Fitness

Demystifying massage

Get rubbed the right way with our guide

Chatelaine

Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu or Thai? The countless massage options on a spa menu are about more than personal preference – they help treat a different issues. “There are dozens of forms of massage, and each one has its own special techniques,” says Toronto massage therapist Trinity Dempster. Here’s all you need to know to choose the massage that is right for you.

Swedish Massage
What is it?
This is the most common type of massage. Massage oil allows the therapist’s hands to glide over your muscles as you lie undressed on a massage table. A sheet covers areas not receiving treatment.

How it feels
Long, smooth strokes and kneading actions focus on lengthening the muscles and tendons.

What it does
“The main goal of all forms of massage is a feeling of relaxation and improved posture,” says Dempster. Massage also improves circulation and reduces muscle stiffness.

Shiatsu Massage
What is it?
Shiatsu is founded on the same principles as acupuncture, although no needles are used. Treatments are performed on a low massage table or on the floor. You remain fully clothed, and no oil is applied.

How it feels
The pressure feels more localized because therapists use their fingers, thumbs and palms.

What it does
Treatments help with muscle tension, pain, headaches, anxiety, insomnia and other health conditions.

Deep Tissue Massage
What is it?
This therapeutic style of massage is ideal for chronic injuries like back pain, tendonitis and scoliosis. The therapist uses deep pressure to target the deep layers of muscle.

How it feels
The treatments can be uncomfortable, so let your therapist know about your tolerance level. You may be sore for a few days afterward.

What it does
It releases and lengthens muscles to realign the muscles and spine.

Thai Massage
What is it?
The therapist moves and stretches you through a sequence of yoga-like positions. It is usually performed on a padded mat and uses no oils. Comfortable loose clothing is recommended.

How it feels
It is similar to practicing yoga, but without the exertion.

What it does
You will leave feeling stretched and energized, just like after a yoga class.

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