What I Do: (in more detail)
I use Swedish massage, using effleurage (gliding strokes) and petrissage (kneading strokes) as my basic massage which is so relaxing that most people drift into a stupor or fall asleep while on the table. I don’t mind as it’s a compliment, really, and yes, people drool and snore, which is also okay, (smiles) and is also a compliment, considering that my whole goal is total relaxation for my client.
Deep Feet Bar Therapy:
I also do Deep Feet Bar Therapy, which is the most awesome modality I've come across so far. It doesn't have to be heavy, but it makes going harder a breeze for both myself and my clients. With Deep Feet Bar Therapy, (DFBT or DF) the client can receive wide strokes with varying strengths (to suit the client's preference) and there is no pokey-ness involved. Out with the sharpness of thumbs! In with the softness of feet! DFBT is the most luxurious massage I've ever come across. It's fantastic for people with lots of muscle mass as we can get through the muscle without much effort. We try to keep you at about an "8" (with 1 being "are you back there?" and 10 being "holy cow don't touch me again I'm outa here!" I've never had anyone hate it, but it's all a matter of taste as to how much you will like it. My 73 year old mother is often beset with back spasms and has found that it's one of the only things that works quickly for her. You should have seen me when she first begged me to work on her back. She's about 135 lbs dripping wet and I didn't think she'd like it. I fixed my feet and did it anyway. It was my mother. What else was I going to do? To my surprise she was very happy and even texted me the next day telling me her back hadn't spasmed since. Yay!
I almost always use some essential oils on feet and/or neck and shoulders as well, unless the client prefers not to. Lavendar, Orange and Cedar and Lemongrass are the most popular scents for neck and shoulder work as they encourage relaxation, and I love to use peppermint in my foot wraps, but I several other choices if you are looking for something else.
Another good modality I use in my practice when there is a need, is Deep Tissue, which, contrary to popular belief, is not pushing harder. I cringe when people get on my table and tell me that I can push as hard as I want because they “can handle deep tissue”. Deep Tissue is about making the body massage itself where you can’t get at it easily, or working in an area inside the body’s tender zones. The feet are a great place to demonstrate the former, and having them worked that way often turns the light on for my client about what “Deep Tissue” really is. As for the latter, the tender zones, (for example: the neck, groin, armpit, stomach) when Deep Tissue is needed, the area being treated naturally requires extremely slow and gentle work, which also dispels the “Deep Tissue is just pushing harder and it's gonna hurt" notion. An example of Deep Tissue in a tender zone: If you've been sideswiped in a car accident, working in the armpit is a fantastic way to unjam the shoulder. When I first learned the technique I laughed silently to myself at the thought that I'd ever use it. I've now been in more armpits than I can count. As you can see, if your therapist tells you that he/she does “Deep Tissue” and asks how much pressure you can take, you know it’s not the modality they’re talking about but the Swedish technique.
One thing I must throw in here, there will almost always on everyone be at least one spot where when pushed on or moved evokes a “wow! I didn’t know that was sore there” moment. Let your therapist know when something's painful, they may feel the resistance before you mention something, but if it hurts, tell them anyway. It's your massage. Your therapist, no matter what modality you are getting a massage in at the time, should slow down or stop and/or consult with you about pressure and continuing. If, on the other hand, they don't seem to be listening to your pressure directions and you find yourself praying through your massage, it’s not a very good one. (I've prayed through a massage myself before I learned to be assertive and it wasn't fun) Your massage therapist should be able to make you feel better with various techniques and not have to resort to only pushing harder to undo the many tight spots and knots he/she may find. A massage room isn't a torture chamber. If it's not what you want, you have every right to request a change or cessation in the bodywork being done. From this, I get my motto: "I want you to feel worked over, not mugged".
Thai massage is compression and sustained stretching to better ease the stubborn body back into its proper form. I find it helpful to use it before a Swedish massage when the client has pain relating to hip issues. I treat several clients with chronic sciatica this way and early on offered a "1/2 and 1/2" (Thai then Swedish) because it is so effective.
Besides the typical Swedish massage, I will also use hot stones in your massage if requested 24 hours in advance-preferably when the appointment is booked. Hot stone massage, while sounding rather scary, is a delicious way to unwind. Contrary to popular stock photos showing hot stones balancing delicately upon your muscles, that's not exactly it. They can't move themselves. This is how it works. The stones are heated to just-hold-able temp and are slathered in oil to glide effortlessly over your skin. They can’t get too hot for your body because they’re moving on you, and I’m the one holding them. If they’re not painful for me to handle, it’s unlikely they’re too much for you. Hot stone massage is an awesome way to relax, like being in a hot bath, without the water. The temperature of the stones turns your tight muscles to butter within a short time and is especially good for people who have much tension and stress that has built up over time and lodged in between the shoulder blades and around the base of the neck. Hot stone massage is also good for people with anxiety or fears based on abuse. The person receiving the massage doesn’t really feel the hands of the practitioner; they concentrate on the warm stones and a stone doesn’t evoke the same stress emotion as a therapist might. It’s just a warm rock. There have been times I've had a few in the towel warmer just to add to a standard Swedish for some spot work on a back. It's not just for whole body relaxation, you know. (Smiles)
Unlike our circulatory system, our lymph system has no pump to move things around. We naturally make the system work during our days of moving our muscles in exercise and day to day movements. When we become sedentary, lose lymph nodes to surgery, etc. we need help with getting rid of the toxins in our bodies. Let it go too long and you get pitting edema in your feet and then up into your legs. Often easily fixable with extra exercise (and it doesn't take much) but if exercise is not possible, that's where lymph drainage comes in. It's really slow work, and boring for the client, but I do have an interesting ceiling to look at and I will stop at 15 minutes so it's not long enough to be truly tortured.