In this, the most common form of massage therapy in the United States, a massage therapist manipulates your body's soft tissue, focusing on the muscles, ligaments and tendons. He or she uses soothing strokes to reduce muscular tension, enhance relaxation and improve flexibility. As with all types of massage, it is important to find a practitioner who is a licensed massage therapist.
This type of massage focuses on improving the circulation of your lymphatic system, which connects the network of lymph nodes throughout your body. Lymph fluid flows through this system and allows the body to transport illness-fighting immune cells to areas of your body that need them. Lymphatic massage can reduce swelling or edema and improve overall circulation. Some people even claim it helps in reducing the appearance of cellulite.
This gentle technique is meant to boost your body's natural healing mechanisms and to dissipate the negative effects of stress on the central nervous system. By using the rhythm of the craniosacral system—which flows between the head and the base of the spine—your therapist can improve body functioning, relax soft tissue and help alleviate pain and discomfort.
This type of deep tissue massage helps relieve body tension and correct misalignment. Developed by Dr. Ida Rolf, it goes beyond the traditional massage techniques of kneading and stroking by adding the application of pressure using the practitioner's knuckles and elbows to maximize the release of tension. As a result, this technique can be somewhat painful. Dr. Oz demonstrates the benefits of Rolfing!
This Japanese therapy uses body manipulation such as point pressure, compression, stretching and joint mobilization. Shiatsu, like other Eastern bodywork traditions, aims to balance subtle energy fields in the body similar to acupuncture and acupressure. Shiatsu can treat physical pains—and emotional discomfort such as anxiety, depression and stress.
For shiatsu therapy, make sure to look for a licensed massage therapist with special training in this technique.
Yoga—which means "union"—is an exercise program designed to integrate the physical, mental and spiritual energies of the body that promote health and well-being. It is one of the oldest known health practices based on the mind-body connection.
Yoga typically includes some combination of physical postures (or "asanas"), breathing techniques (or "pranayama") and meditation. The regular practice of yoga has been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve respiratory health, decrease muscle tension and enhance flexibility.
Although most people think of chiropractic care as a treatment for back and neck pain, it is actually a system of primary healthcare for overall wellness. By aligning a spine, practitioners aim to improve the functioning of the central nervous system to regulate and balance body functions.
This type of massage is based on the theory of a system of points in the hands and feet, believed to correspond or "reflex" to all areas of the body. By stimulating or applying pressure to these points, reflexologists believe they can improve your overall health and the health of specific organs. Although these claims have not been medically proven, reflexology has been found to relieve stress and tension.
Aromatherapy uses plant-based "essential oils" to stimulate the sense of smell. It is believed that particular aromas cause changes in the body's central nervous system and can enhance physical and emotional health and well-being. Aromatherapy is something you can practice easily at home using essential oils found in most health food stores.
There are several ways to use the oils—add them to your bath, put a few drops on a tissue and breathe in, or place several drops into two cups of boiling water. Or you can add 10 to 20 drops to an unscented lotion or carrier oil such as sweet almond, and use the lotion for massage or daily moisturizing.
Start with small amounts to test your sensitivity to certain oils. Common oils used for aromatherapy include: rose, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, bergamot, roman chamomile, mandarin, eucalyptus and jasmine.