There are many different types of massages and bodywork that vary greatly from each other in terms of technique, pressure and how they affect the body. It’s helpful to understand what each massage modality is all about in order to choose the right one for your clientele. These nine techniques, from light touch to deep tissue, are the most commonly sought after for their numerous wellness benefits.
1. Swedish Massage
This is the most common and best-known massage technique, and it can be both relaxing and energizing. Swedish massage uses oil or lotion and involves soft, long, gliding and kneading strokes combined with light, rhythmic, tapping strokes on the topmost layers of muscles, with pressure that varies from light to firm. Often combined with manipulation and stretching of the limbs, it relieves muscles tension, improves circulation and can help clients heal after an injury. This is the most soothing type of massage and is often paired with aromatherapy.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles it uses manual pressure applied with fingertips to specific points on the body. Developed more than 5,000 years ago as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s based on the concept that our body has life energy, called “chi,” that flows through 14 invisible lines, or “meridians,” that connect our organs to other parts of the body. Acupressure points lie on these meridians, and by stimulating specific points you can elicit a response from the nervous system that can improve blood flow, enhance the flow of energy, release tension, promote deep relaxation and unblock any chi congestion within the body. By applying pressure to certain points, you can also balance the body and help alleviate acute and chronic problems including nausea, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches, menstrual cramps, back pain and muscle tension.
3. Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is an extremely gentle, noninvasive healing technique that’s based on applying very light pressure (no more than the weight of a nickel) to the head, neck and spine. By decompressing these areas, CST can improve the flow of spinal fluid between the head and the sacrum, and release tension in the soft tissues that surround the central nervous system. This nourishes the brain and soothes the nervous system, so the body can deeply relax and heal itself. CST can be used to help relieve pain, release tension and improve overall well-being. It’s particularly well suited to treating headaches, neck and back pain, and stress-related issues.
Michelle Ebbin (michelleebbin.com) is a renowned touch therapy expert and the author of four books on massage, including the award-winning The Touch Remedy: Hands-On Solutions to De-Stress Your Life (HarperElixer 2016). She appears regularly in the media, including “The Doctors,” to discuss the benefits of touch therapy.