Which Massage Should I Get? A Guide to the 10 Most Popular Types of Massage

Massages are one of life's simple but sometimes confusing pleasures. With so many different varieties, it can be difficult to know which type would be best for your needs. A good massage is a real pleasure and can offer many health benefits, but there are more than 200 different techniques and types of massages, all to address different needs and provide various benefits. Which one should you choose? Here is a guide to the 10 most popular types of massage, from Swedish massage to hot stone massage, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.

Swedish massage is the father of modern massage therapy. Accredited to Johan Georg Mezger, this modality includes stretching and classic massage techniques, such as petrissage, effleurage, friction, vibration and tapotement. In the United States, most massage therapy students are first trained in Swedish massage and then presented with other modalities after they have learned a basic routine. Interestingly, this type of massage is known as classic massage in Europe, but it is very well known as Swedish massage here in the US.

This type of massage is ideal for relaxing, relieving muscle tension and improving circulation and range of motion. The Esalen massage combines more familiar elements of traditional Swedish massage techniques, such as stretching and long, gentle stroking, with a focus on the client's psychological well-being. Energy exchange, which refers to the massage therapist working in sync with the breath and purposefully stopping at certain intervals, is another important component of the Esalen massage. In essence, Esalen Massage emphasizes the nourishing power of touch and how fundamental it is to human health on an emotional, spiritual and physical level.

While you will experience a relief of tension in your body with this modality, you will also come out feeling more “complete”, that is, more at peace with your body and your environment. Deep tissue massage is one of the most commonly misunderstood forms of massage therapy. Many massage therapists will say that they offer deep tissue massages and end up using Swedish massage, with its long movements and stretches, with firmer than average pressure. In reality, deep tissue massage is a sometimes aggressive modality that involves deep and deep penetration of muscle tissues and the fascia to relieve pain.

In particular, therapists can spend an extended amount of time in a single area to effectively release tension. If you have problems with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, tension headaches, back or hip pain, and even arthritis, trigger point therapy may provide the relief you're looking for. 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 Swedish massage but uses heated stones instead of hands to apply pressure to tense muscles.

The doctor will also use oil on the skin to prevent any surface irritation due to friction. This moderate-pressure massage therapy combines Swedish massage techniques with the use of hot volcanic stones to improve blood circulation and relieve pain. Depending on the practitioner, this massage may include hot and cold stones, the latter being used to reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. However, don't worry, the temperature of the stones is never high enough to cause pain or damage to the skin.

Reflexology is a type of massage that revolves around the traditional Chinese belief that certain pressure points in the hands, feet and ears correspond to other organs in the body. During a reflexology massage, pressure is applied to these points to achieve a host of health benefits. That said, very few of the purported benefits have been backed by science, and reflexology is not an accepted form of medication when it comes to serious health problems. Even so, a reflexology session has no risks since it is basically a special type of foot massage and could be an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety according to research published in The Journal of Education and Health Promotion.

As its name suggests, sports massage is designed for athletes but both gym fans and those who do occasional exercise can benefit from it too. There is no single method used in a sports massage; instead, the masseuse usually uses a combination of multiple techniques (stroking, kneading, compressing and trigger points) to improve range of motion and joint flexibility while reducing muscle tension. In fact numerous studies suggest that sports massage may be effective in relieving muscle pain after training. Of course it also feels good; like all types of massages sports massage is designed to relax you.

Dora Peckens
Dora Peckens

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