There are many different types of massage to choose from, and the one you opt for will depend on your own individual circumstances. For example, you may decide to go for health reasons, i.e. to manage pain, improve circulation or aid the process of injury. However you may just want to pamper yourself or relieve stress and tension. Where they are used for physiological or mental benefits they may be called “therapeutic”. There are many names given to the different types available e.g. Indian Head massage, Hot Stone and sports massage, and all will provide different benefits.
What is a massage?
It is the practice of using different types of touch, pressure and movements to the soft tissues of the body to achieve a beneficial response, such as releasing muscular tension, enhancing well-being and relaxing the body. They can be applied to individual parts of the body, such as the head or shoulders, or to the entire body, and are performed by a professional healthcare practitioner or masseuse. It is important that the massage therapist has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to perform the treatment to prevent causing any damage to the tissues. If performed by anyone other than a professional masseuse they could potentially do more harm than good.
Standard treatments usually involve the client lying on a massage table, however other types can also be performed while the client sits in a chair or even lays on the floor. When a table is used, the session often begins with the client lying face up or face down, and then turning over during the middle of the session to face the opposite direction (this will obviously depend on the type you have).
Most involve the client being unclothed or partially clothed, and the practitioner will usually cover the parts of the body that aren't being massaged (this is often referred to as draping). Different countries practice different standards and in some places it is compulsory that certain areas are covered at all times. If you have any concerns, speak to your massage therapist before the session begins to ensure you will be fully relaxed during your treatment. You should also discuss with your practitioner your preferred technique (if you know what it is), the amount of pressure that's comfortable for you and any areas of the body you don't want massaged. You will usually be asked about your medical history and physical condition before the session begins so the masseuse is aware of any problem areas.
Types of massage
Standard massages will concentrate on certain areas of your body (e.g. head or shoulders), or all of your body if you opt for a full body massage, and will involve the practitioner using different techniques to relax tense muscles and release any tension. Lotions or oils will often be used to help the process (where specific essential oils are used for their qualities to reduce stress, energise etc. this is often referred to as an aromatherapy massage). Different pressures and movements will be used and you should communicate what feels most comfortable with your therapist.
As well as the standard, there are many others involving specific techniques and approaches (often referred to as massage therapy). Some of these are listed below:
Hot Stone Massage
This involves placing heated, smooth, flat stones on key points on the body e.g. on your back, in the palms of your hands or between your toes. The stones may also be used in the hands of your practitioner while using massaging strokes. The use of heated stones on the body as a healing technique has been around for thousands of years, however it was only during the 1990's that the approach became recognised worldwide; a massage therapist from Tucson, Arizona spent three years researching and developing the method and as more people experienced the technique, its' popularity grew. The heat of the stones warms and relaxes muscles and improves circulation, while calming the nervous system.
Indian Head Massage
This is an ayurvedic form of healing and relaxation, used to relieve tension and stress. This technique is widely used in Asia but has grown in popularity around the world in recent years. The client will sit upright in a chair for this treatment and the therapist will use a variety of different movements and pressures on the neck, shoulders and head. This technique helps improve circulation, relieve stress, tiredness and headaches, and should leave the client feeling deeply calm.
Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage that uses pressure from fingertips (and sometimes thumbs, knees, elbows or feet) to improve the flow of vital energy, known as “ki”. The pressure is firm, but the treatment is relaxing. During a shiatsu treatment the client will be on a mat on the floor throughout and will remain fully clothed.
Sports Massage and Sports Therapy
This form of therapy is used to prevent injuries and enhance performance of athletes. A range of techniques, including stretching and soft tissue manipulation are used before, during and after the sporting activity by a sports massage therapist.
Reflexology and foot massage
This involves applying pressure to certain points on the foot that correspond to organs and systems within the body. The art of reflexology dates back to Ancient Egypt, India and China but it wasn't until the early 1900's that the technique began to grow in popularity in Europe.
It's believed that reflexology can be used to help restore and maintain the body's natural equilibrium. It is also used to help back pain, stress and headaches, and many people use reflexology to relax their mind and body. A professionally trained reflexologist can detect changes in specific points in the foot and works on these points to correspond to organs in the body.
Neck, shoulder and back massage
The back massage is probably one of the most popular and well known massages to be performed around the world, not only by professionals but also at home by couples as a relaxing wind down after a hard day, or to relieve stress and pain in the back, shoulders and neck. Most people can give a massage which is satisfactory, but for a truly deep, or specialist massage it is well worth visiting a professional. A professional who has been trained in back massage techniques is able to focus on areas which need the most work and use the correct technique for a relaxing and stress relieving effect.
How much does a massage cost?
The price of a massage can vary greatly depending on area, type, and the therapist who is giving you a massage. For a full body massage in London you will generally be looking at a price range of about £45 - £120. Whereas a massage outside of London and UK cities can range from about £25 - £80. The charge will also depend on whether you are visiting the salon or if it is a mobile massage and your therapist is visiting your home. The second will usually be more costly as the therapist needs to buy equipment and take the cost of reaching you into account, however, sometimes mobile massages are cheaper as there is no room rental cost for the therapist to consider.
A lot of massage therapists and salons tend to charge based on the amount of time that you will be having your massage rather than the type of massage, so generally, the shorter the treatment, the cheaper the price. This applies unless you are having a specialist massage which is hard to get elsewhere, uses specialist equipment, or is out of the ordinary.
What training and experience should a massage therapist have?
Because massage is an unregulated therapy in the UK, some massage therapists choose to join a professional body. Clients can be assured that professional body members are fully trained, qualified, insured and capable of meeting a high standard of practice in massage.
There are a number of professional bodies working across the UK, some of which are detailed below. Although the following list is not exhaustive, it does mention some of the main professional bodies. To find out more about each, you are advised to visit their websites by following the links.
Founded in 1992, the Association of Biodynamic Massage Therapists (ABMT) aims to uphold a high level of professional practice across the UK biodynamic massage industry. The ABMT only registers qualified professionals who comply with their strict Code of Ethics and Complaints Procedure. The organisation also aims to educate the public on the benefits of biodynamic massage by publishing information and encouraging research.
The MTI, founded in 1988, is an esteemed organisation dedicated to regulating standards throughout the UK holistic massage industry. Although first created by a group of massage tutors, the body is now run as part of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
The MTI runs a series of accredited training schools offering Diploma courses that help maintain the highest possible standards across the massage industry.
The National Association of Massage and Manipulative Therapists (NAMMT) is a non-profit organisation formed to represent the interests of professional therapists. The NAMMT aims to improve the professional development of members by offering professional advice, acting as a networking facility and encouraging research into massage and manipulative therapy techniques.
All members are governed by a Code of Ethics that outlines a high standard of professional practice and safeguards clients against incompetent or unsatisfactory services.
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