Massage therapy is a popular healing technique that has been used for thousands of years, dating back to 3000 BC. Hindus believed that massage therapy could cure diseases, as it was a part of their sacred natural healing system. It has since become popular worldwide, but it is more than a trend as massage therapy has scientifically backed health benefits.
There are more than 50 massage techniques out there, each with its own unique features and benefits. This article will discuss the 15 most popular ones and the different issues they help solve. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what massage therapy is and the significant benefits it offers.
Massage therapy involves using a combination of rubbing, stroking, pressure, and sometimes, heat to manipulate the skin, tendons, ligaments and tissues in the body. The massage therapist can alternate between gentle and strong pressure during a massage to help ease tension and pain in different parts of the body. As stated earlier, multiple massage techniques focus on other body parts and have different healing methods. Plus, massage therapy offers long-term health benefits, making it an integral part of complementary medicine.
Some of the health benefits of massage therapy, according to recent scientific studies, are highlighted below:
Sports massage is a technique used for people with physically demanding hobbies or lifestyles like athletes or fitness trainers. This massage technique is generally used to help release muscular tension, reduce pain and mobilize soft tissues, as sports massage therapists consider the impact of different activities on parts of the body.
Athletes and active people can use sports massage as part of their training regime to help improve their performance and prevent the risk of injuries. Besides, post-surgery and physiotherapy patients can benefit from the curative effects of sports massage.
Despite the name, this massage technique is appropriate for everyone, whether you are a professional athlete or live a sedentary lifestyle. Sports massage is essential for recovery enhancement and injury rehabilitation, and it can be done at different times – pre-event, post-event, or as part of the training program.
This massage technique can be customized to fit the challenges and needs of the individual, enabling the massage therapist to identify and treat distinct physical issues. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common issue faced by athletes and physically active people, and several different factors cause it.
Sports massage helps to treat this issue by removing waste products and increasing blood and oxygen flow in the body.
Deep tissue massage is a popular massage technique that focuses on controlling deep muscle layers and connective tissues. Most people opt for this massage technique to treat musculoskeletal issues, chronic pain, or sports-related injuries, as it involves breaking up scar tissue that forms during injury or after surgery.
During a deep tissue massage, the massage therapist will use deep and slow strokes to relieve tension from the deep muscle layers, and this type of massage is suitable for continually tight areas like the neck, shoulders, and back.
Deep tissue massage helps to increase joint movement, enhance injury recovery, reduce pain, and improve posture and flexibility.
The difference between deep tissue massage and other techniques is that the pressure put on high tension areas is more intense for deep tissue massages. Most times, ice may be applied to the area after a massage to help with the tenderness and stiffness.
Plus, deep tissue massage is not suitable for everyone, especially people with a blood clotting disorder, nerve injury, skin conditions, increased risk of injury, and older people.
Swedish massage is a full-body massage technique that is used for tension release and full-body relaxation. This technique is best for those who have a lot of tension, are sensitive to touch and are new to massage therapy, as it focuses on stimulating nerve endings and enhancing circulation in superficial muscle layers. Swedish massage is one of the most popular massage therapy techniques, and it uses different massaging styles like kneading, rubbing, stroking, gliding, and tapping during the process. Additionally, Swedish massage therapists use long strokes to replicate the body’s natural blood circulation, thereby removing toxins and increasing blood and oxygen flow.
Swedish massage therapy combines body repair and relaxation into one, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular. This massage technique has different benefits like reducing muscle pain and stiffness, enhancing flexibility, relieving stomach constipation, improving sleep quality, and reinforcing the immune system. Also, Swedish massage therapists apply moisturizers and aromatic oils on the skin during the massage session, and the session is usually done on the massage table, where you’ll need to be unclothed, except for your underwear.
The hot stone massage technique is derived from the Swedish massage technique, and it involves using hot stones to carry out the massage procedure. Contrary to what most people believe, the hot rocks will not scorch or scratch the skin, as the stones used are not random types of rocks. Basalt, a type of volcanic rock, is often used for this massage technique as they retain heat when they are heated to up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the massage process, the massage therapist will place different stone sizes on the part of the body they are working on, and some of the places where the stones are typically placed include the chest, spine, stomach, feet, hands, and face.
Swedish massage therapists use a combination of kneading, circular motion, tapping, long strokes, and vibrations during the massage session to release muscle tension and stimulate the body. Typically, the stones are warmed over a fire before they are placed on the body, but they are not heated to the point where they can burn the skin. The hot stone massage technique is commonly used to treat soft tissues and damaged muscles, and some of the benefits of this technique include enhanced immunity, sleep improvement, pain relief, enhanced flexibility, stress reduction, and improved blood circulation.
Unlike the typical heat compress, the hot stones retain the heat longer, enabling it to seep in deeper into the muscle. Besides, this massage technique is open to everyone as there are no age restrictions attached to it.
The aromatherapy massage technique involves incorporating the use of essential oils into the massage. It combines gentle and hard pressure while using different blends of essential oils. Aromatherapy massage helps to improve mood, manage pain, and induce relaxation.
The massage therapists usually apply the diluted essential oils along with lotion to the skin during the massage, and it is alleged that these essential oils help to enhance the benefits of the different massage techniques. Additionally, some of the essential oils used for this technique include orange, chamomile, ginger, lemon, lavender, tea tree, peppermint, cedarwood, eucalyptus, bergamot, and others. Some therapists also use CBD oils in their therapy (if the client agrees) to reduce inflammation and soothe the muscles.
Some massage therapists make their clients inhale these oils mildly through a diffuser as they are thought to have healing properties. This massage technique is usually included in a typical massage session as an add-on, and it helps clients with stress and anxiety relief, pain relief, arthritis symptoms, enhanced sleep quality, and improved mood.
Some of the massage types that aromatherapy can be included with include prenatal, Swedish, deep tissue, and hot stone massage. Additionally, the massage therapist will select the essential oil that works best with the specific needs of the client as each of them have their distinct properties and benefits.
Shiatsu massage is a Japanese massage technique that involves using tapping, soothing, kneading, stretching, and pressing massage styles. This non-invasive technique is usually performed through comfortable clothing without any oils, and it can be used to treat different musculoskeletal conditions. Massage therapists use this technique to treat chronic conditions like insomnia, anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, joint pain, and fatigue.
Plus, Shiatsu helps to stimulate the circulatory and lymphatic systems while helping with posture and flexibility issues.
Despite the Japanese heritage of this massage technique, Shiatsu uses similar styles found in other massage techniques such as lymphatic drainage, physiotherapy, and osteopathy.
This massage technique works the entire body, but massage therapists can focus on areas that need more attention. People with high-stress jobs and active lifestyles may require regular Shiatsu massage sessions, but for others, one session per month will help them maintain their balance and flexibility. Besides, this massage technique is usually carried out with the client fully clothed, and they usually last for about 90 minutes, depending on the complexity of the issue.
Pilates stomach massages help to massage and release tension in the internal organs and spine. This massage technique focuses on the abdominal muscles like the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and oblique muscles.
Pilates massage therapists typically use different methods to treat muscle tension and tightness in the abdominal area, and this technique helps to decrease pain and enhance flexibility. Kneading, skin rolling, wringing, and deep strokes are also used to relieve tension in the abdominal area.
Also, a series of Pilates massage exercises are carried out on the mat, chair, or reformer to help massage the stomach and reduce tension, and Pilates stomach massages are good for toning and strengthening the abdominal and back muscles.
Thai massage, which originated from India, has been used for over 2000 years, and this ancient massage practice combines acupressure and Indian Ayurvedic principles with assisted yoga poses for pain alleviation. This massage does not involve laying on a massage table (like the other massage techniques), rather, you will be fully clothed in loose-fitting clothes on a mat while the Thai massage practitioner uses different techniques like compression, stretching, and acupressure to help relieve the tension in your body. Besides, this massage technique helps to improve flexibility, posture, energy levels, and blood circulation.
Thai massage, which is referred to sometimes as assisted yoga, focuses on improving energy flow all through the body, and you can use it to relieve headaches, joint pain, and back pain. This massage technique also helps to ease anxiety and reduce fatigue. Traditional Thai massage therapists use their hands, elbows, forearms, and feet to help relieve muscle tension. Because this massage technique involves active movement and participation throughout the massage session, it is not the best option for everybody, especially people with injuries or heart conditions.
Also, some massage therapists use pulling forces during the massage session like finger pulling, knuckle cracking, walking on someone’s back, and moving the client’s body through different basic yoga poses.
Oncology massage therapy is a specialised massage technique that helps cancer patients manage their cancer experience and improve their quality of life. Scientific literature reviews have indicated that this massage technique helps to improve sleep and immune function in cancer patients while reducing pain, nausea, and fatigue, which are typically associated with cancer. Oncology massage therapists meet people in different stages of cancer and apply customised massage treatments to help support and comfort them through the process. Plus, most oncology massage treatments are revised according to the different cancer-related problems, whether physical, emotional or psycho-social.
Trained oncology massage therapists consider the individual goals of the patients and the side effects of the cancer treatments when administering massage therapy to the patients. Some cancer patients go for oncology massages to help them get some relief from all different cancer-related symptoms. However, some studies show that cancer and cancer treatments can put the patient at risk of complications when they get an oncology massage.
This is why the massage therapist should take proper precautions and training and be aware of the clients’ cancer history before treating them, both past and present.
Prenatal massage therapy is a safe way for pregnant women to get massages, and this technique helps to reduce stress, muscle tension, and aches associated with pregnancy. Many pregnant women experience different types of pain like neck pain, back pain, joint pain, and others, and this massage technique helps to relieve the tension in the muscle to help reduce the pain. Prenatal massages are beneficial for blood circulation, and they help to reduce the risk of joint swelling during pregnancy. You can get a prenatal massage at any stage of your pregnancy, but it is advised not to get one during the first trimester to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Also, pregnant women need to get approval from their doctors before they go for prenatal massages.
Prenatal massages aid in the removal of tissue wastes and toxins from the body, helping in improving the general mood of the expecting mother. You must inform the massage therapist that you are pregnant so that they can tailor the session to fit you. Prenatal massage makes use of mild pressure, and the therapist focuses on areas like the legs, hips and lower back. Other benefits of this massage technique include insomnia reduction, decreased anxiety, and headache alleviation.
Trigger point massage is used to release trigger points that cause pain in different parts of the body, and most of these knots occur as a result of injury, surgery, inactivity, overexertion, or poor posture. Trigger points can often cause headaches, muscle strains, and even injuries. This massage technique is best for people with injuries and chronic pain as it targets the knots and points in the muscle in a bid to reduce the pain. Trigger point massage goes deep into the muscle layer to release tension build-up, and it involves applying different pressure levels to the affected spot.
Throughout the trigger point massage, you may experience both relief and discomfort as the massage therapist focuses on releasing the knots in your body. This massage technique can be done on the entire body, but the therapist can also focus on specific strained areas that need to be released. You do not need to be fully undressed during a trigger point massage session, and they typically last between 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the muscle strain. Some benefits of this massage technique include improved flexibility, healthy muscle maintenance, enhanced relaxation, and decreased pain.
Reflexology massage involves applying gentle and firm pressure to different pressure points on the hand, ears, and feet. This massage technique is based on the theory that different body systems and organs are connected to the hands, feet, and ears. If you don’t like being touched on different parts of your body, this is a good massage technique to try out. Reflexology massage therapists are referred to as reflexologists, and they believe there are varying health benefits of applying pressure to these specific body parts.
This massage technique is quite different from a regular foot massage as it uses pressure point massage methods on targeted areas of the feet, hands and ears to restore energy flow to different parts of the body. Reflexology massages can aid in different health issues like headaches, stomach problems, or sinus issues, and it aids in blood, oxygen and nutrient circulation. You can also use this massage technique to aid relaxation, improve mood, reduce pain, and cleanse your body from different toxins.
While there are some theories that state that reflexology aids in boosting the immune system and improving digestion, there is no concluded scientific study that proves it is a useful treatment for any medical condition.
Chair massages usually focus on the neck, shoulders, arms, hand, head, and back, and they are ideal for people who want to get a quick massage. The chair massage technique uses manual guidance to relieve muscle tension, and it uses a uniquely designed chair that offers support to the client during the massage. Clients will have to straddle the chair to give the massage therapists access to their neck and back. Chair massages therapists usually use light or medium pressure as this technique helps to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.
Plus, this massage technique usually lasts about 30 minutes, and clients stay fully clothed all through the session.
Chair massages are readily available in a variety of places like the salon, spa, trade shows, festivals, and malls. Besides, this massage technique is good for typically active people as it helps improve blood circulation, enhance sleep quality, support immune health, improve flexibility, and lower blood pressure.
Petrissage massage technique involves applying deep pressure to the tissue and muscles, and it is used to treat muscle spasms and release pressure points. This technique involves combining squeezing, kneading, and stretching motions to help loosen muscle fibres and relieve tension. Massage therapists use this technique to activate the lymphatic and vascular system, which in turn will improve blood circulation and facilitate the removal of toxins from the body. Also, this technique is used to break down adhesions that occur after surgery or injury.
Petrissage massage increases recovery, enhances blood circulation, and improves physical flexibility. It also reduces delayed muscle onset soreness and improves muscle function.
This massage technique should not be done over inflamed areas, new scar tissue, damaged skin, or after a new injury. Plus, there must be sufficient recovery time after surgery or injury before getting a massage to avoid causing more damage to the area.
The Tapotement massage technique involves a rhythmic percussion or patting movement, usually done with the outside edge of the hand or fingertips. This technique helps to stimulate the superficial muscle tissue, and it can be used as a pre-workout or competition massage technique. There are different benefits of this massage technique, from increased blood circulation to enhanced recovery and muscle strain relief. Most athletes use this massage technique to enable them to recover from physical exertion faster and loosen their muscles before an event. Additionally, tapotement done for long periods of time can help reduce anxiety and release tension in the muscle.