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A good massage is truly a treat and offers many health benefits, but as you've noted, massage places tend to offer lots of options on their services menus. In fact, there are over 200 different massage techniques and types, all treating different needs and providing various benefits. Let's break it down. Here are nine of the most popular types of massages and when you might want to choose them.
Finding time for each other, let alone massages, can be difficult for couples with busy schedules. By pairing massage sessions with quality bonding time, couples can accomplish two goals at once and emerge relaxed, refreshed and reconnected. A couple’s massage is a wonderfully relaxing, personal experience. Leave the ‘real world’ behind the walls of Le Reve Rittenhouse Spa.
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However, since having the feet or hands rubbed is an enjoyable and relaxing experience for most people, there is little doubt that hand and foot reflexology can promote stress relief and a sense of well being in much the same way as any other form of massage. This therapy may be an especially useful complementary treatment for neuropathy of the legs, feet and toes. It can also be useful for sore hands and feet after a workout, running or taking a long walk.
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Learn the fundamentals of reflexology. Reflexology is based on the premise that the nerves in your feet, hands and ears each correspond with other parts of your body. Applying pressure to certain reflex areas can relieve symptoms in other parts of the body. Engaging a nerve in your big toe, for example, could reduce tension in your head and relieve a headache. Applying pressure to your heel could aid in digestion. Reflexology has even been used to aid in treatment for serious conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Research has shown that reflexology has four primary effects:
To understand this difference, it’s helpful to first think of the body’s fascia and muscles in layers. Notice in this image the many overlappinglayers of these tissues. Fascia is a connective tissue which permeates the entire body – literally holding the body together, wrapping around every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel, and bone. These wrappings are all interconnected in a three-dimensional maze. The muscle layers run superficial to deep in the body.
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Swedish massage uses five basic movements to increase circulation and remove toxins from the muscles. Always working towards the heart, the massage therapist incorporates these techniques into a flowing massage session that leaves the patient physically and emotionally relaxed. The trademark move is Effleurage, long gliding strokes that can be firm or soft, depending on purpose and client. Many therapists start out a session with Effleurage to familiarize themselves with the patient, and then start to bring more pressure to bear for deeper work.
Obviously, open sores to the hands and/or feet would be a reason to avoid reflexology. Acute injuries also must be handled with care. Anyone with active blood clots should avoid rubbing near the area of the clot. Burns, wounds, gout and infections to the hands or feet should also limit the use of reflexology. Lower extremity swelling or chronic skin changes that are a result of vascular problems to the feet should also limit this form of therapy. Recent removal of a cancerous tumor or other surgical procedures, such as wart removal, also make reflexology inadvisable. There is some evidence that rubbing of the feet during pregnancy might stimulate contractions, and so should be avoided in the later stages of pregnancy.
During the 1990s, I observed at least seven foot reflexologists at work during health expositions. In most cases, the process appeared to be an ordinary prolonged foot massage with little communication between the practitioners and their clients. But at one exhibit, the practitioners claimed that they could reduce stress, cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. On another occasion, I underwent a 15-minute session in which the practitioner felt my foot for diagnostic purposes and then massaged it for "therapeutic" purposes. During the previous year, I had had severe shoulder pain caused by an inflamed tendon that was rubbing against a bony surface inside my left shoulder joint. Thorough medical evaluation had determined that the appropriate treatment was arthroscopic surgery in which a drill is used to shave the bony area that was impinging on the tendon. The reflexologist claimed that he could detect the shoulder problem by feeling my left foot, that it was caused by stress, and that pressing on my foot—perhaps for a few sessions—could solve the problem. His "treatment," which lasted about 10 minutes, consisted of massaging the foot and from time to time, pressing hard on the ball of my foot, a procedure that was quite painful. The "treatment," of course, did absolutely nothing to help my shoulder. A few months later, I had the surgery, which cured the problem immediately and permanently.
Phussapa Thai Massage School also offers reflexology training course. The educational systems available for this course are basically the theory, practice, and examination. This institution has the authorization from Thai Ministry of Education. The main curriculum included in this course is the general subject of reflexology such as the history of foot massage, basic knowledge of reflexology map, safe and proper foot massage, necessary equipment, and advice after session. For the practice session, a full session of one-hour foot massage and cool down massage is taught. The examination will be in written and practice format. After the completion of whole school course, the certificate will be issued.22
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Whenever athletes exercise heavily, their muscles suffer microtraumas. Small amounts of swelling occur in the muscle because of tiny tears. Post-event sports massage helps reduce the swelling caused by microtraumas; loosens tired, stiff muscles; helps maintain flexibility; promotes blood flow to the muscle to remove lactic acid and waste build-up; and reduces cramping. In addition, post-event massage helps speed the athlete's recovery time and alleviates pulls, strains, and soreness.
Following injury, and especially if it’s also a very stressful time, inflammation can prevent proper blood flow from reaching damaged tissue and can cut off vital nutrients and oxygen. This can cause toxins to accumulate around damaged tissue, which only increases swelling and pain. Some studies have found that even self-administered massage can help reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis and other injuries. (10)
This is not only an inaccurate and potentially harmful picture of this type of therapy, but such misguided practices can bruise muscles, elicit a defensive reaction in a client’s body, and worsen pain cycles. Properly executed deep tissue work should not cause the client to grit their teeth in agony as the therapist coerces the body into submission! If you find yourself clenching, shortening or holding your breath, or gritting your teeth, then it’s TOO DEEP. Even when it gets intense, it should not go above about a 7 on the pain scale: enough to “hurt so good,” but not enough that you want to leap off the table (and never come back).
Continuing education certification is available. Advanced training focuses on mastering the ability to perform hand reflexology. The therapist also receives instruction in new and advanced techniques of basic reflexology. Some reflexology training classes may be applied toward degree programs in other disciplines, depending on the specific course of study and the certification of the respective training institutions involved.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
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Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. One benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This is thought to contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection may also help facilitate better physical health.