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Types of massage and how they benefit your health

There is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing which type of massage to get. In fact, there are more than 200 known massage techniques and types out there – each addressing different needs and providing various health benefits.

Here is a breakdown of the some of the most common massage types and their corresponding benefits.

Swedish Massage:

Swedish massage is the standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centres. Swedish massage is also sometimes referred to as a “classic massage” or “relaxation massage”.

The method:

There are five basic strokes in Swedish massage therapy: effleurage (long, smooth, sweeping strokes), petrissage (kneading, rolling, and lifting), friction (wringing or small circular movements), tapotement (percussion), and vibration (rocking and shaking movements).

Using massage oil or lotion, the therapist typically begins with broad, general strokes, and then transitions to specific strokes to address problem areas.

The benefits:

Swedish massage provides full-body muscle relaxation, and can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from an injury.

Research also suggests that a 45-minute Swedish massage can lead to a significant decrease in cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone) and increase the body’s white blood cell count (helping to boost immunity).

Thai Massage:

In contrast to the relaxing gliding and kneading motions of Swedish massage, Thai massage uses stretching, pulling, and rocking techniques to relieve tension and enhance flexibility.

The method:

The therapist uses their hands, knees, legs, and feet to move you into a series of yoga-like stretches, and also applies deep muscle compression, joint mobilization, and acupressure.

The benefits:

This type of massage can reduce muscle spasticity and back pain, and has been shown to be useful in treating balance problems and migraine symptoms.

Aromatherapy Massage:

In an aromatherapy massage, essential oils (highly concentrated plant oils) are added to the massage oil or lotion.

Inhaling essential oils through the nose is thought to promote beneficial changes in the mind and body by affecting the limbic system (a region of the brain known to influence the nervous system).

The method:

Aromatherapy massage is essentially a Swedish massage with scent added. Essential oils may be specifically selected for you and mixed into the massage oil or lotion, or the therapist may use a pre-blended massage oil that is believed to be calming, energising or uplifting.

The benefits:

Aromatherapy massage is believed to benefit a variety of conditions, including headaches, insomnia, certain digestive disorders, back pain and even premenstrual symptoms.

Deep Tissue Massage:

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.

The method:

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.

The benefits:

This type of massage is particularly beneficial for people with chronic pain or lingering injuries that cause limited mobility. It is effective in treating repetitive stress injuries such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome and can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Research also suggests that a single 45 to 60-minute deep tissue massage can work to significantly decrease your blood pressure.

Shiatsu Massage:

With its name derived from the Japanese term for “finger pressure,” Shiatsu massage involves applying pressure to specific points on the body, moving from one point to another in a rhythmic sequence.

The method:

Practitioners of shiatsu apply pressure to points on the body which are thought to be connected to pathways called meridians. Each point is held for about two to eight seconds. By stimulating these points, therapists aim to promote the flow of vital energy (also known as chi) and facilitate healing.

The benefits:

Shiatsu may help increase energy, promote recovery from injuries, and stimulate the digestive system. It is also believed to be effective in treating conditions such as arthritis, insomnia, back and neck pain, sciatica and even sinus problems.

Remedial Massage:

This type of massage is geared towards treating specific injuries, areas of severe muscular tightness, muscular dysfunction and nerve impingement, and musculoskeletal imbalances and disorders.

The method:

The therapist first completes an initial consultation and assessment to determine which techniques and treatments to use. Remedial massage therapists may use a variety of different techniques, including deep tissue, trigger point, muscle energy techniques, myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, and active and passive stretching.

The benefits:

Remedial massage benefits cover the treatment of conditions such as sciatica, carpal tunnel, stiff necks, headaches and sports injuries.

Sports Massage:

Sports massage is 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.

The method:

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.

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.

The benefits:

This type of massage can help with increased blood flow, increased range of motion, and increased flexibility. Research also suggests that sports massage – when incorporated as part of an athlete’s pre-competition preparation – works to reduce blood pressure and improve an athlete’s psychological state and readiness (including lowered anxiety and improved mood).


July 21, 2017
Georgina Smith