What kind of massage should I ask for?
February 28, 2011 7:46 PM   Subscribe

What kind of massage do I want to ask for?

I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders, and one of them tends to cramp up. I went to a doctor a few years ago and she didn't really find anything wrong (e.g., no bone or tendon/ligament issues), but sent me to a physical therapist. The exercises he gave me helped a little, but the best thing was the shoulder massage -- he would root around in there, find a tense little strand of muscle, and push on it until it loosened up, and then repeat. The shoulder problem is much better than it used to be, but I still carry a lot of stress there.

So, my question is, when I make a massage appointment, what kind of massage should I be asking for in order to get that same sort of massage that I got from the physical therapist?
posted by Blue Jello Elf to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing Trigger Point.
posted by goshling at 7:49 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would just ask for "deep tissue" when you are booking the appointment and maybe mention that you want it targeted in a specific area. Depending on the massage establishment, you might be able to book a shorter session for just "neck & shoulders" or whatever. Then when you actually meet the therapist you should tell them exactly what you said above and they should be able to tailor the massage to your needs. If not, try another therapist. You could also search for things terms like "sports massage" or "trigger point therapy" or "myofascial release" in their promotional information.
posted by purpletangerine at 8:01 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have the same problem and I do the following:

1. Once a month I see a chiropractor who employs Active Release Technique. It's basically some seriously deep tissue massage followed by gentle manipulation of my neck, shoulder/arm socket area.

2. Once a month (sooner when I can afford it which is not often enough) I see a massage therapist who specializes in deep tissue, sports massage, and assisted stretch work. At the beginning of every session he places hot, wet towels on my upper back/shoulders for ~10 minutes and works on my legs and lower regions first while my upper back/shoulder/neck area relaxes. It makes a HUGE difference.

YMMV. Good luck!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 8:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have no idea how woo it is, but Myofascial Release seems to fit. You can find PTs who are trained in this.
posted by oflinkey at 8:20 PM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: Find someone who practices PNF. That stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. It's a Deep Tissue technique that involves lengthening (stretching) the muscle, pinpointing the spot with the tension, and then having you engage the muscle. The result is a rapid dissolution of the adhesions or "knots" in your shoulders. It's very effective and satisfying if you like intense massage with noticeable results.
Triggerpoint massage works well for unexplainable muscle pains as well as things like tensions headaches. If you push on the spot in shoulder and it "refers" pain up your neck, to your ear or even up into your temple, then Triggerpoint would help.
Deep Tissue is a specific technique, and while many massage therapists claim to practice it, most are not properly trained in it. I would avoid using that term when expecting results.
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions before you schedule an appointment, and DO tell your therapist if he or she is applying too much (or too little) pressure for your comfort. Bruising can happen, and that only makes your troubles worse.
Have fun!
(If you were in Portland, I'd recommend that you give me a call, ha.)
posted by She Talks To Angels at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: Yeah -- echoing everyone here: you want trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage, or even sports massage. Those are the keywords you need.

What you want to avoid is Swedish massage, which is normally code for a gentle, relaxing experience. Look for a therapist or provider whose website talks about treating sports injuries. The word bodywork is usually a good sign too. Avoid spas, places that offer couples massage, and places that promote themselves as relaxing, indulgent, or soothing.

I learned all this the hard way :-)
posted by Susan PG at 10:00 PM on February 28, 2011

There are massage therapists who work in clinics with physical therapists. If you go to one of these more medical places, as opposed to a spa, the massage therapist will know what to do for you.
posted by yarly at 5:16 AM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the advice, everyone!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:51 PM on March 2, 2011

What you want to avoid is Swedish massage, which is normally code for a gentle, relaxing experience.

Hrm. My wife is a massage therapist, and does deep tissue/trigger point work, and that's a subset of "Swedish massage". Avoid "relaxation massage", sure, but if it's not Shiatsu or ART or something like that it's "Swedish". The term has fallen out of use, though, because unqualified therapeutic "massage" usually means Swedish techniques.
posted by mendel at 8:39 PM on March 2, 2011

Response by poster: OK, you guys are awesome. I got a deep tissue massage today and I can now hold that arm straight up (ie, along the side of my head) -- I haven't been able to do that in years. I can feel thing slowly tightening up in there again, but I think with a few appointments I'll be able to train the darn shoulder to behave properly. Thanks!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:19 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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