You have a headache, your back is killing you and your neck cracks every time you look up. Boy, do you need a little pampering. A massage may be just the thing to knock out the kinks and get your muscles feeling supple and relaxed again. But which massage should you choose?
The term "massage" can be a little confusing. You can get a Swedish-style massage to loosen tired muscles, or indulge in a relaxation massage that's as much a spiritual experience as a physical one. You can also get a targeted massage, like a deep tissue that will reduce muscle stress in a specific area, such as your shoulders or lower back. Some of these techniques are more spa-style treatments while others may enlist the aid of a physical therapist or be performed in a chiropractor's office as part of an overall wellness program.
There are techniques you can try that'll rock you, shake you, knead your muscles or take advantage of your pressure points to get your energy flowing in the right direction. This roundup hits the highlights, but there are dozens of styles to choose from:
- Acupressure - This classic treatment is based on the belief that pressure applied to key areas of the body will release healing energy. Acupressure doesn't use needles like acupuncture does.
- Hot Stone Massage - Combining massage techniques that employ heat and pressure, hot stone massage utilizes smooth stones in varying sizes to relax muscles and stimulate the body's natural healing energies. Stones for this one can get as hot as 130 degrees Fahrenheit (about 54 degrees Celsius), so be prepared.
- Lomi Lomi - This Hawaiian massage method uses spiritualism, rubbing techniques and direct pressure to encourage whole-body health and spiritual harmony.
- Orthopedic Massage - Often part of a therapeutic rehabilitation program following an injury, orthopedic massage is tailored to treat a specific condition or area of the body. It promotes healing and can increase mobility, strength and flexibility.
- Shiatsu - Using traditional Chinese direct-pressure massage techniques, Shiatsu massage balances the meridians of the body that correspond to the four elements: air, earth, fire and water.
- Swedish Massage - One of the most popular and common forms of massage, Swedish massage improves circulation, relieves pain and promotes relaxation by stroking and manipulating the muscles in a less aggressive way than deep-tissue massage.
- Tai Massage - A blended technique that uses Western massage therapies and yoga principles, Tai massage is performed while the subject is clothed and seated on a yoga mat. It employs a number of technician-assisted yoga poses.
A physical complaint may have you lining up for a massage when you should really be making an appointment with your doctor. Back pain, headache, blurry vision, loss of appetite and other symptoms could signal a serious injury or underlying medical condition.
If you notice changes in your body that you can't easily explain, consult your doctor before you try to self-diagnose and treat the problem with a trip to a day spa. As nice as a relaxing rubdown may be, if you're hurt or sick, a massage could make the situation worse.