It is also known as Swedish massage or simply massage therapy. Massage therapists use long smooth strokes, kneading, and circular movements on superficial layers of muscle using massage lotion or oil.
Swedish massage therapy can be very gentle and relaxing. If you’ve never had a massage before, this is a good one to try first.
Best for: An intro to massage, stress relief, relaxation, releasing cramped or tense muscles, couples massage
Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with adding one or more scented plant oils called essential oils to address specific needs.
The massage therapist can select oils that are relaxing, energizing, stress-reducing, balancing, etc. One of the most common essential oils used in aromatherapy massage is lavender.
Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to stress-related conditions or conditions with an emotional component.
Best for: Stress relief and relaxation
Hot Stone Massage
Heated, smooth stones are placed on certain points on the body to warm and loosen tight muscles and balance energy centers in the body.
The massage therapist may also hold stones and apply gentle pressure with them. The warmth is comforting. Hot stone massage is good for people who have muscle tension but prefer lighter massage.
Best for: “Centering” yourself, releasing very tense muscles, relaxation
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. The massage therapist uses slower strokes or friction techniques across the grain of the muscle.
Deep tissue massage is used for chronically tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or recovery from injury.
People often feel sore for one to two days after deep tissue massage.
Best for: Treating stiff, painful trouble spots like the shoulder and neck
Trigger Point Massage
Like Deep Tissue Massage, Trigger Point Massage focuses on specific areas of the body, rather than massaging the whole body. In this technique, the therapist pinpoints exactly the “problem” muscle and coaxes it with deep pressure to relax.
Deep tissue and trigger point massages are very similar. The difference is that deep tissue massage uses various traditional massage techniques to work the tissue, whereas trigger point massage is literally looking to manipulate or press on that one point that relieves tension in an entire area (perhaps not even nearby).
Best for: Chronic muscle pain and tension
Neuromuscular therapy is a subset of trigger point massage. A highly trained therapist applies pressure to the areas where you have muscle spasms—muscles that are painful to the touch.
Neuromuscular therapy will feel painful at first, but it should relax the muscle and help it get more oxygen and blood flow.
Best for: Treating injuries and issues like poor circulation or posture problems, lower back pain
Shiatsu is a form of Japanese bodywork that uses localized finger pressure in a rhythmic sequence on acupuncture meridians.
Each point is held for two to eight seconds to improve the flow of energy and help the body regain balance.
People are normally pleasantly surprised when they try shiatsu for the first time. It is relaxing yet the pressure is firm, and there is usually no soreness afterward.
Best for: Ailments such as headaches, back pain, and lack of energy
Like shiatsu, Thai massage aligns the energies of the body using gentle pressure on specific points. Thai massage also includes compressions and stretches.
You don’t just lie there–the therapist moves and stretches you into a sequence of postures. It’s like yoga without doing any work. Thai massage is more energizing than other forms of massage. It also reduces stress and improves flexibility and range of motion.
Best for: Improving energy, increased flexibility, overall health and well-being
Also called prenatal massage, pregnancy massage is becoming increasingly popular with expectant mothers. Massage therapists who are certified in pregnancy massage know the proper way to position and support the woman’s body during the massage, and how to modify techniques.
Pregnancy massage is used to reduce stress, decrease swelling, relieve aches and pains, and reduce anxiety and depression. The massage is customized to a woman’s individual needs.
Best for: Pregnant mothers
Although reflexology is sometimes called foot massage, it is more than simple foot massage. Reflexology involves applying pressure to certain points on the foot that correspond to organs and systems in the body. Reflexology is very relaxing, especially for people who stand on their feet all day or just have tired, achy feet.
Best for: Stress relief, relaxation, releasing cramped or tense muscles
Sports massage is specifically designed for people who are involved in physical activity. But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to have one-it’s also used by people who are active and work out often. The focus isn’t on relaxation but on preventing and treating injury and enhancing athletic performance.
A combination of techniques are used. The strokes are generally faster than Swedish massage. Facilitated stretching is a common technique. It helps to loosen muscles and increase flexibility.
Best for: Athletes
Some massage clinics and spas offer 30-minute back massages. If a back massage is not expressly advertised, you can also book a 30- or 40-minute massage and ask that the massage therapist to focus on your back.
Best for: Stress relief and relaxation
Chair massages have you sitting face forward in a chair so the therapist can massage mostly your neck, shoulders, and back. The good thing is you don’t have to take off your clothes or have oils slathered all over you. The bad thing is you don’t get a thorough whole-body massage as you do with other methods, and, since this is often done in public places, it can be very distracting and not as relaxing.
Depending on the massage therapist, however, a chair massage can really get the tension out of your upper body.
Best for: Quick massages when you’ve been walking all day, stress relief