There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension.
But with all the types of massages available, how do you choose which one is best for you?
1. Swedish Massage
Swedish massage is a gentle type of full-body massage that’s ideal for people who:
- are new to massage
- have a lot of tension
- are sensitive to touch
It can help release muscle knots, and it’s also a good choice for when you want to fully relax during a massage.
The massage therapist will use a combination of:
- long, flowing strokes in the direction of the heart
- deep circular motions
- vibration and tapping
- passive joint movement techniques
2. Hot Stone Massage
Hot stone massage is best for people who have muscle pain and tension or who simply want to relax. This type of therapeutic massage is similar to a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
- ease muscle tension
- improve blood flow
- alleviate pain
- promote relaxation
- relieve stress
During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on different areas around your whole body. Your therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques using gentle pressure. Sometimes cold stones are also used.
3. Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massages are best for people who want to have an emotional healing component to their massage. This type of massage can help:
- boost your mood
- reduce stress and anxiety
- reduce symptoms of depression
- relieve muscle tension
- relieve pain
Aromatherapy massages combine soft, gentle pressure with the use of essential oils. Your massage therapist will usually decide which essential oils to use, but you can let them know if you have a preference. Essential oils are diluted before being applied to the skin.
During the massage, you’ll be given a full-body massage while inhaling essential oils through a diffuser and absorbing them through your skin. Sometimes an aromatherapy massage will only focus on your back, shoulders, and head.
4. Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. It’s a good option if you have chronic muscle problems, such as soreness, injury, or imbalance. It can help relieve tight muscles, chronic muscle pain, and anxiety.
During a deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will use slow strokes and deep finger pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues.
While deep tissue may be more intense, you shouldn’t feel any pain or soreness.
Reflexology is best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option if you aren’t comfortable being touched on your entire body. Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears.
6. Thai Massage
Thai massage is best for people who want a more active form of massage and want to reduce and relieve pain and stress. It can also help improve:
- energy levels
Thai massage works the entire body using a sequence of movements that are similar to yogic stretching. Your therapist will use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to your body. You’ll also be stretched and twisted into various positions. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing during the massage.
7. Prenatal Massage
Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension. You can get a massage at any time during your pregnancy.
Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed depending on your comfort level. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.
8. Shiatsu Massage
Shiatsu massage is best for people who want to feel relaxed and relieve stress, pain, and tension. It’s a Japanese type of massage that:
- promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation
- helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
- may relieve headache
- reduces muscle tension
Shiatsu massage works the whole body, but your therapist may focus on areas of your body that need extra attention. During the massage, your therapist will use their hands, palms, and thumbs to massage certain points of your body. Pulsing or rhythmic pressure is used.
Massage may be a way for you to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experiment with different types of massage and with different massage therapists to find the type and provider that is most ideal for you.
Always communicate your expectations and intentions with your massage therapist and speak up if there is something with which you aren’t comfortable. Talk to your doctor before getting any type of massage if you have any health concerns or conditions.