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Massage Therapy 101: The Benefits of Massage

Find out which kind of massage is right for you

Receiving a massage truly is a gift you should give to yourself on a regular basis. Massage therapy reduces pain, promotes muscle relaxation and improves mood and sleep quality. When you receive a massage, serotonin and dopamine are released, which results in a gorgeous feeling of calm relaxation that makes chronic or habitual stress much easier to overcome.

Massage therapy can also be effective for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, insomnia, headaches, hormonal imbalances and recovery from sports injury.

With all of the wonderful benefits that massage therapy can offer, there is little wonder why massage therapists offer a lot of options on their service menus. So how do you know which one is for you?

Below, we break down some popular types of massage and why they might be a good fit for you.

Swedish massage
This is the most popular massage option – and the one that you should request when you’re looking to chill out and enjoy some pampering. Massage therapists use long smooth strokes, kneading, and circular movements on superficial layers of muscle using massage lotion or oil. This is a great massage for those who have never had a massage before, as well as gentle way to release cramped muscles and stress tension.  It’s also the best massage to enjoy as a couple.

Try a Swedish massage at one of these spas:

Deep tissue massage
Warning: if you are looking for a relaxing massage, then you might want to skip this one. For a deep tissue massage, the therapist uses knuckles and elbow's to "strip out" muscle tissue as far down to the bone as possible. In fact, it is so deep that it might feel like torture to some. However, the treatment is excellent for people who are undergoing physiotherapy or anyone who has very dense tissue, has chronic pain and/or stiff muscles, and doesn’t mind a little – or a lot -- of discomfort.

Try a deep tissue massage at one of these locations:

Reflexology
Though commonly referred to as a foot massage, reflexology is more than that. The theory behind reflexology is that there are "reflex" areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body, and by applying pressure on specific areas of the foot you can alleviate the matching pain. For example, the tips of the toes reflect the head, and the heart and the chest are around the arch of the foot. While there is no scientific evidence proving the theory behind reflexology, who doesn't love getting their feet rubbed? This massage is relaxing, especially for those who are on their feet all day, and is best suited for digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances, insomnia, menstrual disorders and stress-related conditions.

Give reflexology a go at one of these clinics:

Sports injury massage
Whether you’re an athlete or not, a sports massage is a perfect choice for the physically active. Sports massage is a popular form of treatment for soft tissue injuries and can provide the opportunity for faster recovery. By stretching tight tissues and breaking down adhesions, a massage can help flush out swelling in joints, allowing for quicker healing.  It can also prevent injuries and loss of mobility, cure and restore mobility to injured muscle tissue, boost performance and extend the overall longevity of your physical performance.

Book a sports massage, at one of these spots:

Reiki therapy
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing of stomach aches, headaches, flu, cold, tension and anxiety. While its efficacy has not been proven and its merits are debated, some people enjoy the experience nonetheless. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us. If the life force energy is low, we are often stressed and sick. But when it is high, we feel happier, healthier and more at ease. There is not a protocol for a typical Reiki session, however the client is usually lying on a massage table, fully clothed, and the practitioner places her/his hands on or near the clients body in a series of hand positions around the head, neck, shoulders and stomach.

If you're interested in Reiki therapy, look for a clinic in your area.

Geriatric massage
Geriatric massage is a form of massage designed to meet the specific needs of seniors. Specialized massage therapy can help alleviate the symptoms and discomfort associated with having arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatism, as well as improve circulation. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends using massage to soothe a patient who has become irritated and aggressive. Additionally, some therapists specializing in geriatric massage apply an "adapted massage" approach, which means they also actively listen and provide moral support, often equally as important as the actual massage.

Canadians can check out the Senior Service Directory for their local geriatric massage therapist.