Help me pamper myself
May 10, 2016 2:44 PM   Subscribe

In theory, I like to indulge myself with a massage when I get the chance. In reality, I wind up never quite enjoying it. Please help me figure out what type of massage I really want!

What I've had done before has been almost exclusively Swedish-style massage, where my muscles are...worked over, I guess? Yer standard rub-until-the-knots-give-in style, which I find just makes me sort of tense. (I'm fairly touch-starved, and while I have no trouble with a strange massage therapist touching me, I think the strength of the touch puts me a little on the defense, if that makes sense?)

What I do love, beyond all reason, is when I go to yoga class and at the end the instructor gives me a shoulder adjustment or (as one person has done for me), what I think is a hip adjustment -- basically, motions that involve more diffuse pushing and pulling, more or less to rock a joint into a certain alignment, rather than dealing with muscles. I've also had massage therapists put one hand on the back of my shoulder and the other hand on my opposite hip and just push their hands apart. It feels like the muscle and joint are being gently stretched into place, and it is basically the best feeling ever.

Is this a particular style of massage/adjustment that I just don't know the name of? I'd love to be able to treat myself to a full session of this, instead of just a few minutes at the end of a class!

(Super-extra-bonus points if you both know the name of this thing that makes my whole body happy and can point me in the direction of someone in the Philadelphia area who does it.)
posted by kalimac to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might like Thai massage! I've never done it personally, but a close friend had a Thai massage session last year and it sounds a lot like what you're looking for. It's also called "Thai yoga massage."

I don't know any massage places in Philly, but if you have a massage place you already like, they may either have someone on staff who can do it, or know of a good practitioner.
posted by muddgirl at 2:48 PM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You should be able to discuss exactly this with your next massage therapist. They should understand exactly what you are asking and accommodate you as such, or tell you where else to go if they are "too specialized" to accommodate.
posted by TinWhistle at 2:52 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like what you are responding positively to is myofascial release.
posted by headnsouth at 2:53 PM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think this is called relaxation massage? It's less about deep tissue work and more about just warming up muscles and gently smoothing away stiffness. My chiropractor has four or five massage therapists on staff, and one of them I go to for hard, deep tissue work and 'problem fixing', and there's another one who does more relaxing stuff that I go to when I just want a gentle rub down.
posted by ananci at 2:56 PM on May 10, 2016

Thai massage can be very aggressive on the surface of the skin. Like what kids call "Indian burns." I wouldn't recommend it for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:59 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: Agree that it sounds like you would enjoy Thai massage, which involves a lot of dynamic stretching and manipulation.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:59 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: I had a thai massage in thailand. Holy crap. It's like they did yoga for me They basically stretch you out and pull you every which way. At point I think the woman was actually half way on the table herself, bracing herself for leverage so she could stretch me harder.

Not only did I feel great afterwards, but I'm pretty sure I came out 3 inches taller.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:00 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you might just want a softer touch massage. Tell the therapist you want a very relaxing, low-pressure massage, and mention some of the things you did here.
posted by radioamy at 3:05 PM on May 10, 2016

I've had luck getting the kind of massage you seem to like by going to a massage therapist who focuses more on the therapy side -- for example, I would look for someone who takes health insurance (not that your insurance will necessary cover this, but that will take insurance for people with a medical need). You also might look for therapists who specialize on working with elderly customers. The gentlest, most awesome and relaxing massage I have gotten is from my grandma's massage therapist, who for obvious reasons knows how to take it easy (if she did a normal Swedish massage, she would probably break someone's hip!)
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:34 PM on May 10, 2016

Response by poster: You guys are amazing, thank you so much!

Thai Massage sounds like my best place to start -- doing yoga for sound like absolute bliss -- but I'll definitely keep a softer version of Swedish massage in mind, and generally keep an open mind with lots of communication wherever I wind up going.

Thank you again so, so much!
posted by kalimac at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: Many massage therapists seem only able to do the rub-a-dub but, yes, if you like them as a person, you could check and see if they have other techniques in their skill set.
Here are some names of other types of body work that it sounds like you would really enjoy:
Trager (lots of gentle rocking), Zero Balancing (profound use of energetic fulcrums to move and balance energy), or Cranio-sacral (works with balancing the flow of energy and cranial fluids throughout the body). One of the advantages of these is that they require the practitioner to stay tuned in to just what your body needs/wants.
posted by Otterone at 4:32 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: headnsouth has it. It's myofascial release, which is very common.

My therapist does something called polarization, which is where she does the nice stretching on all my limbs, extremities and back. It is insanely relaxing and I usually fall asleep.
posted by Youremyworld at 4:54 PM on May 10, 2016

Nthing myofascial release
posted by Sassyfras at 5:02 PM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: If Thai massage doesn't do it for you, look into Active Isolated Stretching. I love all types of massage, but the bodywork feel of AIS is really therapeutic for me.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:51 PM on May 10, 2016

Thai yoga massage is great. I liked being really warm both before and after (warm muscles stretch better); would recommend dressing warmly when you travel, and planning to come home to a warm house.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:57 PM on May 10, 2016

Nthing Thai massage.

But also Trager work. There are two practitioners listed just putting Philly into their search. Very gentle and very effective in my experience.
posted by jaruwaan at 4:20 AM on May 11, 2016

I've heard good things about this Thai Yoga Massage place in Elkins Park PA (Phila area)
posted by WeekendJen at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2016

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