As health care continues to integrate wellness therapies with more traditional medicine, popular massage techniques are in the spotlight.

There are many instances where massage is used in combination with traditional health care for improved patient wellness. Sports medicine, for example, often involves both physical therapy and specific massage techniques to prevent and treat injuries. In cases of muscle strain, that could mean applying deep pressure to reach connective tissue. Or it could mean helping manage medical symptoms through a more relaxing method of massage.

Prenatal massage is perhaps the most popular example of combining massage with traditional medicine. Using modified techniques, such as proper positioning, a skilled massage therapist can help expecting mothers decrease swelling, and relieve aches and pains while reducing the anxiety, depression or stress symptoms that may occur during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) says prenatal massage specifically helps regulate the hormones that trigger many of these symptoms.

Massage has been shown to reduce stress hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol while increasing depression-reducing hormones dopamine and serotonin. The APA quotes a study indicating that women having bi-weekly massages for only five weeks saw an overall improvement in mood through the regulation of these hormones.

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In the United States, massage techniques that relax and decrease stress are the most popular. Relaxation massages work on surface muscles, so there is no deep pressure. Most of these massage techniques for relaxation are centered around what therapists call a Swedish massage, where long, smooth strokes, kneading and circular movements and oil are used on muscles.

Some clients find added benefit when therapists use essential oils that help aid relaxation while reducing stress and a variety of other symptoms. These types of massages are often called an Aromatherapy massage.

Another popular massage therapy offers relaxation through firm pressure on specific points throughout the body. During Shiatsu a massage therapist applies pressure to acupressure points for two- to-eight seconds. The idea is to improve the overall flow of energy within the body to help a person regain energetic balance.

There are many other popular massage techniques. What connects all of these massage therapies is a thorough understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology combined with a therapist’s ability to understand what technique is best for a particular client.

The Lincoln Group of Schools offer Massage Therapy training. Aspiring massage therapists learn from industry professionals through hands-on work.

Tags: massage therapy