The term spa is traditionally used to mean a place where water that is believed to have special health-giving properties occurs. This is usually a mineral or hot spring, and can include cold water treatments. The term is derived from the Belgian town of Spa. There are many types of occupations that are employed by a spa, but the most popular is the Masseuse. A Masseuse is a man or woman who performs massages on clients.
Massage is the practice of applying structured pressure, tension, motion or vibration - manually or with mechanical aids - to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints and lymphatic vessels, to achieve a beneficial response.
A form of therapy, massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to heal injury, relieve psychological stress, manage pain, and improve circulation. Where massage is used for its physical and psychological benefits, it may be termed "therapeutic massage therapy" or manipulative therapy.
As massage is a lightly regulated industry, clients are advised to get references, ask questions and judge for themselves. In commercial settings, massage techniques involve the client being treated lying down on a massage table or in a massage chair, or on a mattress on the floor.
Except for modalities such as Thai Massage or Barefoot Deep Tissue, the massage subject is generally unclothed, and the body may be "draped" with towels or sheets. This also helps keep the client warm. In some jurisdictions it is required that certain areas such as the genitals on both genders and the breast/nipple area on women be draped at all times.
Due to the necessary physical contact between the practitioner and the client, sexual arousal (or signs of it) is possible, but rarely intentional. In many forms of massage, the treatment may start with the client face up or down for the first part of the session: the client then rolls over for the second half of the session. Relaxation is necessary for maximum therapeutic benefits to be achieved.
Good communication is essential to effective massage. In a commercial setting, the client is encouraged to communicate the type of treatment expected, for example relaxation or pain relief, full body massage or focus on a specific area, the amount of pressure that is comfortable, preferred techniques, and past medical history and current physical condition.
There are well over 150 types of massage therapy. Various styles of massage have developed from a number of sources.
Chair massage is by far the most convenient method of massage therapy. A chair massage session typically lasts 15-30 minutes, and is performed while fully clothed. Chair massage promotes better circulation, muscle stimulation and stress relief. This form of massage reduces tension in the back, neck, shoulders, head, arms, hands, legs or feet, providing a deep relaxation effect.
Chair massages are also advantageous because chair massage practitioners will frequently make work- or housecalls. Chair massage can also be done in hotels, airports and convention centers.
Deep tissue techniques are generally designed for more focused massage work. Working a specific joint, muscle or muscle group, the practitioner can access deeper layers of the soft tissue. Starting superficially and easing into the depth of the muscle slowly often allows more movement.
This is the recommended approach in this modality since each person experiences pressure differently. If the pressure is applied too deeply or too quickly, the muscle may tighten to protect that area, and unnecessary damage or inflammation can be induced. Very little lubricant is used as the pressure doesn't travel much over the skin.
The most commonly used 'tools' during deep tissue massage may include, 3 and 6 fingers, reinforced fingers, a flat elbow, opposing thumbs, the heel of the hand or foot, and the forearm.
MA-URI is a new form of massage introduced by Hemi Hoani Fox in 1990, who cites as its roots Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi Nui dance, claiming increased so-called energy flow within the body and mind. Focus is internal, upon breathing, intent, and concentration. Claimed benefits include mental and physical health. Study and advocation is primarily carried out at the MA-URI Institute, headed by Hemi and Katja Fox. It is currently difficult to find practitioners, though this may change as it grows more popular.
Foot massage, as practiced by the Chinese is performed in the context of chi, in that each spot on the sole of the foot corresponds to an internal organ, and the applied therapy is healing to one's overall well being. The theory supposes that an ailment of an internal organ will be associated with the nerve ending on the sole of the foot.
Before the massage, the patient's feet are soaked for about ten minutes in a foot bath, typically a dark colored solution of hot water and Chinese herbs. The massage therapist uses liberal amounts of medicated cream, to moisturize the foot and to provide lubrication.
The knuckles on the therapist's hand are usually used to provide a hard and smooth implement for the massage. As pressure is applied to the sole, theory holds that a healthy patient should not feel any strong pain. Painful spots, reflexologists believe, reflect illnesses of other parts of the body. The practitioner rubs and massages the painful spots to break down rough spots and accumulated crystals and increase circulation.
The ailments are healed when the sore spots of the sole are treated and removed by massage. Based on this theory, some shoe liners are made with pressure points to stimulate the soles of the feet to promote better health of the overall body. The nature of these "crystals" has yet to be elucidated or demonstrated scientifically. Regardless of the actual correlation of reflexology to internal organs, many enjoy it for the mix of stimulation and relaxation.
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is the largest 501 c non- profit professional organization of massage therapists in the United States, although there are other professional organizations such as the Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (ABMP).
The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is the only national certifying group of massage therapists in the United States. This is the test that professional massage therapists take in the US even if their states don't offer licensure, in an effort to demonstrate their knowledge. Over 34 U.S. states currently use it as a requirement for their state license as well. The certification earned by successful completion of the NCBTMB exam produced by the NCBTMB is NCTMB.
Josh Stone has been a freelance writer for over eleven years. Spa Uniforms.