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A Guide to Massage

A Complete Guide to Massage

While other beauty and wellness trends come and go, the healing art of massage therapy dates back over 5000 years and is as revered today as it was in ancient Chinese, Indian, Greek and Egyptian times.

Essentially the practice of stroking, pressing and kneading the body, massage is a therapeutic treatment that employs various forms of physical touch and contact to relax, rejuvenate and heal. While some techniques focus more on repairing muscle pain and injury, such as deep tissue massage, other techniques, such as aromatherapy massage, help the mind to relax just as much as the body.

So, with such a rich history of holistic healing behind it, how do you know where to begin on your massage mission to discover which treatments are best for you? Here, we explore why massage is so important, what to wear to a massage and the most popular types of massage techniques used in the UK to help you knead those knots away.

Why is Massage Important?

While many may consider massages as an indulgent treat reserved only for special occasions, there’s actually a whole lot more to massage therapy than a luxurious, once-a-year rubdown. In fact, getting a massage has a whole range of therapeutic benefits for both the body and mind, from relieving anxiety to better sleep, soothing injured muscles and a boost in productivity! Of course, still treat yourself to an Indian head massage for your birthday, but why not book in for a regular appointment on a normal day, too?

In our busy lives, it’s so important to carve out some time where we can solely focus on our own well-being. Whether you need a treatment to reduce stress levels or a deep tissue massage to help back pain or sore joints, visiting a massage therapist is a great way to check in with your mind and listen to your body.

What to Wear to a Massage?

So, the big question – what’s the etiquette when it comes to what to wear for a massage? At the end of the day, your whole massage experience is about comfort and any massage therapist worth their salt will tell you to dress in a way that makes you feel relaxed and confident.

You’ll want to wear something that’s easy to remove and allows some flexibility in regard to how much skin you want to have on show – as, while some are comfortable stripping down to their birthday suit with just their therapist’s sheet for modesty, others may prefer to keep certain areas covered or leave their clothes on for the treatment.

Typically, people will wear a loose-fitting tracksuit, gym leggings or shorts with an oversized jumper or even a swimsuit! Again, the cardinal rule is comfort, so don’t worry about dressing to impress – this experience is all about you.

Types of Massage

To help you decide whether you’d prefer a scented oil session or a hot stone therapy, we’ve done our research to find out the different benefits of the most popular types of massage at spas across the UK.

What is a Hot Stone Massage?

Deeply relaxing, stress busting and refreshing, a hot stone massage is an ancient practice said to balance your body’s energy flow and recharge your mind and soul. Using a combination of natural stones and gentle oils, the treatment is designed to provide a deep tissue massage that eases muscle tension, improves circulation and promotes a strong sense of calm and well-being.

During a hot stone back massage, the therapist applies light oil to your skin before placing smooth, flat and heated stones on specific locations along your spine. The stones are usually made from basalt – a type of dark, fine-grained volcanic rock – and are carefully heated to a comfortable and pleasant temperature. Once you are fully relaxed, your massage therapist will glide the stones across your back, applying pressure to key spots on your body to help relieve tension and soothe your muscles.

If you’re searching for a treatment that will literally melt away the stresses of everyday life, a hot stone massage is the one for you!

What is Aromatherapy Massage?

With benefits including ultimate relaxation, anxiety reduction, pain relief and an increased sense of calm, aromatherapy massage is a therapeutic practice that not only eases muscle tension and pain but works wonders for your mental health and emotional well-being, too.

In practice, aromatherapy massage is the alternation of gentle and hard pressure massage with the aid of specially selected, scented essential oils. These oils are diluted and added to massage lotion or diffused in the room, so you can benefit from their healing qualities directly – both through application onto your skin and inhalation after exposure.

Different essential oils have specific healing qualities, meaning your therapist can create a bespoke blend to suit your unique requirements. Do you suffer from joint pain? Chamomile is sure to relieve aching and help with inflammation. Are you feeling burnt out and anxious? Bergamot is your new best friend.

Whether you need a mix of cedarwood and eucalyptus or tea tree and geranium, aromatherapy massage is an incredible treatment to help nurture your body and boost your mood.

What is a Swedish Massage?

The most popular form of “classic” massage, Swedish massage is the most commonly practised therapy across the globe, offering a calming, whole-body experience. The sole aim of Swedish massage is to promote complete relaxation through the release of muscle tension and is particularly beneficial for those who hold a lot of strain in their lower back, neck and shoulders.

With an expert hand and soothing lotions, the massage therapist will employ a series of techniques such as kneading, deep circular movements and long strokes with a varying amount of light, medium and hard pressure across your entire body to work your soft tissues and muscles and stimulate your nerve endings.

A gentler practice than deep tissue massage, Swedish massage uses softer pressure on the more sensitive and bonier parts of the body and stronger kneading motions where there is thicker muscle density to ensure your treatment is a wholly calming experience.

What is a Deep Tissue Massage?

Need something a little more intense? Fantastically rejuvenating and incredibly thorough, a deep tissue massage is predominantly used to treat and soothe aches and pains derived from sporting injuries, lactic acid build up from exercise or musculoskeletal problems. But despite its roots in sports injury and pain relief, deep tissue massage also offers wonderful benefits for the nervous system, increases circulation, improves flexibility, aids sleep and promotes an improved sense of well-being and relaxation.

Unlike the varying pressures and lighter strokes of the Swedish massage, a deep tissue massage technique starts gently before using much deeper pressure to release adhesions and realign tissue fibres. Your therapist will use a combination of slow strokes and kneads, alongside pin-pointed finger, knuckle, forearm and elbow pressure on areas of discomfort. This type of massage is brilliant for those with specific muscular issues or conditions, from lower back pain to tennis elbow, sciatica and even fibromyalgia.

Although you may feel stiffness and soreness during or after your massage, you shouldn’t experience any pain and the ache should subside within a day or so, leaving you feeling supple and knot-free.

What is an Indian Head Massage?

As the name suggests, Indian head massage originates from India and is a traditional technique that is now practised and celebrated across the world. Originally used to enrich scalp health and improve hair condition, Indian head massage is built upon the principles and teachings of the Hindu healthcare practice of Ayurveda – one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems.

Aiming to rebalance your body’s energies, this therapeutic treatment uses acupressure massage methods on the head, face, neck and shoulders. Your massage therapist will work their way from your shoulders, using flowing motions as they travel up your neck to your head to relieve any stress, strain and tension. The face and scalp are then massaged in specific areas along your acupressure points before your therapist gently works to relax tension around your eyes and forehead.

Offering benefits including stress relief, lymphatic drainage, better sleep and boosted energy levels, Indian head massage is often paired with specific facial and hair oils to help stimulate healthy skin and better hair growth, too. Now if that isn’t bang for your massage buck, we don’t know what is!

Looking for more?

Treat yourself to an endless number of miracle-working massages, blissful beauty treatments or soothing spa days with our hand-picked selection of pampering experiences at Red Letter Days. Or, if you’re looking to make a weekend of your wellness experience, make sure to check out our Best Luxury Spa Hotels in the UK blog for all our top picks.