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Although there are many different kinds of massage, with various names, massage can be divided into three basic types. Acupressure refers to massages from Asia that focus on pressure points and the movement of energy through the body. Swedish massage focuses on improving circulation of blood and lymph and relaxing superficial muscles. Deep tissue massage focuses on connective tissue, and the goal is to produce changes in movement and posture.
About Swedish Massage
According to Robert Noah Calvert, founder of Massage Magazine, Swedish massage didn’t really originate in Sweden. In Europe, it is generally referred to as classic massage, which was originally organized and described by Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger. Swedish massage consists of a specific set of massage movements: effleurage, or sliding movements; petrissage, or kneading movements; friction, or rubbing; vibration and percussion. It traditionally also includes passive and active joint movements, stretching and bending joints with the assistance of the massage therapist. Swedish massage offshoots include medical massage, manual lymphatic drainage, spa treatments such as aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and body wraps, sports massage, Esalen massage, chair massage, pregnancy massage, massage for infants and children, and geriatric massage.
Deep Tissue Massage Defined
Deep tissue massage focuses on stretching fascia, a three-dimensional web of connective tissue that surrounds, supports and penetrates all of the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Deep tissue massage works layer by layer through connective tissue and muscles down to the deepest accessible layers to change posture and create freedom of movement by releasing fascial adhesions and chronic muscle contracture. Adhesions and scar tissue form in muscles because of injury, chronic poor posture, chronic or acute inflammation and repetitive motions. Deep tissue massage therapists use their fingers, thumbs, fists, forearms and elbows to stretch each muscle and fascia layer.
How Massage Affects the Body
Swedish massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, which has the result of cleaning and nourishing soft tissues–the skin and muscle. It lengthens and relaxes the superficial muscles and stimulates peristalsis in the intestines. Deep tissue work creates micro-tears in the fascia, which fill with elastin and collagen in about three days, creating muscles that are more flexible, supple and have greater range of motion. For the most success, the client must be willing to stretch regularly between sessions to retrain muscles and prevent recurrence of muscle contracture.
Weighing the Benefits
Choose Swedish massage for relaxation to increase circulation of blood and lymph, for relief of pain, improved mood, improved sleep and sharper thinking. Choose deep tissue massage for chronic pain that is muscular in origin, to improve posture and range of motion. To improve athletic performance, use deep tissue massage off-season as it produces changes in movement to which you need to become accustomed before competing.
Misconceptions and Considerations
Swedish massage is sometimes considered to be more soothing than therapeutic, but research by the Touch Therapy Institute in Florida shows that Swedish or classic massage has many therapeutic benefits. Deep tissue massage shouldn’t be painful; well-trained deep tissue massage therapists work very slowly, within the client’s tolerance, to stretch muscle layers without causing pain or damage. It often results in a little soreness afterwards, but you should feel better, not worse, after your massage.
Can I Get a Deep Tissue Massage If Have a Blood Clot in my Leg?
Massage therapists use deep tissue massage to produce changes in your posture, movement and flexibility. It increases your range of motion, reduces pain and stimulates blood flow. Because of all the beneficial effects of deep tissue massage, it might be hard to believe that there are times when it isn’t a good idea. Blood clots are an example of a serious health condition that can be adversely affected by deep tissue massage or indeed any kind of massage. If you have a blood clot in your leg, consult your doctor before you consider having deep tissue massage, to avoid a potentially fatal reaction.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage focuses on layers of connective tissue in the body. Connective tissue lines the skin, divides muscles into functional groups, covers each individual muscle, covers bundles of muscle cells and also connects muscle cells to each other and to your bones. The name of this kind of massage refers to the location of the tissues, some of which are located deep in the body, rather than the amount of pressure used to reach those muscles. The purpose of deep tissue massage is to stretch connective tissue layer by layer until all tightness has been released, down into the deepest layers of the body.
Blood clots are a normal part of your body’s defense system. When there’s an injury, platelets in your blood stream become sticky, gathering red blood cells and fibers to make a blood clot. The purpose is to prevent bleeding and begin healing the injury. Blood clots also can form in inflamed or blocked blood vessels. Deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in your leg, can form from an injury, or because of dilated weak blood vessels or simply from sitting far too long.
If you have any kind of massage, not just deep tissue massage, over the area where there is a blood clot, the risk is that the blood clot can break loose and travel through your blood vessels to your heart or lungs, causing a possibly fatal heart attack or blocked artery. Massage is absolutely contraindicated if you have a blood clot. Even after your blood clot has been treated your doctor may not want you to receive a massage.
According to Art Riggs, author of “Deep Tissue Massage,” a blood clot can form in any vein, and deep tissue massage is inadvisable until your doctor says you can have a massage. Whitney Lowe, author of “Orthopedic Massage,” agrees that massage can dislodge a blood clot leading to cardiovascular or pulmonary damage. Finally, Ruth Warner, author of “A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology,” says that blood clots are a medical emergency and any kind of massage is contraindicated. Even after treatment, deep tissue massage may not be advisable because you will be taking anticoagulant drugs and may bruise too easily.
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