What is a Massage Like?

Massage E

very year, more and more people are turning to massage therapy and related bodywork techniques to relieve pain and tension, increase flexibility or reduce mental and physical fatigue.

But before trying this healthful and pleasurable experience, most people want to know, “What will it be like?”

A bodywork style for every need

There is not one standard style of massage, although Swedish massage is what many people think of when it is mentioned. Swedish massage uses long flowing strokes, deep kneading, surface friction, light tapping, and joint movement to improve circulation, increase flexibility and relieve stress.

Many massage therapists are trained in specialized types of bodywork which they may use exclusively or in some combination to meet your needs. For example, there are techniques to relieve painful muscle tension and trigger points, stretch contracted fascia (the muscles’ protective covering), realign and heal injured tissue, aid lymph drainage, or restore the flow of energy throughout the body.

When you walk in the room

Your massage therapist will need to know your general state of health since there are some conditions for which massage is not appropriate.

Depending on the primary technique your therapist uses, you may or may not need to undress.
For a full-body Swedish massage, most people undress completely, though you may choose to wear underwear. Your massage therapist will give you privacy to undress, and you will normally be covered except for the area being worked on.

You will relax on a padded table designed for stability and comfort. For support, your therapist may offer cushions or an adjustable face rest. The room will be warm and quiet, often with soft music to set a relaxing mood.
For many techniques, your massage therapist will use a light oil or lotion, which is good for your skin and absorbs well. For some kinds of bodywork, no oil is used.

A massage or bodywork session usually begins with relatively gentle pressure to calm your nervous system and release superficial tension. Gradually, your therapist works more deeply to address specific areas.

How long is a session?

An hour is a common session length. This gives time for a deeply relaxing full-body massage, or more in-depth work on a particular area, for example back, neck and shoulders. A half-hour can be an excellent introduction to bodywork, with time for a specific area such as back, neck and shoulders. An hour and a half is usually enough time to address the whole body, with special attention to a problem area.

How will it feel?

Massage on healthy tissue should feel wonderful. The normal response is to slow down, breathe deeply and relax.

If you are sensitive to touch, your massage therapist will use gentle but firm pressure to calm your nervous system, gradually preparing you for deeper touch.

The saying “no pain, no gain” is not true for massage and bodywork. The most effective and deepest massage works with the body’s natural responses, not against them. Working in the area of an injury or chronic pain may at first cause some discomfort, which usually lessens in the first few minutes. Always tell your therapist if the pressure feels too deep. She or he can modify the approach to minimize pain, and will work carefully within your comfort level.

What to expect afterwards

Massage and bodywork can be profoundly relaxing, affecting all your body’s systems. Give yourself a moment to reorient before slowly getting up.

Following a session, many people experience freedom from aches and pains that have built up over months of tension or repetitive activity. After an initial period of feeling slowed down, people often experience an increase in energy that can last for several days.

Sometimes you may not feel dramatic results right away. Watch for changes over the following days, such as pain relief, increased mobility or reduced stress.

How do I find out more?

Your massage therapist will be happy to discuss any questions or concerns before you book an appointment. But in the end, the best answers will come from experiencing massage or bodywork first hand. Remarkably effective, massage is a pleasurable way to reduce stress and tension, relieve pain, and increase your energy and sense of well-being. Enjoy in good health!

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