Which massage is right for you?

Ever emerged black and blue? Check our expert guide now


If your regular treatment isn’t hitting the spot, you may be choosing incorrectly. Angela Beitz finds out how to make the right choice.

Massage is a great way to unwind from our busy and stressful lives, and it’s also the perfect way to escape for a bit of ‘me’ time. But with so many options available, how do you know which one is for you, or which ones should be avoided if you have injuries or common ailments? We spoke to spa director Hannah Dowd, from Anantara Spa at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, to get the lowdown.

Thai massage
Thai massage is an interactive manipulation of the body using passive stretching and gentle pressure with the hands and feet. These movements help adjust the skeletal structure, increase flexibility, relieve muscular and joint tension, stimulate internal organs and balance the body’s energy system. It is known to many as ‘passive yoga’ because it offers the ultimate body workout while allowing you to enjoy a wealth of stretching, flexibility and vitality benefits.
Best for: Those who are feeling very tight, want more flexibility and are stressed and need an intense massage. It’s also good for people with back pain and neck pain. Can also help with high blood pressure, sinus problems and chronic fatigue.
Place to try: Aura Spa, The Atrium Centre, Bur Dubai (050 156 6762).

Swedish massage
Swedish massage is based around the Western concept of anatomy and physiology which involves movements to warm up the muscle before attempting to remove knots and break down fibrous tissue. A Swedish massage has no particular speed, pressure, rhythm or sequence set, so you will find an array of styles and variations around world. However, the traditional Swedish uses light to medium pressure, so this is best suited for people who have some pain or stiffness and would prefer the method of heating up the body for an easier release of tension.
Best for: Increasing your circulation and reducing swelling from injury. This will also help lower back pain, anxiety, migraines and water retention.
Place to try: Dubai Herbal & Treatment Center, Oud Metha (04 335 1200).

Pregnancy massage
Pregnancy or pre-natal massage is a therapeutic massage that focuses on the special needs of the mother-to-be as her body goes through the dramatic changes of pregnancy. It focuses on ‘pressured’ areas of the body such as the neck, shoulders, mid and lower back, legs, calves and certain areas of the feet and ankles. This provides a nurturing experience for the mother-to-be and relieves any mental and physical fatigue she may be experiencing. During this massage, it is important that the correct support is given before applying any massage pressure, especially when she is in her last trimester.
Best for: Helping to reduce fatigue, swelling and sciatic pain. Can be applied during the birth as well as after making both experiences easier.
Place to try: Amara Spa, Park Hyatt Hotel, Sheikh Rashid Road (04 602 1234).

Deep tissue massage
A deep tissue massage targets the underlying tissue structure of the fascia and muscles which can be referred to as connective tissue. Deep tissue massage can break up and eliminate scar tissue from previous injuries and releases the built-up toxins by loosening the muscles that are stressed and possibly blocking nutrients and oxygen pathways. This process can often be quite a painful experience and may cause inflammation and soreness. It is not a massage to choose to relax. When the toxins have been released, blood and oxygen will circulate more easily.
Best for: Chronic pain, limited mobility and muscle tension.
Place to try: The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8888).

When should you avoid having a massage?

Fever: When you have a fever, your body is trying to isolate and expel an invader of some kind. Massage increases overall circulation and could therefore work against your body’s natural defences.

High blood pressure: High blood pressure means excessive pressure against blood vessel walls. Massage also affects the blood vessels and so people with high blood pressure or a heart condition should receive light, sedating massages, if at all.

Osteoporosis: Elderly people with a severe stoop to the shoulders often have this condition, in which bones become porous, brittle, and fragile. Massage may be too intense for this condition.

Skin problems: You should avoid anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there, such as rashes, wounds, bruises, burns, boils and blisters, for example. Usually these problems are local, so you can
still massage in other areas.

Diabetes: While this is still safe, the only contraindication is that the skin can become weak and thin. The pressure would have to remain light.

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