Massage is an excellent way to relax and unwind, but it isn’t just a practice that should be indulged in as a luxury, it has quite a few benefits you should take advantage of regularly. Luckily, massage is easy to incorporate into your own life with some few simple practices that you can apply, or have somebody apply for you.
To get started, you will want to use specific products based on your own needs, and will need to have an idea of how to massage oils as part of your massage practice. It not only allows less friction to occur, but oils also have therapeutic benefits for you to take advantage of as well.
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Massage and Massage Benefits
There are actually many different types of massage, but you don’t have to shell out a bunch of money to feel the relief massage can bring. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading various parts of the body to help loosen stiff muscles and joints, relax tendons and ligaments, ease pain, and reduce tension.
Many of these practices can be applied at home with self massage, which is best done where you can easily reach without causing strain- such as your calves, forearms, hands, and back of the neck. A full body experience can be achieved with a trusted partner or friend, and they don’t have to do anything special except for having a few basics under their belt in advance.
The benefits of massage are seriously varied, and whereas a few may need a more professional touch, you can take advantage of many when you follow a few simple steps. These benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Reduction of both mental and physical stress and anxiety
- Recover from surgery
- Decrease chronic pain symptoms
- Lower blood pressure
- Promote relaxation and better sleep
- Increase range of motion
- Recover from exercise
- Increase exercise performance
- Improve balance
- Relieve headaches
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Reduce nerve compression
Massage works through the body’s natural ‘relaxation response’ that occurs in response to touch. During this state your heart rate and breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, stress reactions decrease, and muscles relax. The mechanical, or physical response that occurs allows an increase in blood and lymph circulation, which is healing and rejuvenating to soft tissues. It also increases blood flow to the brain.
The combination of these responses results in a loosening of connective tissues to increase circulation and oxygen release into the body. This leads to the removal of waste products and increases the absorption of excess fluids to help reduce soft tissue swelling.
Why Are Massage Oils Needed?
You truly never want to receive, or give, a massage without using some sort of lubricant. Oils and creams are crucial for an effortless glide of skin against skin to avoid pinching, pulling, or an excess of uncomfortable friction and heat.
You definitely want to use them and the trick is to find the one that you feel works best for you. Since there are various types of oils (explained below) you want to find the one that is comfortable to work with, applies the benefits you prefer, and is scented in a manner that is personally enjoyable. Many base oils used in massage have little to no scent, making them the perfect choice to use as a carrier of essential oils if you decide to change up your overall experience.
Safety Tips for Massage Oil Use
First off, always be aware that allergies to various ingredients may exist. If you have skin sensitivities and/or allergies you should first do a skin test to determine if it is a safe option for you. Most skin allergies simply result in redness or a superficial rash that goes away when the product is washed off.
Other tips to consider include:
- Never apply essential oils directly to the skin. Rather use them in a carrier to help dilute their properties, but not diminish their overall effect.
- Do not take internally unless they have been specifically certified for ingestion.
- Store in a cool, dark area to help retain benefits. Plus, keep out of reach of children and pets. The scents of many oils and oil blends may be attractive to them.
- Know the properties of the oils you choose. If you understand the ingredients included, then chances are you won’t have any problems with its use. But if you struggle with the names and notice synthetics and unnatural fragrances, be aware they probably need to be used in a very specific manner.
It’s very easy to purchase a pure oil source suitable for body massage or make your own so you know exactly what you are using.
Best Oils for Massage
Various types of massage oils can be chosen based on personal preference of feel or scent, but there are some that are better than others for massage. Consider the following when searching for your own needs:
Absorbs easily into the skin without leaving a greasy feel. Excellent for hydration.
Rich in vitamins A and E and helps firm and tone the skin.
Rich in Vitamin E and fatty acids, it also serves as a natural preservative and is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. Absorbs into the skin quickly for a non-greasy feel.
Sweet Almond Oil
Rich in vitamin E, fatty acids, potassium, and zinc, this oil is desired for its warm, sweet scent that hydrates and absorbs easily.
Slightly thicker than other oils, this oil is rich in linoleic acid and helps warm the skin.
High in vitamin E and fatty acids, this is a nourishing option for dry, damaged skin.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Perfect for sensitive skin, this gentle oil is nourishing and has high amounts of fatty acids and vitamin A to heal and hydrate.
Naturally anti-bacterial, this is a healing option that hydrates and provides high amounts of vitamin A and E.
Great to use as a carrier for essential oils, macadamia is high in omega 6 and 9 and helps to regenerate the skin.
Sensitive skin and those suffering from dermatitis will rejoice with the application of sunflower. It is rich in omega 6 and is very healing and gentle.
High in Linoleic acid, this option helps fight acne breakouts, is non-comedogenic, and has antibacterial properties.
Long hailed as the ultimate skin moisturizer, olive is rich in Vitamin E and is excellent for skin care. It does have a heavier, greasy feel and is not often used on its own and mixes well with other options.
How Essential Oils Differ from Base Oils
Base, or carrier oils are those oils that are used for direct application to the skin. Quality essential oils, although often deemed safe enough to apply directly, are sold in a concentrated form and are designed to be diluted with a carrier when used in a topical application. To use, apply a few drops of your favorites to 2 Tablespoons of the carrier of your choice.
Essential oils also offer some specific benefits to your skin, as well as an aromatherapy technique. They can be used as a single use, or in blends, to meet various needs and are an excellent addition to your massage. Some favorites include:
Lavender is a popular oil that is gentle for all skin types and provides a soothing scent that helps lull you into relaxation. It also has anti inflammatory and antibacterial properties to help soothe and heal sore muscles and troubled skin.
This is liquid gold and has been used for thousands of years. It is relaxing, provides medicinal properties to heal and soothe, is gentle, and has both anti inflammatory and antidepressant properties.
This is a hormonal balancing oil and is wonderful for skin protection. It also has healing properties and is gentle on the skin.
Orange oils smell great, blend well with other oils, and provides soothing, healing properties. It also helps provide focus to those who smell it. It can ease pain as well.
Masculine and soothing, bergamot has spicy, citrus scents and is very versatile to mix in blends. It helps improve mood and focus.
Warm and sweet smelling, this oil is uplifting to help feel less stressed and depressed. It is also soothing for soreness, and can ease upset stomachs.
Rose is another quality oil that is worth its weight in gold. This oil blends well with others and is amazing for skin hydration, suppleness, and healing.
Ward off germs and soothe chest congestion with eucalyptus. It blends amazingly well with citrus scents and helps ward off germs.
Give your sore feet and calves a treat when you use peppermint on them! Soothing to sore muscles, peppermint gets deep into sore muscles to ease tension. It also is revitalizing, helps combat headaches, and soothes tummy troubles.
Combat tiredness and get up feeling refreshed with bright grapefruit scents. This is an awesome choice to mix with others.
Help with focus and aid in skin healing, this oil has strong healing properties and is safe to use on troubled skin.
Help combat bacteria and take advantage of the rich herbal scent of thyme wither on its own or in a blend.
Relaxing and calming, chamomile is a gentle oil that relieves anxiety, influences relaxation, and has strong healing properties. It can soothe pain as well.
Tips for Giving a Great Massage
As mentioned, you can most definitely apply massage techniques to yourself to help loosen tight calves, relax sore feet, or work out tension in the back of your neck, but to fully experience all it has to offer, you might want to consider working with a partner or friend.
What You Need
- Approximately 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup carrier oil of your choice
- A flat comfortable surface to lay upon
- A rolled towel
- Essential oils of your choice if you wish
Step 1: Create a Soothing Atmosphere
First off, your atmosphere is going to make or break your enjoyment of a massage. Provide a quiet space that is of a comfortable temperature. Dim the lights to influence physiological responses to rest, and try and cover background noises that may exist with soothing nature sounds or music. Also try to limit interruptions if possible.
Step 2: Allow Person to Rest on a Flat, Stable, Comfortable Surface
The bed is not always the best place to provide a massage as it may provide too much give. If you have a firm mattress that might work, but consider a thick foam mat to place on the floor, or invest in a massage table. Be sure that arms are resting along the side and the head is turned comfortable (if on their stomach) or the neck has some support with a thin rolled towel if on their back. You can also place a rolled towel under the knees to help keep the spine aligned.
Step 3: Stand or Kneel Over the Person to Apply Body Weight
You want to use your body weight to help ease muscle tension, so stand or kneel over the person who is receiving the message in a manner that is comfortable to you. You can place a foam pad or folded towel under your knees if needed.
Step 4: Apply Oil to Palm of Your Hand
Apply your choice of oil and/or oil blends to your hands. Cup approximately a tablespoon of oil in one hand and rub your hands together before beginning the massage. This is important to help avoid painful friction and allow you to provide rolling, kneading movements to the areas being worked upon without pinching. Use your hands, fingers, and base of hands to apply pressure to areas you are massaging.
Step 5: Back
Start massaging the back using long, fluid strokes that help warm up the muscles and spread out the oil. While doing this you should be able to feel areas of tightness and tension that you can concentrate on. Start kneading those muscles using fingers and the base of your hand. You can also roll your knuckles along the sides of the spine- just avoid boney areas which can be painful.
Step 6: Head, Neck, and Shoulders
Move hands up the neck by applying gentle pressure and back down and along the tops of the shoulders. Use fingers to rub circular motions through the area all the way up to the base of the skull. Use fingertips to apply small circles over the entire scalp, providing gentle pressure. Repeat as needed.
Step 7: Arms, Legs, Hands, and Feet
Use the same techniques you use for the back upon the arms and legs, meaning you should use long, pressured strokes and muscle kneading techniques. Avoid the bones and joints to keep from accidentally creating painful pressure.
For hands and feet, gently use fingertip pressure and circular motion to help loosen and work free tensions. There are many nerves, tendons, and ligaments joint these bony structures, so care should be taken to avoid applying too much pressure. You can slowly pull fingers and toes outwards to help stretch them- but avoid popping them.
Use your knuckles to knead the palm and arch of the foot in circular motions as well. This loosens connective tissue to help release tension.
Step 8: Add More Oil as Needed
Obviously you should add oil to your hands and rub together to warm as needed. If you feel skin feeling dry or are pulling rather than gliding over the body, you will want to add more oil.
Hopefully this article has helped to explain the use of massage oils and provided you a lot of options to provide to your own massage techniques. Your choice of carrier oil and/or essential oils should be personal and work with the feel you desire as well as the benefits you are looking for.
Be sure to apply proper massage techniques with oils to allow for smooth, fluid movements and to help warm muscles to reduce tensions. This type of technique is therapeutic and aide sin both physical and mental stimulation.
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