Have you been thinking of booking a massage, but feel daunted by the sheer number of different types on offer? Maybe you aren’t sure whether massage is right for your body type? There’s no need to worry. You don’t need to become an expert. A little background knowledge is all you need.
Massage types and their benefits
Here is a summary of the most common types, together with an overview of their benefits:
This is the most common massage offered in Western spas. It is based around long, gliding strokes that induce relaxation. It’s an effective treatment for muscle tension and cramps. It is generally considered a comfortable form of massage, making it perfect for those new to complementary therapies. This form of massage is usually unclothed.
A Swedish massage consists of several types of stroke. For example, at the start and end of the massage, the therapist will use “effleurage,” or long sweeping strokes. Other techniques include kneading, rolling, and rhythmic tapping. A session begins with general massage, then the therapist will hone in on specific problem areas.
Some therapists also incorporate aromatherapy into their treatments. Aromatherapy uses essential oils chosen for their effect on body and mind. For example, lavender has calming properties so may be used as part of a soothing treatment. They might be diluted with massage oil, or simply diffused into the room.
Deep tissue massage
This therapy uses heavy pressure to break down painful muscle knots. It’s good for loosening stiff muscles and can play a role in physical rehabilitation. It uses slower, firmer strokes compared with Swedish massage. Some people find this type of treatment uncomfortable. However, a competent therapist will adjust the strokes to suit your preferences.
Because it penetrates deep into the body, deep tissue massage is especially good for lymphatic draining. A typical massage will include every major muscle group, promoting whole-body detox. It will break down muscle scar tissue, promoting healing and enhanced flexibility. The client is usually unclothed.
If you have an injury or simply enjoy taking regular vigorous exercise, sport massage is for you. It combines the type of strokes you see in Swedish massage with the depth of deep tissue massage. Therapists consider sports massage to be a specialist discipline. When looking for a practitioner, try to find someone with extensive experience with sports injuries.
Lomi Lomi massage
Lomi Lomi therapists aim to heal their clients on an emotional and spiritual level. If you prefer to take a holistic approach to your health, this treatment will appeal to you. Practitioners begin by creating an energetic bond with their client and saying a healing prayer. Using their intuition and ability to sense energy imbalances, they then begin the massage.
At a superficial level, Lomi Lomi resembles Swedish massage with respect to the style of strokes used. However, the underlying philosophy is different. While Swedish massage is based on Western principles of physiology and injury, Lomi Lomi is a spiritual practice. Depending on the practitioner, it can involve rhythmic breathing, herbal remedies, and meditation.
Hot stone massage
As the name implies, this treatment involves the placing of hot stones on the body. The stones may be left in place or used as an extension of the therapist’s hands. It is an excellent therapy for tired, aching muscles. Depending on your personal preferences and body type, the therapist might also use cool stones.
If you have tense muscles but dislike firm pressure, hot stone treatments may suit you. The stones painlessly relax your muscles so that the therapist can access the deeper layers of tissue. A thin sheet or towel protects the client’s skin from the heat of the stones.
Shiatsu therapists work with the body’s acupuncture meridians to restore normal flow of energy throughout the body. It is especially beneficial for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or fatigue. During the massage, the therapist uses their fingers, palms, and occasionally elbows to stimulate the meridian points. The client remains clothed throughout.
Some therapists prefer to classify Shiatsu massage as “bodywork” rather than massage. This is because they are more concerned with the body’s energy than specific muscles or joints. There is some variation between practitioners. Some concentrate on acupressure, others focus on broader energy systems, and others draw on traditional Chinese diagnostic systems.
According to the Acupuncture Massage College, Shiatsu is also a preventative treatment. It stimulates the body’s self-healing abilities, keeping the individual in good health.
This massage style has an energizing rather than sedating effect. It is similar to Shiatsu in that it unblocks stagnant energy. However, practitioners use vigorous full-body stretches and poses rather than localized pressure. Therapists aim to work on all major muscles in the body. Thai massage is fantastic for increasing flexibility and reducing tension.
Giving a Thai massage requires considerable strength and skill. For example, the therapist may walk or climb on top of a client when pulling them into a yoga pose. As a client, you will also be expected to take an active role during the treatment. You will be asked to wear loose, comfortable clothes.
Dr. Virginia Cowen of City University, New York, has shown that both Swedish and Thai massage have numerous benefits. They both lower heart rate, improve general mood, and reduce anxiety.
Reflexology or foot massage
A foot massage focuses primarily on the feet but can include the lower legs. A simple massage might take the form of Swedish-style strokes. However, foot massage often draws on the principles of reflexology. For instance, in Chinese foot massage, acupressure points of the foot are manipulated to treat other parts of the body.
Foot massage is an effective remedy for general fatigue, insomnia, and poor circulation. It can also lower blood pressure and heart rate. Danish research has shown that reflexology can help over 80% of those with chronic headaches.
What’s the “best” form of massage?
You might decide to try more than one type of massage to discover which works best for you. Everybody reacts differently to touch and pressure – your friend’s favorite massage style might not suit you. Remember to always let your massage therapist know about any health conditions or allergies. Have fun exploring the world of massage therapy!