Healing body massage techniques

There are several therapeutic health benefits to regular massage. Here are some of the ways massage can help.

Healing body massage techniques

Different strokes

Therapeutic or remedial massage draws on a number of techniques taken from different healing traditions. Here are just a few examples.

  • Ka huna: This wonderfully relaxing technique was once practised only by the kahunas, or Hawaiian native priests. It involves placing warmed rocks on the spine, applying scented oils and using long, fluid massage strokes. It's especially good for stress-related neck and upper back tension.
  • Shiatsu: The therapist applies firm pressure to particular points on the body – known as tsubos – and stretches muscles. Shiatsu works especially well for back pain, headaches and digestive problems.
  • Swedish: This typically involves light fingertip stroking with kneading and friction. It's effective at relieving tension and promoting relaxation.
  • Thai: Nicknamed 'the lazy person's yoga' because it flexes you into positions you might never have thought you could reach. This type is great for improving flexibility and circulation.
  • Tuina:Originating in China, the words tui and na literally mean 'push' and 'grasp', referring to the deep pressure the therapist uses. It's excellent for frozen shoulder, sciatica and tension-related conditions.

Massage increases levels of dopamine - a 'feel-good' neurotransmitter - benefitting both the body and the mind.

Massage for babies

Massage has a bonding effect on baby and parents. It also helps to settle premature babies, and is particularly recommended for adoptive parents wanting to establish a connection with their baby.

  • Before you start, make sure the room is warm – a good time to massage a baby is after a bath.
  • Lie the baby down on a towel or bunny-rug at waist level so you aren't bending over uncomfortably. Prop some pillows around the baby to ensure that he or she doesn't roll off.
  • Place a small amount of massage oil in the palm of your hand. Wait a few seconds to let it warm up and gently massage over the baby.
  • Be careful to avoid baby's eyes, and be careful around the umbilical cord when massaging a young baby. Never extend the arms and legs too firmly.
  • Soothe a colicky baby by stroking the tummy, putting one hand on each side, and sliding the baby back and forth in a gentle crisscross motion. Then stroke clockwise around the belly button, with one hand following the other.
  • To calm a teething baby, massage from the base of the ears out to the base of the neck and in towards the centre of the chin.
  • Make your own delicately scented baby massage oil by mixing 75 millilitres (1/3 cup) sweet almond oil, five millilitres (one teaspoon) jojoba oil and two drops chamomile essential oil. The mixture can also be used as a cleansing oil on a cotton wool ball to wipe the nappy area clean. Presented in an attractive bottle, it makes a thoughtful and useful gift for a new parent.
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