I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
There are many types of massage therapy, from classics like Swedish and deep tissue to more exotic styles like shiatsu. Whether you'd like to branch out a bit or have a health condition or injury, choosing a style of massage can be confusing if you're not quite sure what it involves. Here is a list of the most popular types of massage (including some that may be new to you). 

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Expect to work hard breaking into the sports environment. Get additional training and develop your expertise in orthopedic massage and functional assessment, clinical massage, myofascial work and stretching. Start by getting involved with your AMTA chapters’ Sports Massage Team; this provides excellent hands-on experience and each event looks great on a resume.

In Mexico massage therapists, called "sobadores", combine massage using oil or lotion[102] with a form of acupuncture and faith.[103] Sobadores are used to relieve digestive system problems as well as knee and back pain.[102][103] Many of these therapists work out of the back of a truck, with just a curtain for privacy.[103] By learning additional holistic healer's skills in addition to massage, the practitioner may become a curandero.[104]


A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).

Hellerwork is the 1970s creation of Joseph Heller an aerospace engineer for Nasa. It grew out of Rolfing. It combines deep-tissue massage with counseling for the emotional well-being of the client and movement. It is as much about educating the client about their body as giving them a massage. It has its followers, but not as many as another Swedish Massage prodigy, Sports Massage Therapy. Of all the types of Western Massage, Sports Massage remains truest to Western form. Sports Massage focuses on a specific body part with intent. It is purely physical. It is also tailored to an athlete’s sport. The intent is to multifold – to help prevent an accident or injury, to minimalize any problems and to facilitate healing. Sports Massage Therapy requires three massages: pre-event, inter-event and post-event.


Structural Integration's aim is to unwind the strain patterns in the body's myofascial system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. This is accomplished by hands-on manipulation, coupled with movement re-education. There are about 15 schools of Structural Integration as recognized by the International Association of Structural Integration,[60] including the Dr. Ida Rolf Institute (with the brand Rolfing), Hellerwork, Guild for Structural Integration, Aston Patterning,[8] Soma,[61] and Kinesis Myofascial Integration.[62]

Now for some benefits that are not supported by research. The ability of sports massage to help the muscles get rid of lactic acid is not supported in research studies. Many researchers feel this is linked to the fact that sports massage does not increase blood flow to muscles. For example, a 2010 study found that blood flow was actually mechanically impeded by massage and that was a possible reason that lactic acid removal was impaired. A quicker recovery after sports massage is not yet supported by the research. Studies do support that active recovery (low-intensity exercise after work-out) is the best method of decreasing the amount of lactic acid that builds up after exercise and speeds recovery.

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The Swedish massage technique involves soft and long kneading strokes along with light, rhythmic, tapping strokes on the top layers of the muscles, generally in the direction of the heart. It is typically used for relaxation, relief of muscular tension, and improvement of circulation and range of motion. Other techniques include circular pressure applied by the hands and palms, firm kneading, percussion-like tapping, bending, and stretching.


*Introductory offers valid for first time visit only. Not valid for gift cards. Sessions include time for consultation and dressing. Rates and services may vary by location. ***Enhancements are included within the one-hour service. Offers may not be combined. Independently Owned & Operated. Certain massages or enhancements are not recommended during pregnancy or for customers with some medical conditions. A doctor’s note may be required. In the absence of a state law holding otherwise, you must be over the age of 14 to receive a massage and over the age of 13 to receive a Teen facial. If under the age of 18 we do ask for a parent/guardian signature allowing minor to receive our services. Any minor between the ages of 14 – 15 requires that the parent remain in the treatment room while services are being performed. Any minor between the ages of 16 – 17 requires that the parent remain on the premises while services are being performed. All female minor appointments are to be booked with female therapist. See spa for details. Hand and Stone Franchise Corporation is committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of technology or ability. We are regularly working to increase the accessibility and usability of our website and in doing so adhere to many of the available standards and guidelines. To report any issues with this site please send an email to webmaster@handandstone.com
Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.
In sports massage, the massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area that you present, usually associated with some sort of sports activity, such as running, tennis, or golf. The most important thing with sports massage is that you find a specially-trained massage therapist who has mastery of a wide range of techniques and knows when to use them. In the past, many spas used to put sports massage on their menu as a way to appeal to men. As spas have become more sophisticated, however, they realize they shouldn't list sports massage unless they have some therapists with specialized training.

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Since reflexology is not recognized by law, no formal training is required to practice reflexology or call oneself a reflexologist. However, some nurses and massage therapists offer reflexology as part of their licensed practice. Some courses are accredited for continuing education for nurses and massage therapists. The most widely publicized training source is probably the International Institute of Reflexology, of St. Petersburg, Florida, which claims to have 25,000 members worldwide [9]. Its seminar on the "Original Ingham Method of Foot Reflexology" are taught by Ingham's nephew, Dwight Byers. Its "Certified Member" status requires 200 hours of instruction plus passage of written and practical tests. As far as I know, this certification process has neither legal nor medical recognition. The Institute's Web site states:
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), this includes individuals with bleeding disorders, low blood platelet counts, or those who are taking blood thinning medications. When these types of conditions are present, the NCCIH indicates that a sports massage with deep tissue work is generally not recommended.

Thai Yoga Massage School in Thailand also offers a foundation for the development of foot reflexologist. It has received authorization from Thai Ministry of Public Health. The course is taught by the vice president of Foundation for Development of Foot Reflexologist Thailand from the beginning until the end of the course. For those who have completed the course and pass the exam, they will be given a membership card of TYMS society which is authorized by Thai Government as the certification and qualification to become a practitioner in reflexology fields.21

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While a foot massage may feel the same as a reflexology treatment, a reflexologist will work on areas to promote a healing response in the corresponding organs. A massage therapist giving a foot massage will manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve pain, and heal injuries in the area or to induce overall relaxation.
Due to this techniques harsher pressure, there are certain individuals who should seek pain relief elsewhere. Deep Tissue massages can be dangerous for clients who have blood clots, as the pressure and movements might cause the clots to be dislodged. If you have had blood clots in the past, currently have blood clots or are at risk of forming blood clots, you should consult a doctor before pursuing a Deep Tissue massage. If you are currently recovering from recent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or are suffering from osteoporosis you too should speak with a doctor before experimenting with Deep Tissue massages. As this is particularly high pressure massage, you should not allow rashes, wounds, tumors, hernias, etc. to be massaged directly. Expecting mothers should also avoid Deep Tissue massages; instead, ask your doctor about therapists that specialize in pregnancy massage techniques.

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“Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform,” says Gammal, who recommends incorporating regular massage—even if it’s just a 30-minute session once a month—so as to prevent injuries and the overtraining of muscles.  Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout stretching. “Massage isn’t a luxury, Gammal says. “It’s an investment.”
A dry-water massage table uses jets of water to perform the massage of the client's muscles. These tables differ from a Vichy shower in that the client usually stays dry. Two common types are one in which the client lies on a waterbed-like mattress which contains warm water and jets of water and air bubbles and one in which the client lies on a foam pad and is covered by a plastic sheet and is then sprayed by jets of warm water, similar to a Vichy shower.[77] The first type is sometimes seen available for use in malls and shopping centers for a small fee.
Since the Swedish massage targets the relaxation of clients entire body, a constantly high blood-flow circulation can effectively lead to an enhanced immune system which can then battle infections, injuries, etc. much better. It is highly advised by health practitioners to indulge in natural massage therapy, specifically for those that suffer from chronic pain issues.

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My unique style blends oriental modalities of Thai massage stretching and a western deep tissue sports massage. My training includes Shiatsu for Structural Dysfunction, Swe-Thai, Hydrotherapy, Acupressure, Ashiatsu (walking on the back), Osteopathic approach to soft tissue therapy, managing low back pain, tendonitis knee & ankle sprain therapy, Myofascial Release, Lymphatic Drainage and Aromatherapy. This results in a pain management approach blending stress reduction and energy relaxation. My 18 year certification as a Reike Master channels Intuitive Energy Therapy where the client can feel heat from my hands and often move into a deep t ... View Profile
A study by an author found that patients who suffered from low back pain usually show good effect in terms of their pain management when they have reflexology as the complementary treatment.25 In this study, the author used VAS scores to indicate the level of pain of the patient. The author added that this complementary treatment can be used as one of the treatment to reduce low back pain but further study on it must be conducted.23
Swedish massage therapy can be helpful with a number of other physical challenges, such as reduction in scar tissue by physically manipulating the fibers of the tissue, allowing the scar tissue to be successfully reabsorbed into the skin. Additionally, it can aid with lymphatic drainage, where the long strokes of the therapist help move fluids successfully out of clogged areas.

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In addition there are many professional bodies which have a required minimum standard of education and hold relevant insurance policies including: the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT),[112] the Complementary Therapists Association (CThA),[113] and the Complementary Health Professionals (CHP).[114] In contrast to the CNHC these bodies exist to support therapists rather than clients.

Aspects of sports massage therapy are gaining popularity as useful components in a balanced training regimen. Sports massage therapy can be used as a means to enhance pre-event preparation and reduce recovery time for maximum performance during training or after an event. Athletes have discovered that specially designed sports massage promotes flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind for optimal performance.
In New Zealand, massage is unregulated. There are two levels of registration with Massage New Zealand, the professional body for massage therapists within New Zealand, although neither of these levels are government recognised. Registration at the Certified Massage Therapist level denotes competency in the practice of relaxation massage. Registration at the Remedial massage therapist denotes competency in the practice of remedial or orthopedic massage. Both levels of registration are defined by agreed minimum competencies and minimum hours.[105]
Changes should be implemented immediately instead of in stages, so that patients can go to any reflexology centre without any doubt. The entire centres, spas or even small booth that offer reflexology treatment must obtain a certificate from the Ministry of Health. It is suggested that each centre to have a medical form about patient's details, medical history, and screening form. It is already issued by the Ministry of Health but none of the centres has ever applied.
The primary goal of deep tissue massage is to reduce pain and discomfort, while improving the body’s ability to heal itself. Deep tissue massages are not only relaxing — they also help “lengthen and release muscles” that frequently feel tense and get stuck in uncomfortable holding patterns. (1) Let’s explore what, exactly, deep tissue massage is and all the ways it can benefit your body and mind.

This place is amazing! All of the staff are super friendly and Ais is the absolute best massage therapist! I've been going to see her regularly for about 2 years now and truly look forward to my appointments with her. She's funny and super easy to talk to and she always finds the sore spots on my body and the places that need the most work. Do yourself a favor and book a massage with Ais and you won't regret it!
Couples massage takes place in a room that is, at the very least, large enough for two massage tables, which is the typical set-up in a day spa. On the other hand, resort and hotel spas often create elaborate environments where couples can not only have side-by-side spa treatments, but also take a bath together, get pedicures, spend time in a steam shower, or lounge by a fire after the treatment.  

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“I have seen several massage therapists and an OT for ongoing neck and shoulder stiffness and pain. After my third visit with Layhoon yesterday, my neck pain is dramatically better and my tight shoulder is significantly looser! I can’t wait to get to my yoga mat to try out my much-improved freedom of movement. I look forward to working more with Layhoon.”

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Deep tissue massage is a therapeutic technique that relieves deep-seated muscle tension and soothes chronic tightness. During a deep tissue massage, a trained therapist delivers intense pressure through slow strokes and targeted fascial release. This technique is often used to treat repetitive-stress injuries, posture problems, and sports injuries.
Most deep tissue massages normally focus on major muscle groups — such as the neck or lower back — along with joints and tendons that are susceptible to straining or injuries. Certain areas of the body that tend to tense up in times of stress, including the shoulders, neck and hips, can often benefit the most from this type of deep manipulation. Many people consider “sports massages” to be a form of deep tissue massage, which involves physical treatment primarily to neuromusculoskeletal systems to treat pain and disability, improve muscle recovery and joint mobilization, and prevent injuries.
In India, massage therapy is licensed by The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (India) in March 1995. Massage therapy is based on Ayurveda, the ancient medicinal system that evolved around 600 BC. In ayurveda, massage is part of a set of holistic medicinal practices, contrary to the independent massage system popular in some other systems. In Siddha, Tamil traditional medicine from south India, massage is termed as "Thokkanam" and is classified in to nine types, each for specific variety of disease.
Pre-event and post-event massage therapies are tailored for distinct purposes. Pre-event treatment is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is tailored to the needs of the athlete and his/her event and can be relaxing or stimulating as appropriate. Post-event massage, on the other hand, is geared towards reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with rigorous exercise. Various sports massage techniques enhance the body’s own recovery process improving the athlete’s ability to return to training and competition, and reducing the risk of injury.

great for the active and the serious athlete. a customized massage to soothe strained muscle groups that may include all aspects of massage determined by each guest’s level of athleticism. massage combined with hot stone, stretching and deep kneading eases tension in tight muscles, stimulating healing and improving recovery time from intensive training and long, stressful days.
A study conducted by Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Krasnegor, J., Theakston, H., Hossain, Z., and Burman, I. reported by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in the year 2000, also asserts that hypertension and its associated symptoms were reduced through massage therapy. The subjects in this study were provided with 10, 30-minute massage sessions over the course of five weeks. The subjects, all of who suffered from hypertension, experienced reduced blood pressure, reduced feelings of depression, less hostile behavior, and reduced levels of cortisol in their urine and salivary samples. Hernandez-Reif concluded that massage for hypertension may be beneficial to reduce diastolic blood pressure and lessen the symptoms associated with hypertension.

Burmese massage is a full body massage technique that starts from head to toes, drawing on acupuncture, reflexology, and kneading. Signature massage strokes include acupressure using the elbows, quick gentle knocking of acupressure points, and slow kneading of tight muscles. The massage is aimed to improve blood circulation and quality of sleep, while at the same time help to promote better skin quality.

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While there are numerous benefits to this branch of massage, elementsmassage.com reminds you that it is important to keep your expectations for the treatment reasonable. While Deep Tissue massages use more pressure to reach deeper muscle tissues and often yield immediately noticeable results, asking your therapist to apply more pressure and gritting your way through pain will do more damage than good. If you are in pain, your muscles will begin to contract, making the therapist’s efforts moot. Applying more pressure will not speed up the process. Like any treatment, Deep Tissue massages need time to be effective. Keep in mind that the injury or muscle tension that you are hoping to get resolved has had a great deal of time to form; it will take time to undo the damage. Like any treatment, often the therapy will not be enough; including other changes to your life style, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or working on posture in addition to your massage appointments will help move the process along and help you see faster and longer lasting results.

Angie Bolanos has over 13 years of experience in the practice of rehabilitative therapy. She graduated Cum Laude from Syracuse University with a degree in Occupational Therapy and a minor in Psychology. Upon concluding her undergraduate studies, Angie was immediately recruited as an occupational therapist by a large well-established rehabilitation organization in South Florida. Having the natural ability to consistently raise the benchmark, she quickly moved through the ranks holding various administrative rolls amongst various rehabilitation settings.  ... View Profile
People do have clear pressure preferences: they often fire massage therapists who give treatments that are too painful or too fluffy. Pressure that’s fine for you may cause severe pain, emotional distress, “sensory injury” (sensitization) in others, or even physical injury, so pressure should be customized but often isn’t. Brutal massages might be appreciated or even helpful, but most people can’t tell the difference between the kind of pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive and dangerous.
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.

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