Massage therapy isn’t just a massage. There is a high level of organization behind the pressure, strokes, and stretching. Throughout history, massage has been valued as a medicinal and therapeutic practice, with certain massage techniques catering to certain ailments. Here is the methodology behind seven popular massages, so you know what the masseuse is thinking about while you, well, don’t want to be thinking very much at all.

1.Swedish massage is perhaps the most popular type of massage therapy. It is comprised of five basic strokes: effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber) and vibration/shaking. Johan Georg Mezger is accredited for founding the Swedish massage, which is only called such in English and Dutch speaking countries as well asHungary. Everywhere else, it is referred to as the “classic massage”.

2. Lymphatic massage aims to stimulate the body’s lympha system by applying light, gentle, repetitive strokes. A healthy lymph system requires that muscle cells are able to contract smoothly in the walls of lymph vessels so that muscles can shepherd lymphatic fluid through the vessels, lymph nodes, and the rest of the body. Founded by Emi Vodder and Estrid Vodder, both Danish doctors, lymphatic massage isn’t fit for those looking for a more intense, hard-pressured massage. Instead, it is excellent for those who want to detox their body of toxins or to reduce swelling post injury or surgery.

3. Thai massage is a system of massage and stretching that originates in none other than Thailand. Shivago Komarpaj is said to be the founder of the bodywork, some 2,500 years ago, but the practice is so complex and intricate, it is nearly impossible to credit the Thai massage to any single founder. It has been influenced by the traditional medicine systems of India, China, and Southeast Asia. During the Thai massage, there are no oils used and the practice varies incredibly from one region to another, so much in fact that there is not universally-accepted routine or framework for it. However, the general idea transcends all interpretations. Dressed in loose-fitting clothes, those receiving the massage lie on a mat on the ground and the masseuse positions them in different yoga-like poses, applying rhythmic pressures on the body during the poses.

4. Deep Tissue and Trigger Point Therapy massage utilizes slow friction and deep-finger pressure on areas of the body that are dealing with chronic muscle tension, aches, or pain. It is helpful for people who have hypertension in various areas on the body, such as the neck or shoulders, in order to focus on a particular complaint. It can be used in combination with other massages to balance the experience.

5. Myofascial Release is a soft-tissue therapy that improves somatic function, or the function of the body’s various systems, such as the skeletal, arthodial, and myofascial structures as well as the supporting vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements. “Fascia” is a thin layer of tissue that covers muscles. If tightened or stuck, fascia can prevent muscles from fully relaxing. Myofascial release works against this, allowing the body to reach a greater range of motion, heightened muscular strength, overall relaxation, and improved posture. First referred to in medical literature by Janet G. Travell in the 1940s, myofascial release involves a list of techniques to release muscle tension. These include: applying knuckles or forearm to body; sinking into soft tissue; contact the first barrier and put in a line of tension; taking up the slack in the tissue; dragging fascia across the surface of the skin while being in contact with the underlying skin.

6. Reiki is a spiritual practice of energy work and requires the application of a series of hands-on holding positions that relate the vital organs and nerve plexes. Ultimately, the therapy helps the body to recuperate itself and maintain overall equilibrium, in both mind and body. It is thus an exceptional tool for those who deal with a lot of stress. Developed in 1922 by Japenese Buddhist Mikao Usui, Traditional Japanese Reiki relies on intuitive hand movements, whereas Western Reiki has systemized hand placements.

7. Reflexology is a foot-based therapy. According to reflexology, or zone therapy, all of the body’s organs are mapped to the feet. With finger pressure to the feet, hands, or ears, the therapy links pressure points to the body’s various internal systems. Refleoxlogy was introduced in the US in 1913 by Doctor William H. Fitzgerald. 

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