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12 Common Types of Massage Therapy

Updated on August 29, 2010

There are dozens of different types of massage therapy being practiced in the world today. However, some of them are much more common than others. People who are planning to get a massage at a local day spa will find that their options are typically limited to these core common types of massage. Nevertheless, within these core options there are several different varieties of massage therapy to choose from. This article serves as a guide to the basic types of massage that you might find available at a local day spa.

1.     Acupressure Massage. Acupuressure is a combination of massage and acupuncture. It uses the rubbing healing motion of the body that you get from massage. It does this on the points of the body that Chinese acupuncture has identified as healing points. This massage is powerful but relaxing. In contrast to acupuncture, it does not use needles or puncture the body. People who are interested in acupuncture but are afraid of needles may try an acupressure massage instead.

2.     Aromatherapy Massage. This type of massage uses the healing powers of scent to enhance the benefits of the bodywork done during the massage. The massage is typically a standard Swedish or Deep Tissue massage (see below). The difference with the aromatherapy massage is that oils, candles and incense are used to encourage healing, rejuvenation or other feelings associated with specific scents. For example, chamomile is a scent associated with being calm so it may be used for a relaxing massage.

3.     Chair Massage. This type of massage is done with the individual seated in a special massage chair. If you’ve ever seen someone getting a massage at a street fair or at the mall then it was probably a chair massage. The individual is fully clothed. The massage typically focuses on the back, neck and shoulders although it may include the head and limbs.

4.     Deep Tissue Massage. It is very common for day spas and massage therapists to offer deep tissue massage. This is similar to the Swedish massage (or “feel good body rub”) that we’re all familiar with. However, it goes deeper into the musculature of the body. Deep tissue massage is typically focused on very specific areas of the body, usually where the patient is experiencing pain.

5.     Four Handed Massage. If one person giving you a massage feels good then perhaps two people giving you a massage at the same time will feel even better. That’s the thinking behind this type of massage in which two therapists work on you simultaneously. Often this is a Swedish massage done by both therapists at once. However other types of massage may be incorporated by either or both therapists. For example, a four handed massage might include aromatherapy.

6.     Hot Stone Massage. This is a Swedish massage or Deep Tissue Massage that has hot stones added to it. The stones are warmed up to a comfortable temperature and then placed on certain spot of the body. The heat generates better healing and can contribute to a deeper massage. In some cases the massage therapist will actually use the stones to do the massage. In other cases, the stones are used merely to heat up the muscles and are then removed and the massage is done strictly with the hands.

7.     Myofascial Release. This type of deep massage is designed to release the fascia (or the tissues around your muscle fibers) from your bones. The result is that the muscles relax and the bones are no longer strangled. This type of massage is given to relieve body pain. It is not as common at day spas as the other types of massage in this guide. However, it’s starting to pop up here and there around the nation as an offer on spa menus.

8.     Reflexology. This type of massage therapy relies on pressure points, which are massaged to encourage healing throughout the entire body. Refexology often focuses on pressure points in the hands and feet. However, it can use points throughout the body as well.

9.     Shiatsu. This type of Japanese massage is a massage that focuses on acupressure points in the body. These points are massaged using the fingers or palms. The goal of this type of massage is to relieve pain as well as to enhance and improve the body’s flow of energy.

10.  Sports Massage. Athletes strain their bodies including their muscles. Sports massage uses a combination of other types of massage to quickly heal the damage that athletes do to their bodies. This may be to heal specific injuries or simply to improve the general damage done to the body with excess exercise.

11.  Swedish Massage. This is the most common type of basic massage that you’re likely to experience if you go to a day spa or private massage therapist. Different types of touch are applied to all muscles of the body for the purpose of relaxation as well as healing.

12.  Thai Massage. This type of massage is commonly offered at day spas but it’s not a traditional type of massage in the sense of a “body rub”. Instead, this type of massage is essentially exercise done with the help of your healer. It draws from such practices as tai chi and yoga to help stretch and heal the muscles of the body. It may incorporate hands-on rubbing of the muscles but this is not the focus of the massage. This type of massage is often done clothed and may be done on massage table or on the floor.


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  • hublim profile image

    hublim 7 years ago from Scotland

    I’ve been receiving massage therapies after a car accident and they have done wonders for me in releasing the muscle tension.

    Even though there can be some pain at times, the overall experience is very enjoyable and relaxing.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 7 years ago

    I love the Thai massage. Never tried the other types, but would like to give them all a try. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  • vrbmft profile image

    Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

    Hi Kathryn

    As the other hub I just read about forms of energy healing, this again is an educational breakdown of massage. I need one more often. Incredible results. Encourage my clients all the time especially folks who want to move through their UPTIGHTness or disconnection from emotions.