Is a body massage really needed?

Many think a regular session at a spa is an act of indulgence which is not essential. We find out if that really is the truth.

body massageBody massages are meant to relax one's body, relieve stress and rejuvenate their system both mentally and physically. A lot has been said about body massages while its loyalists will swear by its numerous benefits, there are a huge number of people who believe it does no good and is simply a waste of money and time. We speak to celebrity fitness trainer Ramona Braganza who has trained clients like Jessica Alba and Halle Berry, and to Karl Irani, owner of The Palms Spa in Mumbai on the importance and benefits of a body massage and if it is really required.

According to Ramona, body massages are an important part of a fitness programme especially when training with resistance. They have physiological benefits and are a great way to treat yourself after hard workouts. According to a recent study by researchers at McMaster University, deep massage after an intense workout caused muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria the powerhouse of our cells, responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy.

She recommends scheduling your massage according to your workout plan. 'Ideally, if you train for 5 days a week, a massage a week would be best, if you train 4 days a week, I would say get a massage every 2 weeks and if you train 3 days a week, a monthly session will suffice, ' says Ramona.

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In between professional massages with a therapist, you can also give yourself a self massage with some oil or using tools such as foam rollers or acupressure balls.

Health benefits of a massage:

  • Increases blood flow to muscle and tissue
  • Promotes warmth in the tissue
  • Decreases stiffness and soreness
  • Relaxation
  • Stimulates the body's lymphatic system
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces minor pain and fatigue

Types of massages:

Karl who owns a spa, lists out the various kinds of body massages.

Ayurvedic massage: This is an ancient Indian massage which uses herbal oils and products for the massage and is performed by either one or two masseuses. It can further be classified into various types like Shirodhara,Udwarthanam, etc which target specific body parts. It is believed that an Ayurvedic massage can go a long way in treating chronic ailments like frozen shoulder, arthritis, slipped disc, etc. It uses traditional massage strokes to detoxify and strengthen the body focussing on the pressure points.

Thai massage: This type involves a series of yoga-inspired stretches to relieve muscle and joint tension and stimulate circulation. It increases flexibility and improves overall energy levels as well.

Balinese massage: This is a blend of acupressure, reflexology, aromatherapy, stretching and deep tissue massage. It provides deep relaxation, relieves joint pain and also improves blood circulation.

Herbal detox massage: It incorporates ancient Indian and Thai healing remedies to treat spasms and deep muscle aches. It uses steamed herbal compress which relieves the body of its toxins, stimulates circulation and increases flow of energy.

Sports massage: This is a deep tissue massage especially to relax tense body parts like a stiff neck, lower back tightness, sore shoulders, etc. the pressure is deeper than other massages and the movements are also slower. It focuses on relieving stiffness and treating deep knots.

Reflexology foot massage: This is based on the principle that every area of the body is linked to a corresponding zone in the feet. It is a combination of pressure on specific points and gentle massage to enhance circulation and detoxify and de-stress the complete body. (Read: Pedicure basics to keep your feet happy!)

Says Karl, 'Though there are no hard and fast rules to choose a specific massage, it is best to consult a therapist who can guide you which one will be the best one for you according to your body and the areas which need more relaxation. You can obviously experiment to see what suits you but know the kind of massage you are going for beforehand. For example, a person who doesn't like too much pressure shouldn't opt for a deep tissue massage or a person who doesn't like stretching should not go for a Thai one.'

A word of caution:

Even though massages are good for the body, there are certain situations when they should be avoided unless prescribed by your doctor. These include:

  • Inflammation
  • Fever
  • Pregnancy
  • High BP
  • Hernia
  • Fracture

Though a very gentle massage surrounding the area may be fine, it is best to consult your doctor and massage therapist before you opt for one. (Read: Massaging your baby: Not the best idea say doctors!)

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stress.

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