Stroking in smooth movements, kneading to loosen muscles, rubbing or friction with the practitioner using both hands back and forth in opposite directions, and striking (tapping or chopping the body with fingers or hands) are all used in combination. These movements help relax the body, increase circulation, and improve drainage in the lymphatic system.

The therapist might use Swedish massage to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph fluids, and trigger point therapy to break down adhesions (knots in the muscles), and stretching to increase the range of motion. Other techniques could include myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage and orthopedic assessment. The therapist should also have a good foundation in hydrotherapy modalities including cryotherapy and thermotherapy, which can help with recovery, repair and healing processes.

Swedish massage is now gaining acceptance from the medical community as a complementary treatment. Studies have shown that massage can relax the body, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce stress and depression. It may also provide symptomatic relief for many chronic diseases. Many doctors now prescribe massage therapy as symptomatic treatment for headache , facial pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, other chronic and acute conditions, stress, and athletic injuries. Many insurance companies now reimburse patients for prescribed massage therapy. As of 2000, however, Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for this form of alternative treatment.

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A good massage is truly a treat and offers many health benefits, but as you've noted, massage places tend to offer lots of options on their services menus. In fact, there are over 200 different massage techniques and types, all treating different needs and providing various benefits. Let's break it down. Here are nine of the most popular types of massages and when you might want to choose them.

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Massage in China is an extremely popular therapy, the city of Shanghai alone playing host to over 1500 foot massage centers while there are more than 3000 in Shenzhen. It is one of the biggest service industries in China with workers in Shanghai numbering in the tens of thousands.[17] The average rate of pay for a worker in the massage industry in China is over 10000 yuan per month, making it among the highest paid jobs in China’s service sector.[18] China’s massage parlors are frequently linked to the sex industry and the government has taken a number of measures in recent times to curb prostitution and the spread of disease. In a nationwide crackdown known as the yellow sweep ("Yellow" in Mandarin Chinese refers to sexual activities or pornographic content), limitations on the design and operation of massage parlors have been placed, going so far as requiring identification from customers who visit massage establishments late at night and logging their visits with the local police.[19][20]
To understand this difference, it’s helpful to first think of the body’s fascia and muscles in layers. Notice in this image the many overlappinglayers of these tissues. Fascia is a connective tissue which permeates the entire body – literally holding the body together, wrapping around every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel, and bone. These wrappings are all interconnected in a three-dimensional maze. The muscle layers run superficial to deep in the body.

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No. Bottom line, massage should never hurt if you don’t want it to. Some clients specifically say that they do not want to be in pain, and that should be respected. However, there are certain techniques that might cause discomfort. If the client and therapist communicate and agree on increased pressure, you can incorporate these deeper or more aggressive techniques into the massage. They can cause a little pain at the time, and a little bit of soreness the next day. I like to compare it to how you feel after a good workout. A good Massage Therapist will also be very skilled at warming and softening the tissue layer by layer to decrease the amount of pain felt by the client.

Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the United States. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of the massage. The benefits of Swedish massage include increased blood circulation, mental and physical relaxation , decreased stress and muscle tension, and improved range of motion.
You've probably seen these strange contraptions at conventions, the mall, nail parlors, and maybe even your office. Chair massages have you sitting face forward in a chair so the therapist can massage mostly your neck, shoulders, and back. The good thing is you don't have to take off your clothes or have oils slathered all over you. The bad thing is you don't get a thorough whole-body massage as you do with other methods, and, since this is often done in public places, it can be very distracting and not as relaxing. Depending on the massage therapist, however, a chair massage can really get the tension out of your upper body.

Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.
Sports massage therapists deliver treatments before professional competitions to help improve an athlete’s flexibility and after competitions to alleviate injuries or keep muscles from tightening. They might also work in private practice, health care or athletic facilities where they provide sports massage therapy to everyday clients seeking some of the many benefits of sports massage, such as these:
Pauline Wills, author of the Reflexology and Colour Therapy Workbook, teaches that colors can be applied to "areas where an abnormality has been diagnosed but which has produced no noticeable symptoms in the physical body." She states that the application can be done by imagining colors transmitted through the practitioner's hand or by Firstly, if the practitioner is sensitive to colour, they can visualize it being projected or by using "reflexology crystal torch." [8].

In South Africa, massage is regulated, but enforcement is poor. The minimum legal requirement to be able to practice as a professional massage therapist is a 2-year diploma in Therapeutic Massage and registration with The Allied Health Professions Council of SA (AHPCSA). The 2 year qualification includes 240 credits, about 80 case studies, and about 100 hours community service.

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A type of massage in which the fingers, thumbs and elbows are used to release chronic muscle tension, using slow, deep strokes and friction; the therapist may work perpendicularly to the length of the fibres of the superficial muscles, with the intent of massaging muscle that lies underneath. The therapy borrows from other forms of bodywork, including Chua ka, cross-fibre friction massage, deep tissue sculpting, Hellerwork, Rolfing and others; it is believed to increase blood flow and to be of greatest use in problem muscles for pain, rehabilitation and arthritic complaints.
Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in in this form, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in it before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as classic massage.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), this includes individuals with bleeding disorders, low blood platelet counts, or those who are taking blood thinning medications. When these types of conditions are present, the NCCIH indicates that a sports massage with deep tissue work is generally not recommended.
Diagnosing or treating disease would constitute the practice of medicine and would be illegal for anyone who does not have a professional license to do these things. Although many diagnose and treat disease, I am not aware of any prosecutions. In some states that license massage therapists, unlicensed reflexologists might also be prosecutable for practicing massage therapy without a license [11].

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Strength and stamina: There is no question that massage therapists must have a great deal of physical strength and endurance to perform their jobs every day. It takes a significant amount of arm and shoulder strength to perform various massage techniques especially when you have to do it all day with consistency. This is especially true for those who perform deep tissue massage or Swedish massage. Most sessions run an hour long. So, if you see at least six clients a day, it is crucial that you maintain your strength, focus, and attention to detail.

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Reflexology is based on an absurd theory and has not been demonstrated to influence the course of any illness. Done gently, reflexology is a form of foot massage that may help people relax temporarily. Whether that is worth $35 to $100 per session or is more effective than ordinary (noncommercial) foot massage is a matter of individual choice. Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care or to unnecessary medical testing of people who are worried about reflexology findings.
Our systems include a control unit and attachments which go on the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to massage your limbs, mobilize fluid, and speed recovery with our patented NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern. When you use our systems, you will first experience a pre-inflate cycle, during which the connected attachments are molded to your exact body shape. The session will then begin by compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad (depending on which attachment you are using). Similar to the kneading and stroking done during a massage, each segment of the attachment will first compress in a pulsing manner and then release. This will repeat for each segment of the attachment as the compression pattern works its way up your limb. 

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The massage types above are some of the most popular massages you can get, but there are many others. Regardless of the type of massage you opt for, be sure to tell your therapist which areas you especially need work on, whether you have any health issues, and, during the massage, how the pressure feels. When you find a therapist you like, you might want to book a standing appointment with him or her for pain and stress relief all year long.

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Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.
This is a romantic escape for couples wishing privacy and to enjoy each other’s company in a seductive atmosphere. When you are in the couple’s suite, on side-by-side tables, two therapists will provide massages simultaneously in pure awareness of the energy surrounding you. Guests may use the session to communicate and chat or they may simply relax and enjoy their shared experience in comfortable silence.
However, since having the feet or hands rubbed is an enjoyable and relaxing experience for most people, there is little doubt that hand and foot reflexology can promote stress relief and a sense of well being in much the same way as any other form of massage. This therapy may be an especially useful complementary treatment for neuropathy of the legs, feet and toes. It can also be useful for sore hands and feet after a workout, running or taking a long walk.

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Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly. 

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Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. 
Aspects of sports massage therapy are gaining popularity as useful components in a balanced training regimen. Sports massage therapy can be used as a means to enhance pre-event preparation and reduce recovery time for maximum performance during training or after an event. Athletes have discovered that specially designed sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind for optimal performance.
Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)

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Massage developed alongside athletics in both Ancient China and Ancient Greece. Taoist priests developed massage in concert with their Kung Fu gymnastic movements, while Ancient Greek Olympians used a specific type of trainer ("aleiptes")[27] who would rub their muscles with oil. Pehr Ling's introduction to massage also came about directly as a result of his study of gymnastic movements.
“I received a gift package of 3 massages, and have had two different therapists, both were fantastic. I have had injuries where I have had massages, deep tissue and sport and medical at different facilities throughout Denver. This tops all! Therapists are knowledgeable, intuitive and willing to concentrate on areas that need extra attention. Scheduling appointments has been a breeze. the overall experience is easy, seamless and straight forward. The facility is clean, not overly spa -ish and soothing. Big winner in my book!”

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For starters, you bear in mind the things described above that tend to cause ugly pain, and you avoid that kind of therapy like the plague. Then you look for some clues that painful pressure is okay. Here are at least three reasons why unpleasantly intense pressure might be therapeutic — “bad pain,” but not ugly. In each of these situations, it might be acceptable to tolerate sensations so intense and painful that the only thing about them that is pleasant is the part where it stops.
"Rosemary did a wonderful job working out neck and shoulder build up that was causing me acute pain. I greatly appreciate the Wellness Center’s thoughtfulness in adjusting my appointment last minute too, so I could have a longer session to get all the help that I needed. They’re my go-to place in Denver for quality massage. I actually walk out feeling better and I can’t say that about other places I’ve gone for treatment.”

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Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.[80] Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance.[81] Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling,[82] blocking nociception (gate control theory),[83] activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis[84] or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.[10][85]

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The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was the first time that massage therapy was televised as it was being performed on the athletes. And then, during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta massage therapy was finally offered as a core medical service to the US Olympic Team.[28] Massage has been employed by businesses and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Boeing and Reebok.[29] Notable athletes such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James have personal massage therapists that at times even travel with them.
Couples massage is a good choice when lovers are in the throes of early romance, and can't bear to be apart. They want to share everything, even their massage. Many couples treatments are specifically designed with romance in mind, including time alone in a rose-petal-strewn tub, a bottle of Champagne with strawberries and chocolate, and lounging time by a fire after the treatment. Part of what you are paying for is a time in the room, which works best when it's a beautiful romantic setting. 

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Myofascial trigger points — muscle knots — are a ubiquitous muscular dysfunction, causing most of the aches, pains and stiffness in the world, and complicating virtually every other injury and disease process. A lot of massage is focused on them, directly or indirectly. Massage may be helpful because it relieves the symptoms of muscle knots, or even unties them. (No, not literally.)
In addition there are many professional bodies which have a required minimum standard of education and hold relevant insurance policies including: the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT),[112] the Complementary Therapists Association (CThA),[113] and the Complementary Health Professionals (CHP).[114] In contrast to the CNHC these bodies exist to support therapists rather than clients.
Thai massage works your entire body. It's one of the most invigorating types of massages, as the therapist rigorously manipulates your body, moving it into yoga-like stretches. (It's sometimes referred to as "Yoga for the lazy".) The therapist uses every part of his or her body—hands, knees, legs, and feet—to not only stretch you but also apply pressure on your muscles and loosen your joints. You might even get walked on! This type of massage is both energizing and, at times, relaxing.
Reflexology has been chosen by most people to treat their body health problems because it offers high level of safety and effectiveness. It also offers natural treatment without consuming drugs and it is easy to use.1 Learning reflexology and its application is quite easy, there is no limitation for people to apply it anytime and anywhere.1 Its effectiveness in treating the root of some diseases may lead to many benefits in health concern such as it helps in easing day-to-day stresses and alleviates the effects from injury and illness.1 However, it is not used in diagnosing processes.11

Pumping - The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.

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Finally, sports massage is designed specifically for the very physically active (whether you're a professional athlete or not). It combines Swedish, Shiatsu, and other techniques to concentrate on the areas that are related to your sport. Athletes often get sports massages to prepare for peak performance, prevent injury, and also treat injury. Sports Injury Clinic, which offers several demonstration videos, says:

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