MAGIC TOUCH Massage can restore vitality and create a new you.

By Patty Swyden Sullivan

Burned out? Worn down? Exhausted before you even get out of bed? You may need to find a good massage therapist and book a permanent spot on his/her monthly (or weekly) calendar. Why? Massage is more than just a blissful, short-term escape form the daily stresses that wears us down and wears us out. No longer viewed as an indulgence for the elite, massage is recognized for its therapeutic benefits. As one Chicago Tribune writer likened it, a massage is to the body as a tune-up is to a car.

Massage is a systematic manual application of pressure and movement to the soft tissue of the body. It stimulates blood and lymph flow, vitalizes nerves, and loosens muscles and connective tissue, which helps them stay elastic. Massage slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. It releases endorphins-nature’s painkiller-into the brain and breaks up the metabolic wastes, or toxins that accumulate in body tissue.

But it’s not all physical-massage soothes the savage beast. The hands-to-body touch satisfies our need to be nurtured, creating a sense of well-being and contentment. Massage reduces the effects of isolation and loneliness in the elderly and alleviates depression in people of all ages.

According to Judith McKinnon of the McKinnon Institute of Professional Massage and Bodywork in Oakland, Calif., “The depth of our work is more than skin deep; it touches the hearts and lives of people, healing the invisible wounds we carry and sometimes have forgotten we have.”

But choosing the right type of massage can be daunting. With so many options, how do you know which one is right for you? Here’s a rundown of what’s available.

Swedish Massage

This is the Big Daddy of massage, the master plan. Many other forms of massage expand upon the basic movements of the Swedish massage. There are a few basic strokes in Swedish massage, which include a combination of active andpassive movement”

* Effleurage: Slow, rhythmic strokes moving toward the heart; i.e., from wrist to shoulder.

* Friction: Steady pressure or tight, circular movements.

  • Percussion (Tapote-ment): Drumming hand movements.

Deep Tissue Massage

Features deep finger pressure on areas of chronic muscle tension or contracted muscles. This is the preferred technique for those with stiff necks or sore shoulders.

Neuromuscular Massage

Also known as trigger point therapy, this method features prolonged finger (or elbow) pressure to precise spots in the muscle known as trigger points.

Manual Lymph Drainage

Features a rhythmic pum-ping action that stimulates the movement of lymph fluid through the lymph vessels. This method of massage is particularly beneficial in alleviating swelling.

Sports Massage

A vigorous massage that boosts performance, prevents injuries and loss of mobility, restores mobility and extends overall life of athletic ability. Techniques include stretching, deep tissue massage and pumping.

Aromatherapy Massage

A sensory delight that features scented oils selected for their therapeutic benefits. Scents may be selected based on their ability to relax, invigorate, or to induce calmness and serenity.

LaStone Therapy

Hot stone massage employs basalt and marble stones that are heated and strategically placed on key muscle groups. The weight and warmth of the stone penetrates deeply into muscle and tissues.

Rolfing

A therapy that counters the unnatural positions of sitting at desks, looking at computer screens and driving cars. Over time, muscles become and then remain contracted, which creates “hot spots.” Rolfing therapy improves posture and restores proper body alignment.

Hellerwork

An extension of Rolfing, Hellerwork consists of 11 ninety-minute sessions that focus on different parts of the body.

Reflexology

Applies pressure to reflexes in the hands, feet and ears that correspond to glands and organs in the body and promotes their natural functions.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu triggers the release of the body’s natural hormones and chemicals. The practitioner uses his fingers, thumb or palm to apply pressure on a specific pattern of body points.

Reiki

Pronounced “ray-key,” Reiki is a spiritual practice that doesn’t involve physical touch of any kind. Instead, the practitioner moves his hands over the body in a series of motions that are designed to realign energy forces in the body. If you’re looking for a vigorous rubdown, this is probably not what you had in mind!

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