Our lives have become jam-packed with a million things to do and think about. By the time we stagger in the door, there’s even more stuff to get done at home. We live in a world that never shuts down, so it’s no wonder our muscles ache as we feel tension build up. Luckily, there are several massage techniques that can help manage and ease that stress.
How Does Massage Reduce Stress?
When we’re stressed, our body releases stress hormones to keep us in a state of fight or flight. Over time, our muscles tense up and hold on to those toxins. Living in constant stress can put your body and mind in distress, which can lead to behavior, mood, and body changes. This can look like:
When you’re being pumped full of these stress hormones, your heart rate stays elevated and your blood pressure can go up. If left untreated, long-term stress can lead to systemic issues, ailments, and chronic pain.
Stress relief is one of the first and greatest benefits of certain massage techniques. Massage helps to loosen those muscles and ease the tension we feel. During just one hour long massage, your heart rate drops, blood pressure lowers, and muscles being to relax by increasing circulation throughout the body.
Power of Touch
There’s also a level of stress relief that comes from just the power of touch in a tranquil environment. It stimulates production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and peace. Serotonin levels increase during and after massage—serotonin is your body’s natural “happy hormone”.
Cortisol is the stress hormone your body pumps through your system when you’re stressed, and it’s thought that massage reduces those levels. As your stress level comes down, you’re better able to sleep, which positively affects your body in every way.
What Massage Techniques Reduce Stress?
If you’re looking for the right massage techniques to give you the most stress relief, you’ll have several to choose from. Each is different and meant for different stress issues and overall needs. Just pick the one best for you or try a few to see which works best.
This is the type people most think of when they think of a relaxing massage. This form uses the technique of long, broad and sweeping strokes to elongate and gently stretch muscles. The motions used in Swedish massage are used to create a deep sense of relaxation. Your therapist may use circular or kneading motions to ease shallow muscle tension.
You can add aromatherapy easily to Swedish massage to help the mood be even more relaxing. Swedish massage is ideal for maintaining a level of relaxation and getting relief from an average amount of stress.
Deeper rooted stress requires different massage techniques. If you suffer from chronic pain or deep aching in your muscles, this more intense style of massage uses deeper strokes and kneading than you’ll get in Swedish massage. Deep-tissue can leave your muscles sore for a day or two after your massage but, over time, you’ll feel relief from nagging aches and pains.
This Japanese style of massage is great for people who feel a deep level or extended period of stress. The masseuse will use her hands, elbows, forearms, and even feet to gain the leverage and level of pressure they need. They work to ease tension in muscles, joints, and limbs, increasing circulation which gives a big boost to oxytocin levels.
If you’ve ever wanted to give Eastern massage techniques a try, Shiatsu is a great place to start. They work on the philosophy of eliminating blockages in the body’s energy flow. People leave feeling better both physically and emotionally.
This is a much different style than traditional massages. Reflexologists work on the feet, hands and sometimes the ears. The belief is that the foot is connected through energy pathways to every part, including your major organs, of the body. They divide the foot into four sections and from there, each point on the foot affects the corresponding point on the body.
People use reflexology massage techniques to address:
The therapist will use pressure points to ease concerns in the body. This is a great foot massage with bigger systemic results.
Hot Stone Massage
You’ve probably seen this option on the spa menu of services and wondered what it’s all about. Instead of just relying on their hands, the massage therapist places hot stones on your skin over tight muscles to help them break down knots. While the stones are on one area of your body, the masseuse can massage other areas and the muscles under the stones will be looser when they get to it.
This is a great option for anyone who suffers from long standing tight muscles or knotty muscle areas.
This massage was developed with athletes and what they put their bodies through in mind. It’s designed to address specific aches and pains that come from repetitive motions associated with sports or exercise. This kind of massage helps athletes with shorter recovery time, improves range of motion and some people claim it helps their overall performance.
This is perfect for athletes, weekend warriors, and anyone who feels they give their body a pounding every time they work out.
This eastern massage style is also known as yoga massage. It is a technique of intense stretches. While some stretches are so severe they can be painful, the masseuse will have you breathe through the stretch and you’ll come out the other side with improved flexibility and a greater range of motion.
This is not the best choice if you’re just looking for a relaxing massage but is great if you feel you need a fantastic stretch.
How Can You Pick the Right Technique for You?
When you’re deciding which of the massage techniques we’ve talked about, it’s important to think of your main concerns and what you want your results to be. Once you’ve settled on the type you want, it’s time to find the right practitioner.
Picking the Right Person
As you’re looking for a massage therapist, look for those who are accredited. You’ll want a reputable place with licensed referrals to have the best experience. Ask around for referrals from friends and family—it’s always nice to go to a place someone you know really likes.
When you arrive for your appointment, a good massage therapist will meet with you before they make sure they understand what you need. There are a set of questions they should ask for your first appointment:
If there are questions you have, the pre-massage consultation is the place to ask.
What to Expect
While you’re getting your massage, keep the lines of communication open with your massage therapist. If they’re pushing too hard, speak up. They really don’t want to hurt you; they may just not know you’re uncomfortable. If the pressure is too light, let them know that too. This is your massage and you’re paying for it so it should be what you want it to be.
If you’re ticklish, just laugh and ask them to either skip that body part or use firmer pressure. If you’re too cold, too hot, feel a breeze, or want the music turned down—speak up. It’s also ok to let your therapist know you’d just like to relax if they’re on the chatty side.
Your therapist should check in with you once or twice to make sure the massage techniques they’re using are working for you. When the massage is over they should gently let you know the time is up. You should have time to slowly sit up and change. When you meet them outside your door, most therapists will have a cup of water waiting for you. It should be a relaxing visit start to finish.
Every one of our massage techniques will provide stress relief. Because so many toxins and lactic acid build up in your muscles you need to hydrate well after your massage to flush those toxins out of your system.
Once you find a massage therapist you like, it’s beneficial to go back as often as you can afford but at least monthly. The more time you let go between massages, the more your body reverts to the state of stress it was in before you got your massage.
You will find a massage that will ease the stress of your daily life. With so much coming at your every day, it’s more important than ever to take some “me time”. Enjoy your massage!