First off, exactly what is massage?
Webster defines massage as “manipulation of tissues with the hand for relaxation or therapeutic purposes.” This is a good general definition, and looking at it closely will help us to understand massage more clearly.
When thinking of massage and the word “tissues”, most people think of the muscles. And yes, muscles are a very important part of massage, but there are other tissues in our bodies that can be therapeutically treated to improve our sense of well-being.
Fascia is a hugely important tissue in the body; in my opinion and experience, more pivotal when relieving pain than even the muscles. Yet, it’s still not widely known by people. To learn more, read my blog: Fascia: Stretch It! Dance It! Massage It!
What about the nerves? This too is a tissue in our body that can be influenced by massage. Nerve impingement and aggravation can occur when the muscles and fascia tighten near the nerves. This can very easily create chronic issues in the body.
There are also the fluids of the body: the blood, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid, which baths the central nervous system.
Can massage benefit all of these tissues? Absolutely!
How does massage benefit all these different tissues?
The word “massage” often brings to mind a candle-lit room in a spa with essential oils, relaxing music, and a gentle Swedish-style massage. This is certainly massage, but the world of massage goes far beyond just the spa experience.
There are many approaches to working with the tissues of the body. A licensed massage therapist can be trained in one or many of these modalities. Here are just some of these modalities: Deep Tissue Massage, CranioSacral Therapy, Myofascial Release, Energy Work, Lymphatic Drainage, TriggerPoint Massage, Reflexology, and the list goes on.
Massage is not simply rubbing the muscles. It’s much more than that. Depending on the training of the therapist, massage sessions can be as different as the people receiving them. There can be the massaging of muscles with oil; there can be sustained holds to help the fascia release; there can be very gentle holds that help the body to heal itself.
How can these different types of massage benefit you?
Let’s take a closer look at some of these modalities and how they can benefit you. I’m going to primarily focus on the modalities in which I am trained. I chose to develop this tool set because I have a goal at Listening Hand Therapeutic Massage to help people live as pain free as possible. I’ve found that this “tool set” (this combination of modalities) has consistently helped people with relief from and management of chronic pain, greatly improving their sense of well-being.
Therapeutic massage helps the muscles to relax and the fluid (particularly the blood and lymph) to move through the body more freely. This nourishes and improves the overall functioning of the body. It also increases flexibility, decreases cortisol (which means you will feel a decrease in stress) and increases serotonin (which means you will feel relaxed and happy).
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is often thought of as the same as deep- or heavy-pressure massage. But it is not. It can involve a heavy pressure, however, a truer description of deep tissue massage is that it works through the layers of tension in the tissue to get to the deepest tissue. This can often be done with a very soft touch. It often includes working with the fascia and the muscles.
This therapy is great for relieving chronic pain, optimizing the body for people who want to improve their sense of well-being. And because the body feels better, it lends itself to improving the way we think and feel about life.
CranioSacral Therapy is a type of massage that is very different than what is commonly thought of as massage. Instead of focusing on the massaging the muscles tissue, if focuses on relieving the tissue around the central nervous system. It does this by releasing restrictions in the fascia through a very soft touch and gentle tractioning.
Because it relieves tension around the central nervous system, it can have one of the profoundest healing effects on the body. It can quickly correct chronic issues that other modalities can’t address. It goes to the root of the problem.
To learn more about CranioSacral Therapy, read my two blogs: What Is CranioSacral Therapy? and What Everyone Should Know About Pain Relief and CranioSacral Therapy.
How do I know which one is for me?
Great question! I’m glad you asked ;).
A well trained and experienced massage therapist will be able to guide you to the modality that will best serve you. If the therapist is not trained in a particular type of massage, they should know a therapist that is and can refer you to where you will get the best help.
My hope as always is that this information empowers you to make choices to feel better in your body!
To benefit from massage, click here!