Can’t Relax? Try These Awesome Massage Techniques

By Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC     

Hard-working nurses need time to relax, and getting a massage is a fun and healthy way to indulge. If you don’t have time to plan a beach getaway, a massage is the next best thing. You can actually walk out of a good massage feeling like you just had a three-day weekend! 

I was a massage therapist before becoming a nurse. I’ve received pretty much every type of massage you can name, and you can bet I have an opinion about each one! Here are my recommendations in no particular order: 

Relaxation massage

Some massage therapists offer relaxation massage. This basically means that the goal of the session is not to dig deep into your aching muscles or “fix” something that hurts. Instead, a relaxation massage is just that -- total relaxation. 

What to expect: You can expect a warm room and comfortable massage table, quiet music, and the use of natural fragrances that promote rest. Strokes are generally long, slow, and soothing. You can expect to be massaged using various types of lotion or oils. You’ll need to be completely undressed; removing your underwear allows your therapist to access your sacrum and hips.

An hour is a perfectly acceptable amount of time for a session, but 90 or 120 minutes can really take the experience to the next level. 

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Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage has a particular goal -- untangling your knots. 

What to expect: You’ll lie on a massage table under a sheet, and you’ll need to be completely undressed, just like for a relaxation massage. Sessions can be one hour or more. 

You might experience the therapist using hands, elbows, thumbs, or a massage device. The therapist may ask permission to climb on the table and use their feet or knees for more intense (and closely controlled) pressure. You can expect the use of lotion, oil, or even warm stones. 

Thai massage

Thai massage is intensely unwinding. Several massage therapists I’ve known have actually traveled to Thailand to study with masters of Thai techniques. 

What to expect: Thai massage may be done on a massage table or a futon mat on the floor. No oils or lotions are used in Thai massage since the client remains fully clothed. Loose, comfortable clothing is recommended. 

Some gentle stretching of your limbs is involved, as well as expertly placed pressure on various parts of the body. You need to trust the therapist enough to allow them to manipulate your limbs into stretches that release tension in your connective tissue. Sessions last 1 to 2 hours. 

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Foot Reflexology

For a hard-working nurse constantly on her feet, your idea of heaven may lie in a foot massage. Reflexologists are trained to use pressure points in the feet (as well as the hands, in some cases). 

Various diagrams of the hands and feet claim that all systems and organs of the body can benefit from the skillful manipulation of their corresponding “reflexes” in the limbs. I’ve experienced some of those benefits myself, but I can’t scientifically corroborate the experience. 

What to expect: In a reflexology session, you may be lying fully clothed on a massage table with your legs exposed from the knee down, or be seated in a comfortable lounge chair. It’s recommended to wear shorts so that the reflexologist can access your legs from the knees down. Sessions can be as brief as 30 minutes, but 60 to 90 minutes is best for deep relaxation and pain relief. 

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There’s So Much More

There are countless forms of massage, bodywork, and “energy work”, and these four are a great place to begin. 

Search online for therapists in your area. Feel free to ask a therapist about training, certification, experience, and style of massage. Many have multiple certifications and offer a variety of techniques and styles. You may encounter eclectic therapists who combine several techniques. 

Be clear with your chosen therapist about your sensitivities to touch; areas of pain, injury, or prior surgery; your dislike of certain fragrances or incense; and your goals. 

Personal recommendations are a great way to find a therapist you really like, but you can also be adventurous and trust your nursing instincts when searching for the right person. 

There are so many benefits to massage.  Why not make time in your schedule to get one on a regular basis? It’s an investment in your happiness and health!

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Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

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