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Most registered massage therapists (RMTs) across Canada are trained in Swedish massage techniques, which can range from light, fluid movements to deeper, more targeted massages. Most forms of massage are variations of Swedish massage. We spoke to three industry experts about five different types of massage.
1. Relaxation massage
In relaxation massage, an RMT will use her hands, forearms or elbows to apply light or superficial movement at a constant rate of pressure to calm your nervous system. With this type of massage your stress and anxiety levels should subside, which will help you sleep well, says Devon Lancaster, a RMT and co-owner of The Ottawa Professional Therapy Centre. So, if you’re stressed out from work or school, try winding down with a relaxation massage.
2. Deep tissue massage
In a deep tissue massage, an RMT will use various parts of her body, including her thumbs, forearms and elbows, to apply targeted pressure to different areas of your body.
“Muscles are in different layers, so with deeper pressure, you target and get into those deeper layers,” explains Jenna Birtch, an RMT based in London, Ont.
This type of massage may be good for you if you have a sports injury because the Swedish massage techniques get blood flowing to your muscles. If you have tendonitis, however, you may find a deep tissue massage uncomfortable. Make sure to tell your masseuse ahead of time about any conditions and speak up if you feel any pain.
3. Pregnancy massage
A Swedish massage is perfectly safe for women who are pregnant; however, the RMT will likely adjust her techniques. Depending how far along a woman is in her pregnancy, she may elect to lay on her side for the massage. If that’s the case, the RMT will likely sit for the massage to be at eye level with her client’s back. Birtch says she has had clients who are uncomfortable lying on their stomachs at 12 weeks, while others can be over three months pregnant before pain is an issue.
4. Shiatsu and acupuncture
According to Sarah Kreitzer, a shiatsu therapist and acupuncturist at Lotus Shiatsu and Acupuncture in Toronto, shiatsu therapists use their thumbs and elbows to apply sustained pressure. “Because shiatsu incorporates concepts of Chinese medicine into the massage, we apply pressure to the meridians – or energy channels – in the body,” she says.
Acupuncture – inserting fine needles through the skin to specific points in the body – can be used alone or in conjunction with a shiatsu massage. Shiatsu is good for people who are seeking a massage in which points are held and not rubbed over, explains Kreitzer. And contrary to popular belief, shiatsu and acupuncture are not painful, she says.
5. Intra-oral massage
According to Lancaster, RMTs should be trained in intra-oral massage techniques, which are used most often for people who have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), a disorder that is most common in the jaw. Wearing rubber gloves, “we would massage the muscle either from the outside or by going into the mouth to reach some of the deeper muscles,” she says.
In addition to people who suffer from TMJD, intra-oral massage is good for people who clench their jaw or grind their teeth. It may help with chronic headaches because when muscles in the jaw are tight pain is often sent up to the temple or eyebrows.