Untie the knots
Woman&Home, September 2006

Squeeze along the top of your shoulders. Feel any lumps? Stress is most commonly to blame, but bad posture and strenuous exercise can also cause balls of fibrotic tissue to build up. The best way to prevent and dispel these knots is with regular massage, so don't think of money spent on treatments as an indulgence.

Massage stimulates the nervous system, releasing tension and relaxing the mind. It increases circulation, leaving your skin glowing, and helps your muscles move more easily too, giving you better posture and making you feel years younger.

Follow our guide to understanding the most popular massages and choose the one that's right for you. Prices quoted are for London, but expect to pay around £10 to £20 less elsewhere in the UK.

Swedish massage

WHAT IS IT? The masseur directly rubs, kneads and presses the muscles to stimulate the system, boosting circulation and speeding up the removal of waste. This relaxes the body and releases muscular tension. Movement of the joints becomes easier and the long rhythmic strokes ease frazzled minds. You only wear underwear, but are covered by towels. GOOD FOR Tense back and shoulders, stress, headaches, fitness and general relaxation.
EXPECT TO PAY £45 to £60. Call 01777-700383 for a list of practitioners.


WHAT IS IT? Expect to be crawled over. The masseur uses his or her hands, elbows, knees and feet to apply pressure, while moving your limbs into different positions to increase pressure. It's based on the principle that a vital force, or ki, flows through your body in channels known as meridians. Disease is seen as an excess or deficiency of ki. The aim is to balance the energy along these meridians using the pressure points and restore the body to health. GOOD FOR General wellbeing, digestive problems and lower back pain.
EXPECT TO PAY £45 to £60. Call 0845-1304560 or visit www.shiatsu.org

Sports massage

WHAT IS IT? A variety of soft tissue and neuromuscular techniques (applying resistance to the muscles), friction and stretches are performed on a table under towels. The aim is to release tight muscles and reduce pain and trauma. The masseur may target particular muscle groups, tendons and ligaments. This also improves the supply of nutrients to the muscles and facilitates removal of waste. GOOD FOR Anyone active, as well as sports fans, as it helps to speed recovery after injury and prevent muscle damage. It also increases overall flexibility and enhances physical performance.
EXPECT TO PAY £45 to £60. Call 0870-0052678 or visit
www.sportsmassageassociation.org for more information.

Thai yoga massage

WHAT IS IT? Described as a moving meditation, this balances energy flow by means of pressure, stretching, and applied hatha yoga, which helps the body heal itself. The therapist uses hands, feet and elbows and moves with you to assist the postures, which take place in loose clothing. GOOD FOR Joints, back pain and migraines. The stretches and poses can be quite demanding, but you'll feel fully invigorated afterwards. Not recommended if you suffer from osteoporosis or have joint replacements.
EXPECT TO PAY £60 to £75. Visit www.embodyforyou.com to find out more.

Hot stone massage

WHAT IS IT? Traditional oil massage is combined with American Indian healing practices. The masseur heats a number of smooth basalt stones to apply added pressure to the muscles. The heat from the stones feels wonderfully relaxing. They can also be placed along points on the spine, in the palms or between the toes to improve energy flow. Cool marble stones are used for areas of inflammation or injury. GOOD FOR The thermotherapeutic effect of the stones relieves muscular aches and pains and rheumatic and arthritic conditions. It is also helpful for depression.
EXPECT TO PAY £60 to £90. Visit www.lastonetherapy.co.uk to find a

Chi Nei Tsang

WHAT IS IT? Also known as "hara" (abdomen) shiatsu, this massage originated with Chinese Taoist monks. Soft, deep movements over the abdomen help the internal organs  function  better,  while  energy  flow  is  increased through manipulation of pressure points around the navel. Working the five major energy systems, this detoxifies the body by reducing stagnation, improving circulation and releasing emotional tension. It is performed in loose clothing on a table. GOOD FOR Digestive and reproductive problems. It promotes deeper breathing and increased vitality.
EXPECT TO PAY £40 to £55. Visit www.learn-shiatsu.co.uk to learn more.


WHAT IS IT? After a consultation, the therapist blends a mix of carrier and essential oils (extracted from the leaves, flowers, seeds and roots of plants), which is applied to body and face. Absorption of the oils is the key, so the massage strokes will be gentler than normal.  Oils are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and have differing therapeutic properties, while the fragrance directly stimulates the brain to relax or uplift. GOOD FOR Skin problems and emotional wellbeing as well as common ailments like colds, sinus problems and PMS. The advantage is that treatment can be continued between sessions using oils in the bath or inhalation. Some oils are not suitable during pregnancy.
EXPECT TO PAY £45 to £75. Visit www.ifaroma.org for more information.

Ayurvedic massage

WHAT IS IT? Based on the concept of the three "doshas" (energies): "vata" (air), "pitta" (bile) and "kapha" (phlegm), which determine our body type and influence the internal organs. Ayurvedic massage helps balance the doshas, restore harmony and prevent diseases, which arise from a disharmony between body, mind and spirit. The relaxing treatment uses herbal oils according to body type, "chakra" (energy centre) massage and "marma" (pressure) points to balance the flow of "prana" (vital force)  through the body. GOOD FOR Respiratory problems, migraine, arthritis and hypertension. It brings toxins to the skin's surface, improves circulation and relaxes muscles and joints.
EXPECT TO PAY £50 to £60. Visit www.apa.com to find a practitioner.

How to prepare for your massage


  • Call the therapist beforehand if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Tell the therapist if you're pregnant.
  • Wear loose clothing so that you are comfortable afterwards.
  • Take a bottle of water to drink after the treatment.
  • Allow at least an hour for your body to adjust before doing anything strenuous.


  • Eat a heavy meal beforehand.
  • Drink alcohol immediately before or after the treatment.
  • Drive or overexert yourself immediately afterwards, as many people can feel woozy, if not just supremely relaxed.


  • Your session is confidential, so discuss any concerns.
  • Take off as much clothing as you're comfortable with. Qualified masseurs are so skilled at manipulating towels that there shouldn't be any embarassment.
  • Tell the therapist if the pressure isn't right and if there is any part of your body you're uncomfortable being touched.
  • Tipping is appropriate if it's a wellbeing treatment, not if it's for a health reason. You can give the tip (ten per cent) to the practitioner or leave it at the desk.

© IPC Media 2006

This article appeared in the September issue of Woman&Home. For more ideas visit www.womanandhome.com