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What is a Relaxation Massage?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Mar 27, 2023

What is a Relaxation Massage?

Relaxation massage, as its name suggests, is a form of massage therapy that focuses on providing general relaxation, relieving muscle tension and improving blood circulation. Its primary goal is to assist the client in escaping the demands of their mundane tasks and taking quality time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. When you want to receive a relaxation massage, you can expect the treatment to involve:

  • Long, smooth, gliding strokes that are both rhythmic and flowing
  • Pressure that is deeply relaxing, but not painful
  • A treatment designed to relax and soothe you, but not to relieve chronic pain or other underlying conditions
  • A therapist who also takes the massage environment into account – looks for soothing music, warm towels, and occasionally uses essential oils to enhance both the environment and the effects of the massage

What Are the Benefits of Relaxation Massage?

Just like other styles of massage, the benefits of a relaxation massage usually last several days after receiving the treatment. It may not be the absolute cure for any health problem, but getting regular massage, specifically relaxation massage, can offer the following benefits:

Relaxation massage for back pain

  • Relieves back and neck pain  
  • Lowers blood pressure – at least for a while
  • Improves peripheral circulation
  • Improves skin tone and appearance
  • Improves gastrointestinal motility, hence improving bowel movement and overall digestion
  • Reduces muscle tension such as the relief of muscle tension headaches
  • Relieves any stress-related symptoms. This can include providing a boost to the immune system after undergoing regular treatments
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports healing of minor skin abrasions
  • Speeds up recovery of soft tissue injuries
  • Improves range of motion
  • Promotes relaxation

What Are the Different Types of Relaxation Massage?

In a relaxation massage therapy session, the massage therapist employs gentle to medium manipulation techniques to the superficial layers of the body tissue. Unlike deep tissue or trigger point massage, it doesn't address the connective tissue of the muscles, though it does a great job at easing tired muscles. The therapist typically works on the client's back, neck, arms and legs using gentle kneading motion and long strokes. 

Like with other services, there is such a thing as an upgraded relaxation massage where the client can indulge in other treatments in addition to the standard massage therapy. Here's a list of some relaxation massages that you should definitely try.

  • Swedish massage immediately comes to mind when you say relaxation massage. It's a full-body massage that combines gentle kneading, tapping and long strokes directed towards the heart to improve blood circulation and lymphatic flow. This type of massage is ideal for anyone who's new to massage or just wants to bring down their stress levels after a long, tiring day.
  • Hot stone massage involves the placing of heated stones on specific parts of the body, such as the back, shoulders, legs and feet, to warm and loosen up the muscles. Once they're warm enough, the massage therapist can start applying slow and gentle strokes on the client's body. They may also rub the heated stones against the back, shoulders and legs to relieve pain, stress as well as toxins stored in the body.      
  • Aromatherapy massage helps promote positive thoughts and feelings. It's a type of massage that synchronously benefits the body and the emotions. During an aromatherapy massage treatment, the therapist applies gentle Swedish massage techniques to the soft tissue of the client's body while the calming scent of essential oils diffuses into the air to intensify their journey to relaxation. The oils can also be applied to the client's body upon their request.

Stone therapy massage in Austra;oa     Aromatherapy massage in Australia

Techniques Involved

  1. Effleurage: This technique involves long, smooth, gliding strokes that follow the contours of the body. The therapist uses their palms, fingers, or forearms to apply light to medium pressure. Effleurage is typically used at the beginning and end of the massage to warm up the muscles, increase circulation, and prepare the body for deeper work. It can also help to promote relaxation and reduce stress by stimulating the nervous system.

  2. Petrissage: Petrissage is a kneading technique that involves lifting, rolling, and squeezing the muscles. The therapist uses their fingers, knuckles, or thumbs to apply pressure and manipulate the soft tissues. This technique helps to release muscle tension, improve circulation, and increase the flexibility of the muscles and connective tissue. It also aids in the elimination of metabolic waste products.

  3. Tapotement: Tapotement, also known as percussion, is a rhythmic tapping or drumming technique that is applied using the therapist's fingertips, cupped hands, or the edge of the hand. This technique can help to stimulate the nervous system, increase blood flow to the muscles, and improve muscle tone. Tapotement is typically used for short periods of time during a relaxation massage and is not always included, as it may not be suitable for all clients or preferences.

  4. Friction: Friction techniques involve the use of deep, circular, or back-and-forth movements to generate heat and break up adhesions or knots in the muscle tissue. The therapist may use their fingers, thumbs, or the heel of their hand to apply pressure. This technique is used sparingly in relaxation massage, as it is more focused on addressing specific areas of tension rather than promoting overall relaxation.

  5. Vibration: Vibration is a gentle shaking or trembling movement applied to the muscles using the therapist's hands or fingers. This technique can help to loosen tight muscles, stimulate circulation, and promote relaxation.

  6. Stretching: Some relaxation massages may include gentle stretching of the muscles to help improve flexibility and range of motion. The therapist may guide the client through passive stretches, where the client remains relaxed while the therapist moves their limbs, or use techniques such as muscle energy techniques to actively engage the client in the stretching process.

Oils Used in Relaxation Massage

Aromatherapy massage incorporates essential oils, which are concentrated extracts from various plant parts such as flowers, leaves, and roots. These oils have unique therapeutic properties that can enhance the massage experience, promote relaxation, and target specific issues. Here are some popular essential oils used in aromatherapy massage and their benefits:

  1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Known for its calming and relaxing effects, lavender oil is often used to reduce anxiety, stress, and promote better sleep. It also possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help soothe muscle aches and joint pain.

  2. Peppermint (Mentha piperita): This refreshing essential oil has a cooling effect and is commonly used to alleviate headaches, muscle pain, and digestive issues. Its invigorating aroma can help enhance mental clarity and increase energy levels.

  3. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus): With its strong, clean scent, eucalyptus oil is often used to relieve respiratory problems, such as sinus congestion and asthma. It also possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help in treating muscle pain and arthritis.

  4. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): This stimulating essential oil can help improve concentration and memory, as well as relieve mental fatigue. Rosemary oil also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate muscle and joint pain.

  5. Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis): Sweet orange oil has an uplifting and mood-enhancing aroma that can help reduce anxiety and stress. It can also help improve digestion and ease muscle tension.

  6. Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata): Known for its sweet, floral scent, ylang ylang oil can help reduce stress, anxiety, and promote a sense of calm. It is also

How Much Does it Cost?

The price of a relaxation massage varies according to your location, experience of the therapist, duration of the massage as well as any additional treatments that may come with it. The type of massage treatment, whether it addresses the entire body or focuses on specific areas, also matters in the computation.

The qualifications of the massage therapist, in addition to the massage environment,  also factor into the cost. Meaning, if you're planning to get a therapeutic massage in a spa or wellness centre, expect to pay more than you would in a typical massage clinic. 

Can I Claim Relaxation Massage on Health Insurance?

Whether or not you can claim an insurance rebate for a relaxation massage depends on what's stipulated in your private health insurance policy. Some insurance companies cover massage therapy services so long as they are delivered as part of a licensed health professional's prescribed treatment for medical conditions. In most cases, you and your massage therapist will be required to prove that the massage being received has made a noticeable and significant difference to the underlying condition. It would be best to check with your health fund provider the extent of your coverage.

Evidence of Benefits of Massage

  1. Study: A comparison of the effects of 2 types of massage and usual care on chronic low back pain: a randomized, controlled trial. Source: Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Kahn J, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(1):1-9. Link: This study found that both relaxation massage and structural massage were more effective than usual care for treating chronic low back pain.

  2. Study: Effects of Swedish massage therapy on blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammatory markers in hypertensive women. Source: Noto Y, Kudo M, Hirota K. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:171852. Link: This study demonstrated that Swedish massage therapy could significantly decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammatory markers in hypertensive women.

  3. Study: Massage therapy for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Source: Tan M, Dong Y, Kuo L, et al. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2021;43:101396. Link: This systematic review and meta-analysis found that massage therapy could improve ADHD symptoms and sleep quality in children and adolescents.

  4. Study: Massage therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Source: Li YH, Wang FY, Feng CQ, Yang XF, Sun YH. PLoS One. 2014;9(2):e89304. Link: This meta-analysis demonstrated that massage therapy could effectively alleviate pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with fibromyalgia.

  5. Study: Massage therapy for the treatment of cancer pain: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Source: Wilkinson S, Barnes K, Storey L. Support Care Cancer. 2008;16(11):1179-89. Link: This systematic review found that massage therapy could provide short-term relief from cancer-related pain, with the potential to improve mood and quality of life.

How Do You Choose a Relaxation Massage Therapist?

The definition of relaxation varies from person to person. One may associate it with gentle Swedish massage, while another may prefer more pressure applied to their layers of muscle. That said, it's important to work with a therapist whose style reflects the type of massage that you need.

A relaxation massage therapist is trained in the essential massage strokes used specifically for Swedish massage, including effleurage, circular friction massage, vibration, tapping and kneading. Apart from being highly skilled, they know how to conduct themselves professionally in the workplace. They acknowledge the fact that each client has their own preference, so what works for one may not work for another. This mindset never fails them when it comes to meeting clients' expectations. 

When looking for a therapist who can provide you with an unforgettable relaxation massage treatment, qualification is key. You want the person to at least have a Certificate IV in Massage Therapy, which is the minimum qualification required to work as a massage therapist. Also, ensure that they exhibit these key qualities:

  • Friendly
  • A good listener and communicator
  • Empathetic
  • Organised
  • Observes good personal hygiene 

To get in touch with one in your neighbourhood to address your aching back, you may check the list of Australia's highly experienced relaxation massage therapists on the Natural Therapy Pages.

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Originally published on Aug 24, 2011

FAQs About Relaxation Massage

What is the difference between a relaxation massage and a deep tissue massage?

A relaxation massage consists of very gentle strokes that aim to eliminate muscle tension and stress. Deep tissue massage, on the other hand, works on the deeper layers of muscle to release painful knots that restrict movement.

What is the most relaxing massage?

Although Swedish massage is the most popular type of relaxation massage, it cannot be dubbed the most relaxing because some people may prefer hot stone massage or aromatherapy massage. Any form of massage that can help alleviate stress and restore balance to the mind, body and emotions is no doubt the most relaxing massage.

What is a full-body relaxation massage?

Full-body massage is a type of massage that covers the entire body, including the neck, back, arms, hands, legs and feet. A full-body massage can be performed using an array of massage techniques.

How does relaxation massage differ from deep tissue?

Relaxation massage: This massage is primarily aimed at promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and improving overall well-being. It helps to soothe the nervous system, increase circulation, and relieve minor muscle tension. Deep tissue massage: This massage targets specific muscle groups and deeper layers of soft tissue to address chronic pain, muscle tension, and mobility issues. It is often used to treat musculoskeletal problems, such as sports injuries, strains, and postural imbalances.

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