What is a massage?
There are several types of massage that focus on different parts of the body or healing approaches. Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension. A massage therapist is a person trained in giving massages.
Read on to learn about the different types of massage and which type might be right for you.
1. Swedish massage
Swedish massage is a gentle type of full-body massage that’s ideal for people who:
- are new to massage
- have a lot of tension
- are sensitive to touch
It can help release muscle knots, and it’s also a good choice for when you want to fully relax during a massage.
For this massage, you’ll remove your clothes, though you may choose to keep your underwear on. You’ll be covered with a sheet while lying on the massage table. The massage therapist will move the sheet to uncover areas that they are actively working on.
The massage therapist will use a combination of:
- long, flowing strokes in the direction of the heart
- deep circular motions
- vibration and tapping
- passive joint movement techniques
Usually a Swedish massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
- Choose a Swedish massage for relaxation or managing minor pain.
- This type of massage is also good for people new to massage.
2. Hot stone massage
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 a Swedish massage, only the massage therapist uses heated stones in lieu of or in addition to their hands. It eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, and relieves pain by using heated stones. Hot stone massage may help:
- ease muscle tension
- improve blood flow
- alleviate pain
- promote relaxation
- relieve stress
During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on different areas around your whole body. Your therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques using gentle pressure. Sometimes cold stones are also used.
You don’t wear clothes for hot stone massage unless you’ll feel more comfortable wearing your underwear. You will be covered with a sheet. Usually the massage is 90 minutes long.
- Hot stone massage may relieve more muscle tension than a Swedish massage because of the added heat.
- This type of massage in usually more expensive than a Swedish massage.
3. Aromatherapy massage
Aromatherapy massages are best for people who want to have an emotional healing component to their massage. This type of massage can help:
- boost your mood
- reduce stress and anxiety
- reduce symptoms of depression
- relieve muscle tension
- relieve pain
Aromatherapy massages combine soft, gentle pressure with the use of essential oils. Your massage therapist will usually decide which essential oils to use, but you can let them know if you have a preference. Essential oils are diluted before being applied to the skin.
During the massage, you’ll be given a full-body massage while inhaling essential oils through a diffuser and absorbing them through your skin. Sometimes an aromatherapy massage will only focus on your back, shoulders, and head. You won’t wear any clothing other than underwear, which is optional.
An aromatherapy massage is 60–90 minutes.
- Aromatherapy combines the gentle touches of Swedish massage with the addition of essential oils.
- Do not use this type of massage if you’re sensitive to smell or essential oils.
4. Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. It’s a good option if you have chronic muscle problems, such as soreness, injury, or imbalance. It can help relieve tight muscles, chronic muscle pain, and anxiety.
During a deep tissue massage, your massage therapist will use slow strokes and deep finger pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues. You can be naked during this massage or wear your underwear.
The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
While deep tissue may be more intense, you shouldn’t feel any pain or soreness.
- Deep tissue massage is a good option if you have a lot of muscle tension or chronic pain.
- Avoid this type of massage if you’re overly sensitive to pressure.
5. Sports massage
Sports massage is a good option if you have a repetitive use injury to a muscle, such as what you may get from playing a sport. It’s also a good option if you’re prone to injuries because it can be used to help prevent sports injuries. You may also use sports massage to increase flexibility and performance. Additionally, sports massage can be used to relieve pain, anxiety, and muscle tension.
A sports massage can be done as a full-body massage or the massage therapist may focus on the parts of the body that need the most attention. Deep pressure may be alternated with soothing strokes depending on your needs.
You can have a sports massage while clothed or naked. If you prefer to wear clothing, make sure it’s thin, loose, and allows the therapist access to your muscles. Loose shorts and a tank top are options.
The massage will last for 60–90 minutes.
- Sports massage is a good option if you have an injury from repetitive muscle use.
- This type of massage may also help improve flexibility and sports performance, and reduce your risk for injury.