Massage and spa treatments offer an opportunity to be pampered and soothed in pleasant surroundings. Many people enjoy these treatments as a way to “get away from it all.” While many of these treatments have cosmetic effects, some also provide health benefits.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices collectively known as bodywork, massage has long been known to have benefits for the musculoskeletal system. In traditional healing, it is also a way to deliver herbal medicines through the skin or from inhaling the essential oils mixed into the massage oil. Massage may include stroking, pressing, tapping, kneading and other tissue techniques as well as the use of heated stones, joint manipulation and stretching exercises.

Different Types of Massage

There are dozens of different forms of massage.

  • Swedish massage– one of the most common forms; it uses long strokes of muscles and tissues. The masseuse adjusts the pressure from light to firm depending on the client’s preferences and needs.
  • Deep tissue massage — as the name implies, this type of massage targets tissues and muscles under the surface layer of skin. This is designed to realign tissues and loosen the fascia, or tight covering over the individual muscles, and requires very firm pressure.
  • Neuromuscular therapy– combines massage with techniques to mobilize stiff and painful joints or correct muscle imbalances.
  • Shiatsu– blends mild caresses with direct pressure on individual pressure or trigger points to help relax and relieve pain.
  • Thai massage– combines massage with yoga-like postures, which can help loosen the joints and correct skeletal alignment. The massage therapist may use hands, feet, legs and knees to position you correctly during the massage.

The Many Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Some of the effects of massage have been well-studied, while others rely on anecdotal reports. There is no question that massage can relax you and help to relieve stress. Research has shown that massage can:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Relieve multiple sclerosis by reducing pain and tight (spastic) muscles
  • Reduce pain and anxiety in post-surgical patients for chest or abdominal surgery or any kind of surgery that is related to muscles or ligaments. It is also an effective treatment for those with general myalgia
  • Lower blood pressure, with the effects lasting up to 72 hours in one study.
  • Relieve tense muscles and reduces spasms; it has been found
  • Relieve chronic pain conditions and migraine headaches.

Researchers have even found that Swedish massage can increase a type of white blood cells that help protect against viruses.

What are Spa Treatments?

Although massage is probably the most common and popular spa treatment, others include facials and body treatments such as waxing or salt scrubs and body wraps with seaweed or minerals. A spa might also offer more advanced services like a chemical peel or laser therapy or permanent hair removal with electrolysis. Manicures and pedicures are also common, and many spas also offer additional services such as hair cuts, styling, coloring and makeup.

Health Benefits of Spa Treatments

The health benefits of spa therapies have not been as well studied as massage. However, there is evidence that regular spa visits are correlated with fewer sick days, better sleep and fewer hospitalizations. For example, exfoliating the skin with scrubs and similar treatments helps remove dead skin cells and may improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. Hot tubs and other heated therapies can relax muscles and help relieve chronic pain. Simply being pampered in a spa can promote the release of the “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, which in turn can help reduce stress.

If nothing else, a spa is a place to get away. For many people it is the ability to disconnect from the outside world that is most important. Being pampered and coddled doesn’t hurt, either. The best way to find out if massage and spa therapy work for you is simply to try it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Biel is a popular well recognized health and lifestyle expert. Sarah is well qualified in her field and is passionate about the well being, and mental state of her clients. Sarah works at Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa which offers life changing treatments based on ancient healing practices.