So often we get asked by clients, “What are the different types of massage therapy?” Although this list is not comprehensive, we’ve found that these are the most popular massages throughout the United States and the world. The world of massage therapy is vast and there are many different styles of massage, and they can differ based on what part of the country or world you’re in, where the massage therapist went to school, and how long they’ve been practicing. Here are the 7 most common types of massage, the benefits you’ll receive from them, and who they’re best suited for.
Swedish massage is the standard style of massage that many people think of when they go to a day spa. It is your relaxation massage that helps to address overall muscular tension, relieve stress, increase circulation, and give you a boost of serotonin and dopamine. It helps you feel good, and it feels good to feel good! Swedish massage uses oil and the massage therapist will use their hands, fingers, and forearms - depending on the location of the body they’re working on – to massage you. Pressure can always be adjusted, but typically this is a light to firm massage. The massage therapist will mostly use effleurage strokes, which are meant to induce a state of deep relaxation. Accompanied by our soothing massage music, this is sure to help you unwind! This is generally speaking a full body massage, although your massage can always be customized based on your needs and wants. Swedish massage is perfect for anyone looking to relax!
Deep tissue massage doesn’t necessarily mean deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is more about reaching the deeper layers of tissue. If the massage therapist uses too much pressure, especially at first when the muscles and fascial tissues aren’t yet warmed up, this can lead to muscular and fascial restriction and tension. This will prevent the massage therapist to reach the deeper layers. With deep tissue massage, oftentimes less oil, lotion, or cream is used, and petrissage strokes are used. Petrissage massage strokes are used to get deeper into the tissue, release tight muscles, and address adhesions in the muscle fibers. This massage can be full-body or focused work – it all depends on what you need. Deep tissue massage is generally best suited for anyone looking for firm-to-deep pressure, and who has specific pain points they want to address. For more information on deep tissue massage, read our article ‘6 Frequently Asked Questions of Deep Tissue Massage…Everything You NEED to Know.’
Sports massage is another wildly popular style of massage and is generally what you will see done at athletic events. With a sports massage, there can be little to no oil or lotion used, and the massage therapist will use different techniques than a Swedish or deep tissue massage. They might use ice and heat therapies, as well as stretching, compression, and tapotement. If you’re being massaged at an event, you’ll generally also be massaged through clothing. Sports massage is a very focused style of massage, addressing key areas of concern only. It’s best suited towards athletes and those who exercise a great deal and need specific areas worked on.
Ashiatsu is an Asian style of massage that has become increasingly popular throughout the United States. In Ashiatsu, the massage therapist will use their feet to massage you. They have specially designed bars installed above their table to hold onto while they use specific strokes with their feet to massage your body. Because they’re using their body weight directly over you instead of bending over a table, they’re actually able to achieve a deeper massage. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell because the surface of the foot is broad you won’t notice that you’re receiving a deeper massage. Ashiatsu massage therapists use a special type of massage cream to ensure that it’s not too slippery and that they’ll have enough traction to achieve a deeper level of massage. This can be a wonderful and interesting style of massage for anyone. You must be comfortable with someone using their feet on you, and with a deeper pressure massage. For more information on Ashiatsu massage, read our blog article, ‘Why You Haven’t Lived Until…You’ve Experienced an Ashiatsu Massage.’
Thai massage is another Asian style of massage that is becoming more and more common throughout the US. With your standard Thai massage, you will remain clothed during the session, usually wearing shorts. For men, you can remove your shirt, but for women, you will wear a sports bra. Little to no oil, lotion, or cream is used in Thai massage because it works with the fascial tissue to elongate it as well as the muscle fibers. Thai massage uses a lot of stretching, rocking, and tapping strokes, and is meant as a whole-body therapeutic style of massage. It addresses the entire person, and helps to realign chi or energy, and open blocked sen lines. Thai massage is best suited for those looking to address their healing process from a whole-body perspective and who are not seeking a relaxation massage. Although, that doesn’t mean that your massage needs to be painful, or that it won’t be relaxing. Always speak up if you need the pressure adjusted.
Hot Stone massage is another popular form of massage therapy, especially during the winter months. With hot stone massage, the stones are heated in a special hot stone warmer. The therapist will always check to make sure that the stones are not too hot before they touch your skin, and they’ll also check in with you to make sure it’s a comfortable temperature for you. Generous amounts of oil are used during a hot stone massage to ensure that the stones have enough lubrication to glide over your skin. Some massage therapists use hot stones on the face, or they may place them between the toes, as well as placing a large one on the abdomen when you are face-up, or in the palms of the hands when you are face down. Hot stone massage is generally contraindicated for pregnant women or for those with low blood pressure as the heat from the stones is especially dehydrating and it also lowers blood pressure even more. Hot stone massage is great for anyone looking to address deep muscular and fascial tension and sore muscles using heat, as well as for those looking to relax.
Although this list isn’t comprehensive of all the types of massage throughout the world, it is a great starting point for anyone looking to receive a new style of massage – from complete newbie to connoisseur. Hopefully, this will help give you an idea of your next massage to try. Please leave a comment to let us know which style you love the best! And as always, you can call our office with questions or schedule an appointment!