How to Choose a Massage

Theresa O'Rourke, Allure magazine

Melinda Minton is the executive director of the Spa Association, which represents day spas, resorts, and medical spas across North America.

Knowing your way around a spa's menu will help you get a massage that's tailored to your needs.

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Start with the right pro.
Book your appointment with someone who has the most training. She'll be better able to adapt her moves-for instance, doing ten minutes of craniosacral work to treat your headaches.

Know the basics.
Swedish (light to medium strokes) is best for relaxation. Deep-tissue involves intense kneading using the fists, forearms, and elbows, and treats pain, such as neck stiffness. Sports massage works large muscle groups and is beneficial for even weekend runners. Your therapist can blend approaches.

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Trick it out.
Aromatherapy can make any massage feel 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 rubdown 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.

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Don't strip down.
In Thai massage, a therapist moves you through yoga-like 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 to a body part, it helps with everything from digestive problems to sinus pain.

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