The purpose of a relaxation massage is to put the body in a state of rest, calm, and tranquility.
The science behind how relaxation massage works is for the most part simple, and yet very effective in its results. Slow elongation of muscle tissue using steady pressure during massage; send signals to your brain to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic system is responsible for the conservation of energy and the increase of gland activity. Also sometimes referred to as the
rest and digest system the parasympathetic system is most active during sleep and after large meals.
The Case Study
The International Journal of Neuroscience published an article in 2009 regarding a case study that measured electrocardiography (EKG) readings to determine heart rate thresholds for the parasympathetic response during different periods of the massage session. One group was assigned light pressure, and the other was assigned moderate to deep pressure massage.
The results concluded that the patients who were given moderate to deep pressure massages triggered a parasympathetic response in approximately 15 mins. However, those who received a light pressure massage displayed a sympathetic nervous system response; responsible for fight or flight responses.
More on that study here.
The Bottom Line
Do not be afraid to ask your therapist to use more pressure, or request in advance that you get the depth of pressure that you need from someone who is known for it. Good pressure does not necessarily mean deep tissue massage, but the muscle fibers must be manipulated in order to receive a good massage.