Massage therapists choose the most suitable modality for each session. Similarly, choosing the best cream can make a noticeable difference in the effectiveness of the treatment. Further, matching cream to the technique can result in better massage outcomes.
Erin Lane, C.M.T., a massage therapist in St. Paul, Minnesota, said there are many reasons a therapist would choose to use a cream rather than an oil or lotion, in some instances. “Creams are much less greasy than oils, or even lotions,” she said. “Creams provide a better grip on the skin for deeper work, and creams are often more moisturizing to the skin.”
Arthritis and Swedish Massage
The Arthritis Foundation’s website states, “Massage is often used to relieve common symptoms of many types of arthritis: reducing pain and stiffness, easing anxiety, improving range of motion in joints, and promoting more restful sleep.”
Therapists who work with clients suffering from arthritis may choose to use massage creams containing an analgesic to help address pain and inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the affected joints.
“Since creams are often used for deep tissue massage, it is common for pain-relieving agents like capsicum or arnica to be added,” Lane said.
Swedish massage is one of the most commonly studied modalities in people with arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation cites a 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, in which 68 participants with knee osteoarthritis received two Swedish massages per week and experienced improvements in levels of pain, stiffness, range of motion and other symptoms compared to those who did not receive massages.
“Massage therapy seems to be efficacious in the treatment of [osteoarthritis] of the knee,” concluded the study’s authors.
For techniques such as Swedish massage, where long strokes are necessary, choosing a cream that can provide the appropriate amount of glide is important. “For Swedish massage, a lighter cream with more glide may be used,” Lane said.
Some creams contain heating ingredients such as capsicum; others might contain an anti-inflammatory ingredient such as arnica; while other creams contain cooling ingredients such as menthol. Some massage creams are thick, while others are more viscous and so enable better glide.
Massage Creams and Client Comfort
For clients who are sensitive to feeling oily or who don’t have time to shower off after their session, using a cream can make the overall experience of massage more pleasant. “Even if it’s not important to have a lot of grip on the skin during a Swedish or relaxation massage, the client will be left feeling much less greasy than if an oil or lotion were used,” Lane said.
There are many options to consider in finding the right cream for the job. Matching massage creams to techniques will maximize massage outcomes and client satisfaction.