Knowing your way around a spa menu gets you a knead that presses all the right buttons.
Know your kneads
Swedish (light to medium strokes) is best for relaxation. Deep-tissue involves intense kneading using fists, forearms and elbows, and treats pain and stiffness. Sports massage works large muscle groups and is beneficial for even weekend runners. Your therapist can blend approaches.
Find your purpose
Aromatherapy can make any massage more relaxing. Hot-stone therapy is especially therapeutic for those who crave more pressure than Swedish but can’t handle deep-tissue. Hydrotherapy (soaking in a tub with jets or under a Vichy shower) complements a rub-down since they both increase circulation. A massage that includes a body scrub may shortchange you on the kneading and require you to shuffle to the shower to wash off, which isn’t terribly relaxing.
Go beyond borders
In Thai massage, a therapist moves you through yogalike stretches to increase flexibility. With Shiatsu, the therapist applies pressure with her fingers, palms and feet, which can ease stress. Though many consider reflexology a foot massage, it actually affects the whole body via pressure points in the feet. Since each point correlates with a body part, it helps with everything from digestive problems to sinus pain.
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