I absolutely love getting a massage — do you? But if you’re anything like me, you might be afraid to try some of the different types of massage.
For example, I was really afraid of getting a deep tissue massage. (The word “shiatsu” just sounds intense!) Little did I know, a deep tissue massage was exactly the type of massage I needed.
Whether it’s your 1st massage or your 50th one, knowing about the types of massages and which kind you should ultimately get will ensure that you have a relaxing and restorative session.
From Swedish to shiatsu to deep tissue, there’s a massage style for whatever your body needs. Certain styles help you with certain issues — like muscle strains, pregnancy, or just a long work week.
Following are 7 types of massage — to help you decide which style is best for you.
#1 – Swedish Massage
Swedish massages are great for first-timers. The long, gentle strokes help relax stressed muscles.
This type of massage doesn’t go too deep, although you can ask your therapist to apply more pressure if you want.
Benefits of Swedish massage:
- Reduces the pain from knee arthritis.
- Eases the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Boosts immune functions.
- Reduces headaches.
- Helps to mitigate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Almost every licensed massage therapist offers Swedish massage.
This video shows what you can expect during a Swedish massage.
#2 – Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage refers to gentle yet sustained pressure targeting.
This technique involves the therapist using firmer pressure in order to reach these key areas and get them to release — which is why this particular massage is oftentimes recommended for people who are comfortable with a slightly more intense touch.
However, the belief that deep pressure equals pain is a myth.
I enjoy the relaxing effects of massage and was concerned that the deep tissue massage would be too intense for me. While talking to my massage therapist, I was able to explain exactly what I was looking for and she now offers me a combination of Swedish and deep tissue massage. She uses a sustained pressure approach — that really helps to release tension from my tight muscles, but it isn’t painful.
By the way, the results of my Swedish/deep tissue massages typically last about 2 weeks!
Benefits of deep tissue massage:
- Reduces stress and anxiety.
- Eases muscle strains and pulls.
- Improves mobility by working on flexibility.
- Lowers heart rate and blood pressure.
Almost any qualified therapist can perform a wonderful deep tissue massage. Some highly trained therapists can access deep muscles too — like the psoas, a long postural muscle that runs along the inside of the lower spine and connects inside the pelvis.
Ask your massage therapist about their specific training before requesting anything out of the ordinary.
This video shows what you can expect during a deep tissue massage.
#3 – Hot Stone Therapy Massage
The addition of hot stones makes a massage delightful!
Smooth, natural rocks are heated before your massage and placed either directly on your skin or wrapped in towels and placed along your spine. The stones hold heat, and the heat relaxes your muscles.
Benefits of hot stone therapy massage:
- Relieves muscle tension, strains, stress, and anxiety.
- Helps to relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
- Promotes healthier sleep.
- May help to reduce symptoms of cancer.
To prevent burns, you may want to ask to have a barrier (such as a towel or sheet) placed between the hot massage stones and your skin.
Also, check with your therapist to see how they heat the stones. A professional massage stone heater should be used. Never use stones that have been heated in a microwave, slow cooker, hot plate, or oven.
You can combine hot stones massage therapy with other types of massage — or just enjoy the soothing warmth and relaxation of the stones alone.
This video shows what to expect during a hot stone massage.
#4 – Sports Massage
Sports massage is specifically for athletes. If you need a boost getting back into the gym or onto the field or court, this type of massage might be for you.
Just keep in mind, this style of massage therapy isn’t about relaxation!
The use of massage strokes are usually quicker than you’ll find in other styles of massage therapy.
Benefits of sports massage:
- Reduces muscle tension.
- Helps athletes monitor their muscle tone.
- Promotes pre- or post-game relaxation.
- Reduces muscle hypertonicity.
- Increases range of motion.
- Improves soft tissue function in the body.
Your therapist will probably help you with stretching, too.
This video shows what you can expect after a sports massage.
#5 – Shiatsu Massage
Shiatsu literally means “finger pressure” in Japanese. This bodywork type can also include massage of the palms or feet, too.
You may have seen a bar mounted to the ceiling in some massage establishments. This is for shiatsu massage work. Your masseuse walks on you — while holding the bar — so as not to apply too much pressure to your spine.
Benefits of shiatsu massage:
- Restores and maintains the body’s energy — especially helpful to those suffering from fatigue and overall weakness.
- Improves circulation of blood to vital organs.
- Reduces stress and tension.
- Reduces anxiety and depression.
- Relieves headaches.
- Promotes healing from sprains and similar injuries.
Be sure to ask about your therapist’s experience before letting them walk on your back.
This video shows what you can expect during a shiatsu massage.
#6 – Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massages include essential oils to help balance chakras, alleviate pain or allergies, or uplift your mood.
The really great thing about aromatherapy is that it can usually be paired with any massage style you choose.
Usually these massages are either Swedish or deep tissue with aromatherapy added as an additional service. However, some therapists specialize in Ayurvedic massage — which concentrates on essential oils paired with specific strokes.
Benefits of aromatherapy massage:
- Boosts energy and promotes healing naturally.
- Increases memory (try rosemary).
- Reduces headaches (try lavender or peppermint).
- Acts as a natural sleep aid (try ylang ylang).
- Aids with digestion (try tarragon, ginger, peppermint, juniper, fennel, lemongrass, anise, or patchouli).
This video shows what you can expect during an aromatherapy massage.
#7 – Prenatal Massage
Also known as a pregnancy massage, prenatal massage mostly involves modifications to Swedish or deep tissue massage techniques. These modifications keep the mother comfortable while she carries the extra weight of her baby and protects both the mother and baby from harm.
Benefits of prenatal massage:
- Relieves many of the normal discomforts experienced during pregnancy — such as backaches, stiff neck, leg cramps, headaches and edema (or swelling).
- Reduces the stress on weight-bearing joints.
- Encourages blood and lymph circulation.
- Relaxes nervous tension — which aids in better sleep.
- Relieves depression or anxiety caused by hormonal changes.
Always tell your therapist if you’re pregnant — even if you’re not showing or haven’t told friends or colleagues yet. They need to know in order to keep you (and your baby) safe! For example, certain massage strokes in certain body parts need to be avoided on pregnant women.
This video shows what you can expect during a prenatal massage.
Which Type Is Best For You?
Some massage therapists focus on just one specialty — like sport massage or shiatsu. But others can perform several modalities — like deep tissue, hot stone, cupping therapy, or Swedish massage.
Each of these styles can make you feel amazing — so consider what’s going on with your body and choose the one that’s right for you. It might even be fun to treat yourself to a variety of techniques with an experienced massage therapist!
Find A Massage Therapist
In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some more resources to find a massage therapist near you:
- AMTA’s Massage Therapist Locator Tool
- Read This Before You Visit A Massage Therapist…
- Find A Massage Therapist Near You