Massage Therapy

What Are the Various Types of Massage?

The practice of rubbing and kneading the body with one’s hands is known as massage. A trained massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body during a massage to relieve pain and tension.

Continue reading to learn about the various types of massage and which one is best for you.

The Swedish massage

Swedish massage is a gentle full-body massage that is ideal for those who: 

  • are new to massage 
  • want to release tension 
  • prefer a gentle touch

It can aid in the release of muscle knots and is also an excellent choice for complete relaxation during a massage.

You will be asked to remove your clothes for this massage, though you may choose to keep your underwear on. While lying on the massage table, you will be draped in a sheet. The massage therapist will lift the sheet to reveal the areas where they are actively working.

The massage therapist will employ a variety of techniques, including:

  • kneading 
  • Long, flowing strokes toward the heart 
  • Deep circular motions
  • Vibration and tapping 
  • Techniques for passive joint movement

A Swedish massage typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes.

Hot stone massage

Hot stone massage is ideal for people who have muscle pain or tension or who simply want to relax.

This therapeutic massage is similar to Swedish massage, except that instead of or in addition to their hands, the massage therapist uses heated stones.

Hot stone massage may help to: 

  • relieve muscle tension 
  • improve blood flow 
  • relieve pain 
  • promote relaxation 
  • relieve stress

During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on various parts of the body. Your therapist may massage various parts of your body with a stone while using Swedish massage techniques and gentle pressure. Cold stones are also used on occasion.

You don’t need to dress for a hot stone massage unless you prefer to be naked. A sheet will be draped over you.

The massage usually lasts 90 minutes.

Aromatherapy massage

Aromatherapy massages are ideal for those who enjoy scent and want their massage to include an emotional healing component. This type of massage can help you: 

  • improve your mood 
  • reduce stress and anxiety 
  • alleviate depression symptoms 
  • relieve muscle tension 
  • alleviate pain

Aromatherapy massages use essential oils and soft, gentle pressure. Your massage therapist will usually choose which essential oils to use, but you can express your preference. Before applying essential oils to the skin, they are diluted.

During the massage, you will be given a full-body massage while inhaling and absorbing essential oils through a diffuser.

An aromatherapy massage may only focus on your back, shoulders, and head at times. You will not be dressed, but underwear is optional.

Aromatherapy massages last between 60 and 90 minutes.

Massage of the deep tissues

Deep tissue massage employs more force than Swedish massage. It’s a good choice if you have muscle pain, such as:

  • Soreness
  • Injury
  • Imbalance
  • Tightness
  • Persistent muscle pain

Your massage therapist will use slow strokes and deep finger pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues during a deep tissue massage. You can be naked or wear your underwear during this massage.

The massage will last between 60 and 90 minutes.

While deep tissue massage may be more intense, there should be no pain or soreness.

Sports massage

If you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as from sports, sports massage is a good option. It’s also a good choice if you’re prone to injuries, as it can help prevent them.

Sports massage can:

  • improve athletic performance
  • increase flexibility
  • relieve pain 
  • reduce anxiety 
  • relax muscles

A sports massage can be performed on the entire body or on specific areas of the body that require the most attention. Depending on your needs, deep pressure may be alternated with soothing strokes.

A sports massage can be performed while you are clothed or naked. If you prefer to wear clothing, make it thin and loose enough to allow the therapist access to your muscles. Loose shorts and a tank top are possibilities.

The massage will most likely last between 60 and 90 minutes.

Trigger point massage

Trigger point massage is ideal for people who have injuries, chronic pain, or a specific problem or condition.

Trigger points are areas of tightness in the muscle tissues that can cause pain in other parts of the body. This type of massage can alleviate pain by focusing on trigger points.

A 2018 review found that using trigger point therapy on the head and neck muscles may reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of tension and migraine headaches, though more research is needed.

To relieve tension, trigger point massage employs alternating levels of pressure in the area of the trigger point.

The massage will cover your entire body, but your therapist will concentrate on specific areas that need to be released. For the massage, you can wear light clothing or undress completely or partially.

This type of massage usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.


Reflexology involves applying gentle to firm pressure to various pressure points on the feet, hands, and ears. It’s ideal for people who want to unwind or regain their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option for those who don’t like having their entire body touched.

Reflexology may be especially beneficial for: 

  • Relaxation 
  • Pain reduction 
  • fatigue reduction 
  • improved sleep 
  • Anxiety reduction 
  • Mood enhancement

According to a 2018 review Trusted Source, reflexology significantly reduced anxiety in patients undergoing cardiovascular procedures when compared to the control group.

A 2019 clinical trial discovered that reflexology could reduce fatigue and pain while improving sleep quality in lymphoma patients.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows you to expose your legs.

A reflexology massage lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu massage is ideal for those looking to unwind and relieve stress, pain, and tension. It is a type of Japanese massage that:

  • Helps relieve pain
  • may relieve headache
  • reduces muscle tension
  • promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation 
  • improves sleep and fatigue
  • may improve mood

According to a 2019 study, shiatsu therapy combined with standard care for lower back pain improved symptoms and quality of life right after treatment.

Self-shiatsu significantly improved sleep quality and daytime fatigue in a group of young athletes with sports-related concussions, according to a 2018 study.

Shiatsu massage works on the entire body, but your therapist may concentrate on specific areas that require extra attention.

During the massage, your therapist will massage specific points on your body with their hands, palms, and thumbs. The technique of pulsing or rhythmic pressure is used. During this massage, you can remain fully clothed.

Shiatsu massages usually last between 60 and 90 minutes.

Thai massage

Thai massage is ideal for those seeking a more active form of massage to reduce and relieve pain and stress. It can also help with:

  • Flexibility
  • Circulation
  • Energy levels 

Thai massage uses a sequence of movements similar to yogic stretching to work the entire body. Your therapist will apply firm pressure to your body with their palms and fingers. In addition, you will be stretched and twisted into various positions.

During the massage, you can wear loose, comfortable clothing.

A Thai massage lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

Prenatal massage

Prenatal massage can be a safe way for pregnant women to get a massage. It can help with pregnancy body aches, stress relief, and muscle tension.

However, due to the risk of miscarriage during the first trimester, many facilities, particularly in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester. If you’re pregnant, consult your doctor before getting a massage.

Prenatal massage, like Swedish massage, employs gentle pressure. The therapist will concentrate on your lower back, hips, and legs. Depending on your level of comfort, you can be fully or partially undressed.

You’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly during the massage. Before getting a massage, consult a doctor if you have pain in your calves or other parts of your leg.

Typically, the massage will last 45 to 60 minutes.

Couples massage

A couples massage is a massage that you do in the same room with your partner, friend, or family member. It provides all of the benefits of a regular massage as well as the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing experience with a partner.

Other treatments, such as pedicures, facials, and body scrubs, are occasionally included in a package.

You can usually select the type of massage you want, and you and your partner can each receive a different type of massage, depending on your preferences and clinic offerings.

You’ll be on tables next to each other, each with your own massage therapist working on your body. If you want, you can talk during the massage.

In some cases, you and your partner may be able to learn and practice massage techniques on each other.

Chair massage

A chair massage is ideal for those looking for a quick massage that focuses on the neck, shoulders, and back.

If you’ve never had a massage before, a chair massage can be a relaxing way to get started. Chair massage also aids in stress relief and relaxation. Light to medium pressure is used in this type of massage.

You will remain fully clothed and sit in a specially designed chair during the massage. You’ll straddle the chair so that your chest pushes into the back, allowing the massage therapist access to your back.

These massages typically last 10 to 30 minutes.

Lymphatic drainage massage

Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), is a type of gentle massage that promotes the circulation of lymph fluids throughout the body.

Toxins are removed by the lymphatic system, and improved circulation can help with a variety of conditions, including:

  • Lymphedema 
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Edema 
  • Skin disorders 
  • Fatigue 
  • Insomnia 
  • Stress 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Arthritis 
  • Migraine

According to a 2014 study, lymphatic drainage massage was more effective than connective tissue massage in improving the quality of life of fibromyalgia patients.

A review of 17 studies published in 2021 found some evidence that MLD in the early stages after breast cancer surgery may help prevent progression to clinical lymphedema, though it may not benefit moderate to severe lymphedema.

If you have any of the following conditions, you should not receive lymphatic drainage massage:

• Heart failure with congestive heart failure

• Previous history of blood clots or stroke

• Active infection

• Liver issues

• Kidney issues

You can perform lymphatic drainage massage on yourself at home or seek the services of a professional. Always consult your doctor before attempting anything new.

These massages are typically 60 minutes or longer in length.

Cranial sacral therapy (CST)

Cranial sacral therapy, also known as craniosacral massage, is a type of bodywork that assists in the release of compression in the bones of the head, low back, and spine.

Cranial sacral therapy is based on the idea that gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, spine, and pelvis can improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system. It can also have deeply relaxing effects.

Some of the conditions that may benefit from cranial sacral therapy are as follows:

  • Migraine
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
  • Scoliosis
  • Sinus infections
  • Neck pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infants with recurring ear infections or colic
  • Recovery from trauma, including whiplash trauma;
  • Mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • Difficult pregnancies

A 2019 study discovered that cranial sacral therapy was more effective than sham treatment in reducing pain intensity in people with non-specific neck pain.

If you have any of the following symptoms, cranial sacral therapy may not be for you:

  • Severe bleeding problems
  • A confirmed aneurysm
  • A history of recent traumatic head injuries that may have resulted in cranial bleeding or skull fractures

Consult your healthcare provider to see if this therapy is appropriate for your needs.

These massages are typically 60 minutes or longer in length.

Abhyanga oil massage

Abhyanga is a type of oil massage from the Ayurvedic medical system. The oil is gently warmed and massaged all over the body. Rather than deeply massaging the muscles, this type of massage focuses on nourishing the skin.

According to the previously mentioned research as well as a small study, Trusted Source, benefits include:

• reduced stress

• Parasympathetic nervous system activation (rest and digest)

• Improved skin health and moisture

• reduced blood pressure

• reduced muscle stiffness

Abhyanga can be performed on your own or by a qualified practitioner.

These massages are typically 60 minutes or longer in length.

Myofascial release therapy

Another type of bodywork is myofascial release therapy, which involves releasing stiffness in the fascia, the connective tissue system that surrounds each muscle in the body. With light pressure, your therapist will massage and stretch any tense areas.

Myofascial therapy may be beneficial for the following conditions:

  • The syndrome of myofascial pain
  • Headaches
  • Venous insufficiency

These massages are typically 60 minutes or longer in length.

Where Can I Find a Massage Therapist?

A doctor, a friend, or an online directory can all provide you with a personal recommendation for a massage therapist. You can also schedule a few massages with various therapists to determine which one you prefer.

Make sure it’s someone you trust so you can relax completely.

Make certain that your massage therapist has been properly trained, licensed, and certified. You can request to see their most recent credentials.

You may also want to speak with your therapist briefly before beginning your session so that you can communicate your expectations and ask any pertinent questions.

What is the cost of a massage?

Massage prices in the United States vary greatly. A 60-minute massage typically costs $60 to $150. On top of that, most therapists will expect a 15 to 20% tip. However, some establishments do not accept gratuity.

These types of massages may be more expensive than a standard massage:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Hot stone
  • Prenatal
  • Sports
  • Therapeutic, such as cranial sacral and myofascial release

If you want to find massages at a lower cost, you can look into a massage school in your area or find a massage therapist who works from home.

Massage therapy is sometimes covered by insurance if it is used to treat a medical condition. Massage therapy may be covered by insurance if it is part of chiropractic care.

The takeaway

Massage could help you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experiment with different types of massage and massage therapists to find the best type and provider for you.

Always communicate your massage therapist’s expectations and intentions, and speak up if you’re uncomfortable. If you have any health concerns or conditions, consult with your doctor before getting any type of massage.

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