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Which Massage to Choose: A List of Massages and Techniques

Updated on November 28, 2011

Types of Massages

You just know you need a massage but what kind is best for you? Will it be a whole body massage, a facial massage, or just around the neck and shoulders? There are many to chose from. And what are the techniques used? If you are planning to book a day at the spa for a massage, it pays to be an educated consumer. Your health will thank you.

But first -

What is a massage and why bother?

A massage is a way to manipulate muscles through the use of a variety of techniques that include acupressure, stroking, kneading and more. Some intended purposes include reducing stress, detoxification, increasing skin suppleness and the stimulation of circulation.


Cranial Massage - is the manipulation of the various pressure points of the head, neck, shoulders and spine. It's used to improve the flow of cerebral spinal fluid all through the nervous system in order to eliminate headaches and back problems. Also known as cranial sacral massage and cranialsacral therapy.

Swedish Massage - was created in the late 18th century by a Swedish fencing master. It uses a number of techniques such as kneading, stroking, tapping and the manipulation of muscles. A main goal is to help speed the venous return of unoxygenated and toxic blood from our extremities and also reduce the length of recovery time from muscular strain. This is achieved by flushing lactic acid and uric acid from the tissues, as well as additional metabolic wastes.

Essalen Massage - is a new variation of the Swedish massage and was created in California at the Essalen Institute. Unlike the more brisk Swedish massage that focuses on the body alone, the Essalen massage is slower and more rhythmic while focusing on the whole mind and body.

Jin Shin Jyutsu - is a gentle Japanese massage that synchronizes pulses in two parts of the body or two meridians. This will release natural pain relievers in the body and help rejuvenate the immune system.

Lymph Drainage - is a gentle, pulsating massage of certain specific parts of the body located around the lymph nodes towards the heart. This type of massage is used extensively around the shoulders, neck and head during facial massages. Lymph drainage massages will improve lymphatic flow and improve the body's natural toxin drainage.

Russian Massage - requires very precise angles for the joints and muscles. It's a deep tissue massage that helps to stretch out the muscles to achieve benefits. The massage helps reduce muscle aches and reduces stress.

Shiatsu Massage - is a Japanese massage that uses pressure gently applied along meridian points of the nervous system's energy paths. Shiatsu will balance and revitalize the immune and endocrine systems and stabilize energy flow.

Watsu Massage - is a variation of the Shiatsu massage. The difference is that it is performed in warm water.

Sports Massage - is a deep tissue massage. It is usually applied around the joints to treat specific muscle groups.

Vodder Massage - is a manual lymph drainage massage. It was developed in the 1950s by Danish-born Emile Vodder.

Lomi Lomi - (or Lomilomi) is a Hawaiian massage that uses sticks, stones, fingers, knuckles, forearms, elbows, knees and feet. It is a holistic healing tradition that includes more than a simple massage. Healing is done not just on a physical level but a spiritual, emotional and mental level as well. The word Lomi Lomi means massage.

Foot and Hand Reflexology - is a type of massage that is specific to the foot or hand. It promotes healing while improving circulation and relieving stress throughout the body. (Also see Korean Hand Therapy link below)

European Facial Massage - is the type of massage that cleanses and steams the face, shoulders and chest area as well. It is designed to nourish the skin.


Rocking - is a massage technique that uses the hands to gently rock or shake the body back and forth.

Rolfing - is an intensive deep and maybe somewhat painful type of massage technique that is used to realign the skeletal structure. Created by Ida Rolf, rolfing is supposed to improve energy flow and reduce stress caused by emotional trauma.

Tapotement - is a massage technique that uses a very light but steady tapping. This causes a slight vibration of the muscle. Often used in Swedish massage.

Gommage - is a type of exfoliation and re-hydration treatment using cleansing creams that are applied in long massage-like movements.

Acupressure - is an ancient Chinese technique that is based on the theory that there are meridians or pressure points on the body. These pressure points correspond to different organs in the body and therefore, when pressure is applied to these particular meridians, the energy pathways are stimulated for that particular organ to which the meridian corresponds. This causes contracted muscles to relax.

Pfimmer Therapy - is a technique that works the muscles and manipulates deep tissues while it also stimulates circular and regenerating lymphatic flow. This promotes detoxification and the oxygenation of stagnant tissues.

Polarity Therapy - is a massage technique that combines gentle rocking and stretching with deep pressure massage. This is designed to achieve the correct body alignment.

Effleurage - is a massage term that describes long stroking motions that are intended to calm the nervous system. Often used in Swedish massage.

Percussion - is a massage term used to describe the gentle and rhythmical taps on the body and is similar to light karate chops. The purpose of the percussion technique is to awaken the body and improve its vitality.

Petrissage - is a massage term used to describe a deep circular movement using the fingertips or thumbs on a specific muscle.


Are oils used for massages?

Yes, sometimes oils are used. But remember that essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin and must be diluted with carrier oils, also known as base oils. Together these oils provide good lubrication for the hands of the massage therapist when used against the client's skin.

What are some popular essential oils and carrier oils?

Popular essential oils include lavender, frankincense, ginger, patchouli, geranium, peppermint, tea tree, vanilla, lemon, orange and myrrh (myrrh has many healthy benefits - see link below)

Popular carrier oils include almond, coconut, jojoba, olive oil, avocado, apricot kernel, macadamia, sesame and grapeseed.

For more information about essential oils and carrier oils see the link below as well as other useful links.

Relax at the spa
Relax at the spa | Source

Enjoying a Massage

How often do you treat yourself to a massage?

See results

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