The most common professional massage available in the United States is the Swedish massage. This massage type was developed as physical therapy to aid patients with muscle injuries and circulatory issues, and it is a popular adjunct to chiropractic treatments. Standard Swedish massage consists of five steps for each part of the body. Effleurage is long strokes applying oil or lotion and relaxing muscles. Petrissage involves kneading, cross-manipulating and working muscles. Friction heats muscles and stimulates the skin and blood circulation. Tapotement is the signature step of slapping or soft-chopping at muscles. The final strokes are soft nerve strokes to relax and stimulate the muscles and skin.
Prior to Your Massage
For a professional massage, the therapist will need basic information concerning your general health, the specific reason you need massage and any contraindications (health issues where massage might cause you injury). In most states, the therapist will have a license or registration. This registration is issued by the state when the therapist has completed a set course of training including anatomy and physiology, practical labs and an internship. You may request to see this license or similar proof before beginning your session. Payment is usually in advance. A typical one-hour massage will be $40 to $60 with tipping at 15 percent standard for good service.
Massage is a relaxing form of physical therapy. The room is normally quiet, private and softly lighted. Most therapists have a CD playing soft and soothing music. Some add aromatherapy candles or heated oils to aid in relaxation. The table will be padded, at a height comfortable for the therapist and covered with clean sheets. Most professional tables have a face rest or hole for the patient to be able to breathe and rest comfortably while face-down.
In order to apply oil and manipulate the muscles, the therapist will need access to bare skin. In a professional clinic, the patient will disrobe down to underpants, lie on the table (face-down) and pull the top sheet up to shoulder or mid-back level and then call the therapist to return to the room. The therapist will pull the top sheet away to expose the area (back, arm, leg) to be worked on. For a Swedish massage, each area will receive the five-stroke sequence. Work on the buttock muscles will generally be done through the top sheet. When the patient turns over (under the top sheet), the therapist will work on the neck and upper chest (techniques will differ between male and female patients to maintain the patient's comfort) and abdomen. Face and scalp massages are usually available upon request.
It is best for the patient to shower before receiving a full body massage. During the massage, if the therapist touches the patient's scalp or feet, the therapist should wash or disinfect her hands before moving to another body part. In most clinics, the patient will have access to a shower to remove oils or lotions after the massage.
Esalen is a popular (mostly on the West Coast) sub-set of Swedish massage as part of a holistic health regimen. It focuses more on the sensual than Swedish therapeutic styles. Thai massage is a fully (loose-fitting) clothed oriental massage style with an emphasis on healing meridians and chi flow through the body. Body rub or Oriental massage establishments offer either non-licensed therapists or are covers for prostitution.