Some research has shown that massage therapy can be effective during pregnancy due to its anxiety-lowering effects, and women who receive massages before and during labor tend to experience decreased depression, anxiety, and leg and back pain. Results from one study found that women who received massages prior to and during labor had significantly less pain, plus their labors were on average three hours shorter and required less need for medication.
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The whole Swedish experience is also a potential stress reliever, which is a benefit unto itself. Plus, it can improve blood flow, delivering more oxygen to cells. A lesser-known benefit—moisturized, glowing skin—results from the application of massage oils. Many therapists prefer to use sweet almond oil because it absorbs slowly into the skin, yet doesn’t leave clients feeling like they’re covered in grease. Other favorite oils include grapeseed (non-greasy, no smell) and jojoba oil (easily absorbed, mixes well with aromatherapy oils).
Unlike Swedish massage, which has a relaxing effect and uses lighter pressure, deep tissue massage is done using deep finger pressure with strokes that are firm and slow. Deep tissue massage has several therapeutic effects and can be used to treat many different conditions. This type of massage is ideal for the treatment of major muscle groups like the neck or lower back. It can also be used to relieve strain and treat injuries in your joints and tendons.
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During pregnancy, your body goes through major changes. Pregnancy massage can help with these changes by reducing stress, decreasing arm and leg swelling, and relieving muscle and joint pain. Massage may be particularly helpful during a time when medication and other medical options may be more limited. Using specially designed massage pillows, the massage therapist will help get you into a comfortable position for this type of massage.
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Therapeutic massage is a general term that describes any type of massage modality that helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and work on a specific problem—such as a frozen shoulder. People tend to assume therapeutic massage means deep tissue massage, and that they will get a very strong massage. But this is not always the case. Deep tissue massage is great at breaking down scar tissue and getting your blood circulating, but it may not be what you need on a particular day. A good therapist will apply the specific techniques and the right amount of pressure to address your need, and sometimes that’s a lighter touch.
There are five primary techniques used in the performance of a Swedish massage at home: effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration, and tapotement. Effleurage and petrissage are the most common techniques utilized by most massage therapists, and the most recognized by those who have ever received a Swedish massage. These are the long flowing or gliding strokes (effleurage) and kneading (petrissage).
When most people think of massage, they think of Swedish. The style takes its name from a 19th-century Swedish physiologist, Per Henrik Ling, whose system of medical gymnastics included massage. Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) coined a reduced set of maneuvers and techniques of Dr. Ling’s system as the “Swedish massage” system. Swedish massage is defined by four or five (somewhat familiar) techniques, which have French names: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic choppings), and friction (rubbing). Some therapists now incorporate advanced techniques that have rehabilitating effects and stretches for improving your range of motion. But the ultimate goal is relaxation. As the default Western massage, Swedish massage is extremely popular and is simple, soothing touch therapy.