages also have other benefits, particularly for people who have certain medical conditions. But even though there is research to support the benefits of a massage, this does not mean that you can just book one in lieu of seeking medical attention. It is still always best to talk with a professional if you are looking to alleviate pain caused by a medical condition. If you are wondering about what good a massage could bring, below are some of the benefits that you can get from it:
- Relieve Anxiety: Based on a study, a person suffering from anxiety can benefit from a massage. It’s because, during a massage, the sympathetic or calming response of a person is increased, which results in a decrease in anxiety. The best thing is that the effects of massage on decreased anxiety can be long-lasting.
- Better Sleep: If you are having trouble sleeping or suffering from insomnia, massage can help you sleep more deeply. It’s because when you get a massage, your nervous system slows down due to the pressure. Also, when you get deep and more restorative sleep, it reduces your levels of substance P, which is a neurotransmitter for pain, reducing overall pain. Therefore, if you have any aches, a massage will do double duty.
- Fight Fatigue: There are people who get fatigued due to lack of sleep, while some are getting fatigued due to biological factors. No matter where your fatigue is coming from, a massage is one easy solution for it. In 2018, one study found that breast cancer survivors who received weekly Swedish massages experienced a reduction in their fatigue, which is one of the effects of the disease.
- Constipation Relief: If you are dealing with constipation and other digestive issues, getting a stomach massage might help. According to a 2016 study published in Gastroenterology Nursing, abdominal massages helped people deal with post-surgery constipation by moving their bowels and feeling a bit better.
- Tension Headache Relief: Tension headache is also referred to as a concentration headache. It can feel like there is a tight band wrapped around the head. It is not fully understood, but there is evidence that massages can provide relief for tension headaches. Specifically, a massage can help relieve muscle tension in the neck, head, and shoulders, which in turn, alleviates the symptoms of headache.
- Temporary Arthritis and Joint Pain Relief: When a person has arthritis, there is swelling and pain in the joints. When the massage therapist kneads and massages the muscles, blood flows to the joints, which might give some temporary relief. However, it is important to mention that you have arthritis before your massage session so that the massage therapist can tell you how you might work together.
- Boost Focus: If you are having trouble staying focused in a meeting or reading a book, the effects of a massage can actually improve your attention and ability to focus. It’s because for you to best pay attention, your heart rate needs to be lowered. Since a massage slows down the nervous system, the heart rate is effectively slowed down too. Therefore, when you undergo the pressure of a massage, it could decrease your heart rate, which ultimately will improve your focus.
Does Massage Come with Any Risks?
There aren’t any proven risks of massage. However, if you have a medical history that involves cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes, you need to make the massage therapist aware of your condition. It is also better to visit a massage therapist who has experience with that particular issue.
If you are pregnant, you should consult with your doctor first before undergoing any massage sessions. Also, seeking out a therapist with pregnancy experience is important. For those with osteoporosis, a therapist with experience with that is also essential.
Massage Tools and Products That You Can Use at Home
A massage therapy session is indeed one of the relaxing things that you can have after a long day or week at work or whenever you feel the tension in your muscles. However, not everyone has the time to visit massage parlors and clinics due to their busy schedules. Some people might also live in places that are far away from establishments that offer massages. If this is the case, you don’t have to worry because you can still experience a relaxing massage in the comfort of your own home by using massage tools and products.
Below are some of the massage tools and products that you can use at home for relaxation and pain relief:
1. Electric Back Massager
If you are dealing with sore or stiff back due to being constantly on your feet or spending long hours sitting at a desk, a back massager is perfect for you. It is a convenient tool available right at home that can help you relax and release some of the tension in your muscles. One of the best is an electric back massager that uses various massage nodes, heads, vibrations, heat, and other features to give the experience of a relaxing back massage in the comfort of your home.
There are also some back massagers that provide a shiatsu massage, which imitates the pressure of the finger of a professional masseuse, providing deep tissue massage that can reduce tension and soothe tired muscles. There are different forms of back massagers available today. Below are a few examples that might help you choose:
- Papillon Back Massager: This electric back massager features Shiatsu massage with 3 adjustable speeds, allowing you to choose the right amount of pressure to relieve your muscle pain. It also features heat for a more comfortable massage. It claims to relieve muscle soreness and tension with its 4 massage nodes.
- Snailax Shiatsu Massage Cushion Chair: This is also an electric back massager that offers massage to your upper and lower backs. It has a detachable intensity control flap that allows the user to choose a softer or more intense massage. It also has soothing heat that warms the back while relaxing tense muscles. It can be used on a sofa, couch, office chair, or dining chair.
You can also use different massagers at home to achieve the relaxation and comfort offered by vibration massage. Check out our guide to Choosing the Best Massager for Your Back for some of the best options.
Electric Foot Massager
Getting a foot massage is also relaxing. However, if you do not have time to visit a massage therapist, having an electric foot massager at home will make it possible for you to experience the deep relaxation and health benefits of a foot massage. Also, when you have your own foot massager at home, you can enjoy it any time you want. They are great as they can help stretch the muscle fibers in your feet after a tiring day at work. Below are some examples of electric foot massagers:
- Cloud Massage Shiatsu Foot Massager Machine: This is a deep kneading feet massager that can help increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and provide pain relief. It can massage the whole foot, ankle, and calf. It has four levels of intensity, from gentle to strong. It claims to provide relief from tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and sciatica. It offers a rolling massage, compression therapy, spa heat therapy, and a sway function.
- Daiwa Felicity Foot Massager: This foot massager offers infrared treatment and acupressure, making it ideal for those with plantar fasciitis and neuropathy. It claims to boost circulation, soothe pain, and speed healing. It can also double as a leg massager for pain relief and circulation.
Neck and Shoulder Massager
At-home neck and shoulder massagers are beneficial tools for reducing neck and shoulder pain. There are lots of neck massagers available in the market, from manual rollers to electric ones with heat and vibration. There are also some that stimulate techniques like Swedish massage or Shiatsu. Below are some examples to help you choose:
- Trigger Point Roller Neck Massager: This is a manual neck massager that features 6 roller massage balls that rotates 360 degrees to adjust to your most comfortable angle and massage deep into the muscles with a larger area and relieve pain fast. It is safe to use and easy to control.
- HoMedics Shiatsu Deluxe Neck and Shoulder Massager: This is an electric and heated massager for the neck and shoulders. It is also portable, making it possible to carry when traveling. It has four massage nodes that can be programmed to rotate in or outward for a customizable experience. It features Shiatsu massage for neck and shoulder pain relief
Massage chairs are a special type of seating made to provide the many benefits of visiting a massage therapist in the comfort of your own home. While they can’t still compete with a skilled massage therapist, massage chairs offer a number of compelling benefits. One of those is the convenience of being able to enjoy it at home anytime.
Massage chairs for homes are classified into two groups, which are therapeutic and hobbyist. Therapeutic ones focus on features that can help alleviate chronic pain. Hobbyist chairs, on the other hand, offer more convenient features, such as LED lights, music support, and the like. Below are some examples of massage chairs that might help you choose:
- MassaMAX Full Body Massage Chair: This massage chair has foot massage rollers, full-body air compression massage, zero gravity reclining, and lower back heating therapy. It can massage the entire back to the buttocks, which relaxes the whole body. It also has the intelligent massage hands feature, which imitates massage therapists. Its foot massager offers reflexology massage and stimulating acupuncture points.
- LRXG Full Body Electric Massage Chair: This electric massage chair has eight massage points on the backrest. It has airbags all over the shoulder, arms, seat, and legs for a gentle massage, and it has foot rollers, too. It has a display screen and some auto massage programs for various experiences.
There are indeed a lot of options when it comes to massage. There are various types that are beneficial for different conditions. There are also many kinds of massage tools and products that you can use at home for instant relief from muscle pains and tension. Knowing and understanding your options can truly help in choosing the best type of massage and massage tools that you can use, depending on your needs. We hope this post helped you learn more about selecting the right massage solutions for you.
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