If you have a muscle problem or need help to relax, you may be considering a massage. There are many different types available so you may be looking at a Shiatsu massage vs Swedish massage: Which ones better?
There is no definitive answer to this as the benefit you get from any massage will depend on your reasons for having it. Both of these massages use very different techniques, and offer their own benefits.
Shiatsu massage comes from Japan, and means ‘finger pressure’. It uses a holistic approach, which means that the massage uses techniques which help the body to self-heal and helps to balance the flow of energy through the body. The idea of Shiatsu massage is to consider all aspects of the body, including the emotional, spiritual and physical areas to release any blockages in the body’s energy flow.
The massage is made up of many different techniques which are aimed at healing the whole body. The massage itself uses pressure on known acupressure points and energy pathways. These include massage strokes, kneading, pressing and tapping, posture awareness and can even include breathing techniques.
The massage is carried out through your clothing and does not use any oils.
Before you go for your massage
As with all massages, it’s best to make sure you’re properly prepared so that you can get the best from your session.
- Try to stay relaxed before you go and don’t eat a big meal before the session.
- Wear loose fitting clothing which allows you to move freely.
- While Shiatsu massage isn’t harmful, you should always tell your therapist if you have any health problems. They need to know so they can adapt your massage to give you the best benefits. If you suffer with osteoporosis, low platelet levels or are in the early stages of pregnancy, your therapist can still give you your massage, but they will use a gentler technique.
If you are suffering with a fever it’s best to wait until this has gone.
Your first session with your Shiatsu practitioner will include a consultation. They will need to know why you want the massage and what you are hoping to achieve. They will also ask about your medical history and find out a bit about your lifestyle. Be as honest as possible as this is the only way to get the proper benefit of your massage. A qualified Shiatsu practitioner will know exactly how to tailor each session for everyone’s individual needs.
When they are happy they have all the information they need, they may feel your abdomen. Don’t be alarmed by this, and this is the way they feel and understand the energy flowing through your body.
You will then be asked to lie on a futon or mattress and your massage will then take 40-50 minutes. If you have problems lying down you can sit while you massage is carried out. You will remain fully clothed throughout your massage.
Your practitioner will then use the different techniques to work on your problem areas and release your energy flow. You should not feel uncomfortable during this, so if you do, let them know. Unlike other massages, at the end you will be allowed to rest and you will then tell the practitioner how you feel and how you think you benefited.
For most people one session isn’t enough. How often you continue to have your Shiatsu massage is something your practitioner will help you decide. If your lifestyle is particularly stressful, you may find regular Shiatsu massages help you to cope better and feel more in tune with your life.
It will help if you understand some of the terminology your practitioner will use.
- (Chee). This is the energy in your body.
- Your Qi flows through your body on a system of pathways, called meridians. If your meridians are blocked due to stress or an injury, then your health and well being will be affected.
- Yin and Yang. These are the basis of a lot of Oriental medicine. Yin is associated with your emotional and spiritual side, while Yang is associated with the outside of your body and your physical side. The two should be balanced to create the best Qi.
As Shiatsu massage treats the whole body, it has many benefits. The sessions can also teach you how to manage your own Qi so you can keep a healthy mind and body at all times. As a holistic treatment, it may not be able to cure any health problems, but it can help with some and for a lot of people it is used alongside traditional medicines.
Some of the ways it can benefit you are:
- Muscle pains. Maintaining a good flow of energy helps improve your circulation, and can help release the tension in tender muscles.
- Anxiety, stress and depression. These three conditions can often be linked and are often the result of a stressful lifestyle. Shiatsu massage can help you to relax both mind and body to better deal with every day stresses.
- Digestive problems. Another positive benefit of improving the circulation in the body is a decrease in digestive problems such as indigestion and heartburn.
- Headaches in general, but particularly migraines, are often caused due to poor blood flow. If you are stressed the blood vessels in the head can get bigger or smaller and cause a headache. Shiatsu massage not only improves blood circulation in general but relaxes the body too.
- Hormonal imbalances. Shiatsu practitioners believe that balancing your Qi can help balance your hormones. This in turn can help relieve some of the symptoms of menstrual cramps and the menopause.
- If you want to have a Shiatsu massage while pregnant discuss this with your doctor first. If they are happy for you to do so, you should find that the techniques used can help you thorough your pregnancy and deal with the birth as well.
- Cancer symptoms. Shiatsu massage can’t cure cancer, but many people find it helps with some of the symptoms and side effects of their medication.
Swedish massage was developed in the 1830s by Per Henrik Ling and is now quite possibly the most popular form of massage there is.
It is a physical massage which also helps with stress relief. It involves different stroking techniques and can be given to one part of the body or all over. It uses oils to reduce friction, and these can be used for aromatherapy as well.
The massage is carried out while you are naked, though you are covered in towels and you are allowed to wear knickers. Some people initially feel a little uncomfortable, but a qualified Swedish massage practitioner will only be working on one part of your body at a time and will respect your privacy.
Popular Swedish massages are the back, neck and shoulders, which can take 40 minutes, or if you want a full body massage this can take up to 90 minutes.
Before you go for your massage
- Try to relax as much as you can before you go. Although the massage itself is aimed at relaxation, you will get more benefit if you are relaxed at the start.
- If you’re having a full body massage, don’t eat a heavy meal too close to when you go.
- Wear old clothing as the oils used in the massage may soak in to your clothing when you’ve finished. You will need to wear old knickers too if the spa you’re going to don’t provide them.
- You will be very relaxed and possibly sleepy after your massage, so don’t book any appointments for immediately after to allow yourself to get the full benefit.
- Your practitioner should ask about any medical conditions, and some Swedish massages are given to help with muscle problems, so always tell them of any conditions you have even if you don’t think they are important.
Unlike a Shiatsu massage, you won’t have such a lengthy consultation. You will, however, have to discuss your medical problems and the reasons you want a massage.
When you are undressed you will lie on a massage table, and your practitioner will cover you with towels.
The practitioner will move each towel as they work, and rub oil in to your body. They will use a number of techniques, including long, fluent strokes, cupping, kneading and pinching. Each stroke is designed to push the blood towards the heart to aid circulation.
The oil is used to reduce friction, but aromatherapy oils can also be used to help you feel relaxed, invigorated or stimulated. The aim is to relax and stimulate the muscles.
As well as different techniques there are also different types of Swedish massage available
An aromatherapy massage is given the same way, but it uses aromatherapy, or essential oils. The oils contain different properties and your practitioner will help you choose the right one. The combination of the massage and the smell of the oil help create the desired effect.
For example, chamomile or lavender can help calm and relax you, while rosemary oil can be used to energize. Essential oils have long been used in homeopathic medicines, so if you have a specific problem, your practitioner will know the best oil to help.
A couples massage is a very popular spa treatment. Two people receive a massage at the same time. It can be friends who simply want to enjoy a day together, lovers who want to add a bit of romance or someone who has received massages before helping a newcomer to feel comfortable.
There is no medical reason why these are better, but they can be more relaxing and enjoyable.
If you don’t fancy the idea of disrobing, or you have problems getting on to a massage table, you can opt for a chair massage. The chairs used are specially designed and the massage is given while you are still clothed.
The massage consists of long, firm strokes and does not take as long as a normal Swedish massage.
A Swedish massage is very different to a Shiatsu massage, but some of the benefits are very similar.
- The strokes used help to relax the muscles, and this in turn can help relieve muscle spasms and pain.
- By encouraging the blood to flow to the heart, it can help detoxify the body, making you feel healthier and more alert.
- The massage should make you feel more relaxed and less stressed, helping you cope with every day life.
- The oils used in the massage can help you feel other emotions and the also keep the skin moisturized.
After your massage
- After a massage you shouldn’t feel any discomfort, so if you do make sure you tell your practitioner. You may feel a little drowsy due to the relaxation.
- Massages release toxins in to the body, so drink plenty of water afterwards to help flush these out.
- Resting after your massage can help you stay calm and focussed and give the massage techniques the chance to work properly.