What Are the Different Types of Massage?
Medically reviewed by Gregory Minnis, DPT, Physical Therapy — Written by Emily Cronkleton— Updated on March 11, 2022
- Hot stone
- Deep tissue
- Trigger point
- Cranial sacral
- Find a therapist
Massage is the practice of rubbing and kneading the body using the hands. During a massage, a trained massage therapist will apply gentle or strong pressure to the muscles and joints of the body to ease pain and tension.
Read on to learn about the different types of massage and which type might be right for you.
Swedish massage is a gentle full-body massage that’s great for people who:
- are new to massage
- want to release tension
- desire gentle 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 60 to 90 minutes.
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.
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 of the whole body. Your therapist may hold a stone as they massage different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques with gentle pressure. Sometimes, cold stones are also used.
You don’t wear clothes for hot stone massage, unless you’d prefer to wear your underwear. You’ll be covered with a sheet.
Usually, the massage is 90 minutes long.
Aromatherapy massages are best for people who enjoy scent and 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, but underwear is optional.
An aromatherapy massage is 60 to 90 minutes.
Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than a Swedish massage. It’s a good option if you have muscle problems, such as:
- chronic muscle pain
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 60 to 90 minutes.
While deep tissue may be more intense, you shouldn’t feel any pain or soreness.
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 them.
Sports massage can:
- increase flexibility
- improve athletic performance
- relieve pain
- reduce anxiety
- release muscle tension
A sports massage can be done as a full-body massage or on specific 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 likely last 60 to 90 minutes.
Trigger point massage
Trigger point massage is best suited for people who have injuries, chronic pain, or a specific issue or condition.
Sometimes, areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, known as trigger points, can cause pain in other parts of the body. By focusing on relieving trigger points, this type of massage can reduce pain.
A 2018 review found that treatment of head and neck muscles with trigger point therapy may reduce frequency, intensity, and duration of tension and migraine headaches, though more research is needed.
Trigger point massage uses alternating levels of pressure in the area of the trigger point to alleviate tension.
The massage will include work on your entire body, though your therapist will focus on specific areas that need to be released. You can wear lightweight clothing for the massage, or you can be fully or partially undressed.
This type of massage will usually last 60 to 90 minutes.
Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. It’s best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option for those who aren’t comfortable being touched on the entire body.
Reflexology may be especially beneficial for:
- reduced pain
- reduced fatigue
- improved sleep
- reduced anxiety
- improved mood
A 2018 reviewTrusted Source found that reflexology significantly decreased the anxiety of patients undergoing cardiovascular procedures compared with the control group.
A 2019 clinical trial found that reflexology could reduce fatigue and pain and improve the quality of sleep in patients with lymphoma.
You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.
A reflexology massage lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
Shiatsu massage is best for people who want to feel relaxed and relieve stress, pain, and tension. It’s a Japanese type of massage that:
- promotes emotional and physical calm and relaxation
- helps relieve pain
- may relieve headache
- reduces muscle tension
- improves sleep and fatigue
- may improve mood
A 2019 study found that shiatsu therapy combined with standard care for lower back pain improved symptoms and quality of life immediately after treatment.
A 2018 study found that self-shiatsu significantly improved sleep quality and daytime fatigue in a group of young athletes with sports-related concussions.
Shiatsu massage works the whole body, but your therapist may focus on areas that need extra attention.
During the massage, your therapist will use their hands, palms, and thumbs to massage certain points of your body. Pulsing or rhythmic pressure is used. You can be fully clothed during this massage.
Shiatsu massages typically last 60 to 90 minutes.
Thai massage is best for people who want a more active form of massage and want to reduce and relieve pain and stress. It can also help improve:
- energy levels
Thai massage works the entire body using a sequence of movements that are similar to yogic stretching. Your therapist will use their palms and fingers to apply firm pressure to your body. You’ll also be stretched and twisted into various positions.
You can wear loose, comfortable clothing during the massage.
A Thai massage lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension.
However, many facilities, especially in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage during this time. If you’re pregnant, talk with your doctor before receiving massage.
Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed, depending on your comfort level.
During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.
The massage will usually last 45 to 60 minutes.
A couples massage is a massage that you do with your partner, friend, or family member in the same room. It brings all the benefits of a regular massage plus the chance to enjoy a relaxing experience with a partner.
Other treatments, such as pedicures, facials, and body scrubs, are sometimes offered as part of a package.
You can usually choose which type of massage you’d like to receive, and you and your partner can each get a different type of massage, depending on your preference and clinic offerings.
You’ll be on tables side-by-side, and you’ll each have your own massage therapist working on your body. You can talk during the massage if you wish.
In some cases, you and your partner may have the chance to learn massage techniques and perform them on each other.
A chair massage is best for people who want a quick massage that focuses on the neck, shoulders, and back.
A chair massage can be a comfortable introduction to massage if you’ve never had one before. Chair massage also helps relieve stress and promote relaxation. This type of massage uses light to medium pressure.
During the massage, you’ll remain fully clothed and sit in a specially designed chair. You’ll straddle the chair so that your chest pushes into the back of the chair, allowing the massage therapist to have access to your back.
These massages are usually 10 to 30 minutes.
Lymphatic drainage massage
Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), is a type of gentle massage that encourages the lymph fluids to circulate through the body.
The lymphatic system helps remove toxins, and improved circulation can help with a number of conditions, including:
According to 2014 research, lymphatic drainage massage was more effective at improving the quality of life of fibromyalgia patients compared with connective tissue massage.
A 2021 review of 17 studies found some evidence that MLD in early stages following breast cancer surgery may help prevent progression to clinical lymphedema, though it may not provide any benefit for moderate to severe lymphedema.
You shouldn’t receive lymphatic drainage massage if you have any of the following conditions:
- congestive heart failure
- history of blood clots or stroke
- current infection
- liver problems
- kidney problems
It’s possible to perform lymphatic drainage massage on yourself at home, or you can seek out a professional. Always talk with your doctor before you try it.
These massages usually last 60 minutes or longer.
Cranial sacral therapy
Cranial sacral therapy or craniosacral massage is a type of bodywork that helps release compression in the bones of the head, low back, and spine.
The idea behind cranial sacral therapy is that gentle manipulation of the bones in the skull, spine, and pelvis, can help the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the central nervous system. It can also produce deeply relaxing results.
Some conditions that may benefit from cranial sacral therapy include:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- disturbed sleep cycles and insomnia
- sinus infections
- neck pain
- recurrent ear infections or colic in infants
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- trauma recovery, including trauma from whiplash
- mood disorders, like anxiety or depression
- difficult pregnancies
A 2019 review found that cranial sacral therapy was more effective than sham treatment in treating the pain intensity of individuals with non-specific neck pain.
If you experience any of the following, cranial sacral therapy may not be for you:
- severe bleeding disorders
- a diagnosed aneurysm
- a history of recent traumatic head injuries, which may include cranial bleeding or skull fractures
Check with your healthcare professional to determine if this therapy is appropriate for your needs.
These massages usually last 60 minutes or longer.
Abhyanga oil massage
Abhyanga is a type of oil massage from the system of Ayurvedic medicine. The oil is warmed and gently massaged all over the body. This type of massage focuses on nourishing the skin rather than deeply massaging the muscles.
The previously mentioned research, as well as a small study,Trusted Source has shown that benefits include:
- reduced stress
- activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest)
- improved skin health and moisture
- reduced blood pressure
- reduced muscle stiffness
Abhyanga can be done on your own, or you can find a qualified practitioner.
These massages usually last 60 minutes or longer.
Myofascial release therapy
Myofascial release therapy is another type of bodywork that involves releasing stiffness in the fascia, the connective tissue system that contains each muscle in the body. Your therapist will massage and stretch any areas that feel tense with light pressure.
Specific conditions that may benefit from myofascial therapy include:
These massages usually last 60 minutes or longer.
How to find a massage therapist
You can get a personal recommendation for a massage therapist from a doctor, friend, or an online directory. You can also book a few massages with different therapists to see which one you prefer.
Make sure it’s someone you feel comfortable with, so you can fully relax.
Be sure your massage therapist is properly trained, licensed, and certified. You can ask to see their up-to-date credentials.
You may also want to have a brief conversation with your therapist before beginning your session, so you can communicate your expectations and ask any relevant questions.
Eynsmassage.com for information, questions, concerns, answers and booking. Contact us today!
How much does a massage cost?
Prices vary greatly for massages in the United States. A 60-minute massage is usually $60 to $150. Most therapists will expect a 15 to 20 percent tip on top of this. However, some places don’t accept gratuity.
These types of massages may cost more than a basic massage:
- hot stone
- therapeutic, like cranial sacral and myofascial release
You can check out a massage school in your area or find a massage therapist who works at home if you want to find massages at a more reasonable cost.
Insurance sometimes covers massage therapy if you can show it’s being used to treat a medical condition. Sometimes, insurance companies will cover massage therapy if it’s part of chiropractic care.
Email us at Eynsmassage@gmail.com for all your pricing information needs.
Massage may be a way for you to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experiment with different types of massage and with different massage therapists to find the type and provider that’s best for you.
Always communicate your expectations and intentions with your massage therapist, and speak up if you’re uncomfortable. Talk with your doctor before getting any type of massage if you have any health concerns or conditions.
Eynsmassage@gmail.com or 518-396-6363
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Last medically reviewed on March 11, 2022
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- Chandrababu R, et al. (2019). Effectiveness of reflexology on anxiety of patients undergoing cardiovascular interventional procedures: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
- Kobayashi D, et al. (2019). Shiatsu for chronic lower back pain: Randomized controlled study.
- Lee King Yuan S, et al. (2015). Effectiveness of different styles of massage therapy in fibromyalgia: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Maistrello LF, et al. (2018). Effectiveness of trigger point manual treatment on the frequency, intensity, and duration of attacks in primary headaches: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
- Qin P, et al. (2019). Effectiveness of hand self-shiatsu to improve sleep following sport-related concussion in young athletes: a proof-of-concept study.
- Rambod M, et al. (2019). The effect of foot reflexology on fatigue, pain, and sleep quality in lymphoma patients: A clinical trial.
- Sports massage. (n.d.).
- Stefanofsky MA. (2019). Is craniosacral therapy effective in the reduction of pain intensity in individuals with non-specific neck and/or back pain?
- Thompson B, et al. (2020). Manual lymphatic drainage treatment for lymphedema: A systematic review of the literature.
- Xiong M, et al. (2018). Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage and inhalation on symptoms of depression in Chinese community-dwelling older adults.
Link to original article below.