The standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centers, Swedish massage is virtually synonymous with massage therapy.
Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology, compared to the energy-centric style more common in Asian forms of massage. Using lotion or oil, massage therapists typically begin with broad general strokes and then transition to specific strokes to address problem areas.
There are five basic strokes in Swedish massage therapy: effleurage (long smooth strokes), petrissage (kneading, rolling, and lifting), friction (wringing or small circular movements), tapotement (percussion), and vibration (rocking and shaking movements).
Swedish massage provides full-body muscle relaxation, and it can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from an injury.
This is the most common type of massage therapy, and what many people are thinking about when they hear the word “massage” or try to give someone else or themselves a good massage.
Swedish massage – best known and most widely practiced approach to massage. It focuses on improving blood flow to the skin and muscle and removing muscle tension. Swedish provides generalized relaxation, improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and enhances one’s overall state of health.
An aromatherapy massage is a Swedish massage with scented plant oils (known as essential oils) added to the massage oil. Extracted from flowers and other plant parts, essential oils offer a pleasing scent and are believed to have healing properties.
Lavender and rose, for instance, are known to promote relaxation. Although oils may be selected to address specific needs, the therapist typically uses pre-blended oils to relax, energize, or uplift.
The soothing effects of aromatherapy massage can benefit a variety of conditions, including headaches, insomnia, certain digestive disorders, back pain, and even premenstrual symptoms.
Before receiving an aromatherapy massage, make sure you’re not allergic to any of the plants used in the oils, since they may cause a reaction on the skin.
As the name implies, hot stone massage uses warm stones. The therapist places heated, smooth stones on specific points on the body and also holds the warm stones while giving the massage. The stones are usually basalt (a volcanic rock that retains heat well).
The warmth of the stones can be relaxing and can loosen tight muscles so that the therapist can reach areas of muscle tension quickly.
If you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or varicose veins, you should check with your health care provider if you plan on getting a hot stone massage. Likewise, if you take any blood-thinning medication, be sure to get a medical opinion first.
During hot stone massage, your body is not only weighted down with hot, smooth stones, but the masseuse also uses the stones to massage your body. It’s like being caressed by the smoothest (rollerball-like) hands, but also being scorched by them for a “Yeeooowwww!….Ahhhhh” effect. A hot stone massage is mostly relaxing, but it also is more invigorating than your run-of-the-mill massage, thanks to the almost-too-much heat bringing you back to focus on the moment instead of letting you drift off. The heat helps release the tension in your back and shoulders, mostly, so those muscles can be worked on more effectively.
Heated Stone Massage – For these treatments, the therapist uses heated basalt mineral stones and/or semi-precious stones that represent the chakras. Muscle tension is released as the smooth stones move over the muscle. Heated Stone Massage is also thought to align subtle energies within the body for greater attunement and harmony.
Deep tissue massage is a focused, therapeutic massage that targets muscle knots (also known as “adhesions”) and specific problem areas in the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Using deliberate, slow strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, the therapist addresses chronic tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or injuries.
While it’s true that the pressure of deep tissue is generally more intense than that of a Swedish massage, it shouldn’t have to be painful to be effective. If you’re experiencing pain, let your massage therapist know right away.
This type of massage is particularly beneficial for people with chronic pain or lingering injuries that cause limited mobility. It’s effective in treating repetitive stress injuries such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome and can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
As the name suggests, deep tissue massage applies deep pressure onto specific trouble points. It feels very much like someone is torturing you on purpose by pushing into your knotted muscle, and the massage can leave you feeling sore. It’s not just more pressure all over your body, however (which would be true torture), it’s very specific, methodical treatment
Deep Tissue and Trigger Point Therapy – uses slow friction and deep finger pressure on body areas suffering from chronic muscle tension or areas that ache or feel contracted. This type of massage is useful for areas of hypertension, such as a stiff neck or sore shoulders. Deep tissue work works well in combination with traditional Swedish therapy.
Also known as prenatal massage, pregnancy massage is customized to an expectant mother’s needs but is most often used to promote relaxation. Since many pregnant women suffer from lower back pain and swollen ankles especially in the later months, prenatal massage is a relatively safe, drug-free way to provide relief.
Massage therapists who have received specialized training and are certified in prenatal massage know how to position and support the woman’s body during the massage, modify techniques, and avoid certain areas and techniques during pregnancy. Most will have a special table that allows the woman to rest comfortably and safely during the massage. Ideally, you should seek out a practitioner who is experienced and licensed in prenatal massage.
Pregnancy – Pregnancy massage is designed to decrease tension and swelling and increase circulation for both pregnant women and those who have just given birth.
Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on “reflex areas” on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body’s natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.
Reflexology dates back to ancient civilizations but was refined by American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram in the 1930s. This can be a deeply relaxing therapy, especially if you stand all day or have tired, achy feet. You remove your shoes and socks but otherwise remain clothed.
Reflexology – Reflexology is based on the concept that all the organs of the body are mapped to our feet (and hands). Reflexology applies finger pressure, some stretching and movement to pressure points on the feet with the goal of promoting healthy functioning of the body’s various organs.
Designed to prevent and treat injuries, improve flexibility, and enhance athletic performance, sports massage can be used by athletes of all abilities to prepare for or recover from athletic or sports events. Even if you aren’t an athlete, sports massage may help muscle pain or restricted range of motion.
The idea behind sports massage is to manipulate the body’s soft tissues, and focus on certain muscle groups depending on which sport the athlete plays. This type of massage can help with increased blood flow, increased range of motion, and increased flexibility.
In sports massage, the strokes are generally faster than a typical Swedish massage. The therapist may also include compression, pressure point therapy, friction, and joint mobilization.
Finally, sports massage is designed specifically for the very physically active (whether you’re a professional athlete or not). It combines Swedish, Shiatsu, and other techniques to concentrate on the areas that are related to your sport. Athletes often get sports massages to prepare for peak performance, prevent injury, and also treat injury.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) – Craniosacral therapy monitors the rhythm fluid that is continuously draining and refilling around our brain and spinal cord. By monitoring the craniosacral rhythm, the therapist discovers where healing is needed and corrects the sources of pain using extremely subtle manipulative techniques. CST is an extremely gentle hands-on technique that causes deep relaxation for the client.
Cupping Therapy is used to decompress and release adhesions, scar tissue, relax muscles in spasm, decrease trigger point pain, lymphatic drainage, decrease tissue changes and inflammation