Massage 101

Relaxation massages: Will they really relax your muscles?

Relaxation massages are a great way to reduce stress.

Relaxation massages are a great way to reduce stress.

You have been working hard for weeks and your body is screaming for some attention. What could be a better way to reward yourself then with a nice relaxation massage?  The answer to that question lies in understanding what exactly a relaxation massage is and what it is not.  In many cases, your body may be screaming for something different, such as a therapeutic or deep tissue massage, not a relaxation massage.

Obviously, choosing the right type of massage for your needs is critical to receiving the experience and benefits from the massage that you are seeking.  To help with this quest we can reduce all massages into four basic categories; relaxation, therapeutic or deep tissue, medical, and specialty massages.  Understanding these basic categories of massage will help you choose the right massage each and every time.

A relaxation massage is perhaps the most common type of massage offered.  A Swedish massage is a very common example of a relaxation massage, however, there are many others.  The easiest way to determine the focus of a particular massage being offered, is to simply read the name and description provided online or in the spa’s menu.  A massage entitled “Maui Ultimate Relaxation Experience” obviously focuses on relaxation, while a “Maui Therapeutic Massage” focuses on something different.  Other massages, such as the “Ultimate Scottsdale Massage” are not quite as revealing and will require you to read the description or inquire with the spa.

The purpose of a relaxation massage is more to relax your mind then it is to relax your muscles – although muscle relaxation takes place as well.  The therapist will use light to medium pressure and will avoid the pin point type of pressure that can cause minor discomfort.  Massage techniques that address the large superficial muscles in your body are much more prevalent during the relaxation massage then are massage techniques that address deeper muscles.  Relaxation massages are excellent for increasing circulation, helping with general muscle fatigue, calming the nervous system and most importantly, relaxing the mind. 

When you feel stressed, anxious, or overworked, a nice relaxation massage is the massage of choice.  It will help you unwind, reduce your stress levels, and will provide a much needed circulation boost to those tense muscles, reducing muscle fatigue and making you feel better overall.

When your primary goal is to loosen up your shoulders, reduce low back pain, take care of that sore neck, etc. you might want to consider a therapeutic, deep tissue, or medical massage.

Consider a relaxation massage when…

  • You feel stressed and want to relax mentally
  • You feel tired and feel like you need more energy
  • You feel generally sore or weak from muscle stress or overwork
  • You want to treat yourself to a nice relaxing experience

Consider a different type of massage if…

  • You have a stiff neck that you want addressed, even if the cause is stress
  • You have pain in a specific area that you want treated
  • You have muscle tightness that you want released (shoulders, neck, etc)

Keep in mind that just as a certain amount of muscle therapy is inherent in a relaxation massage (it helps with generally sore and overworked muscles), a certain amount of relaxation is built into many other types of massages that are not specifically relaxation oriented. You are not choosing between relaxing and not relaxing – most massages are somewhat relaxing.  The key to choosing whether or not a relaxation massage is right for you is to see if your primary goal fits into the points listed above under “Consider a Relaxation Massage when…” or if your primary goal fits into “Consider a different type of massage if…”

Other general categories of massages that you may want to consider are; therapeutic or deep tissue massages, medical massages, and specialty massage.  These categories will be explored further in future articles.

If you have any doubts about which massage is best you should not hesitate to speak with the spa or therapist about your goals and let them recommend a massage for you.  They may be better able than you in determining which treatment will fit your goals, as long as you honestly share those goals with the spa.

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  1. Wow!!! Thank you for this great article. Many of my clients schedule their appointments for Swedish relaxation massage, when in fact, they needed therapeutic or deep tissue. I will share this article with them. Well Written!!!

    Joanna Benoit, LMT, FS
    Jacksonville, Florida

  2. thanks, great article – I’ve passed it on too!

  3. I also find that people will ask for a Swedish massage as a generic massage term, they seem to think of sports massage or deep tissue massage as something really painful or unrelaxing, which all us therapists know is not the case! This article is great for distinguishing between the different types. Thanks


  4. Yes, in my experience. A massage does help my muscles relax.

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