Booking yourself a massage is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s also one you can feel good about. Beyond allowing you to indulge in some proper self-care, massages have real potential health benefits. But when you look at a massage menu, the options can be dizzying. There are Swedish, Thai, shiatsu, deep tissue, and many, many more types of massages. So then, which relaxation massage technique should you choose?
Here’s an overview of the main types of massage styles that are out there, along with a comparison of the two most popular styles.
What Is Massage?
Massage therapy manipulates muscles and limbs to ease tension and help reduce discomfort. Different massages may call for different techniques. Long strokes, kneading, and tapping are some popular ones. You may get a massage to help relieve pain, rehabilitate a muscle injury, or to help ease stress. Many simply get massages for the joy of relaxation.1
Types Of Massage
There are several different types of massages that can benefit your health and well-being. Here are the main styles:
- Deep tissue massage reaches deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue to help relieve tension.
- Sports massage is a type of deep tissue massage for athletes and people who exercise regularly.
- Swedish massage is a relaxing massage where the therapist uses moderate pressure to relieve muscle tension.
- Reflexology uses pressure on specific parts of the hands and feet to reduce pain. A foot massage typically uses reflexology.
- Hot stone massage is a type of massage where a therapist places warm stones on the body to help loosen tight muscles.
- Shiatsu is a type of balancing massage where a therapist uses their fingers, hands, and elbows to hit specific points on the body.
- Thai massage is a blend of yoga, passive stretching, and pressing massage.
- Myofascial release is for people who experience chronic pain; a therapist massages trigger points.2,3,4
The type of massage you choose will depend on your reason for getting a massage and the areas that you’d like a therapist to focus on. If you are hoping to get a massage in order to relieve pain, talk to your doctor first. They can first help you address the cause behind your discomfort. From there they may recommend you get a specific type of massage and may even direct you to a certain therapist.
Deep Tissue Massage Vs A Swedish Massage Technique
Perhaps the two most popular styles of massages are deep tissue massage and Swedish massage (aka relaxation massage). While there are some similarities, these two styles differ in these ways:
- The level of pressure
- Intended use
- Area of focus5
Here’s an in-depth look at the differences between these two massage styles:
Deep Tissue Massage
A deep tissue massage is more therapeutic than it is a relaxation technique, although it may help with stress. Deep tissue massage uses more pressure than other types of massage. This is a good choice if you’d like a massage therapist to help with issues like muscle soreness, injury, or imbalance.6
Why Get A Deep Tissue Massage?
People may seek out a deep tissue massage therapist to help with the following conditions:
- Muscle pain
- Lower back pain
- Sports injuries
- Plantar fasciitis7
Deep Tissue Massage Techniques
During a deep tissue massage, your therapist will use slow strokes, applying firm pressure. The pressure should be firm enough to reach deeper layers of muscles and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding your muscles).8
Potential Benefits Of Deep Tissue Massage:
Deep tissue massage may help with the following:
- Back pain. Deep tissue massage may be more effective for low back pain than other types of therapeutic massage.9
- Blood circulation and muscle tension. Studies show that massage may help ease soreness after exercise.10
- Scar tissue. A deep tissue massage breaks down collagen fibers that come from scar tissue. This might help with restricted movement.11
- Stress. All types of massage release “feel-good hormones” like serotonin and oxytocin.12
Swedish Massage (Relaxation Massage)
Relaxation massage, or Swedish massage, is one of the most common massage techniques. If you go to a spa with the goal of unwinding and relieving some stress, you might book a Swedish massage. This type of massage is typically gentler than deep tissue massage.13
Why Get A Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage may offer relief to people who have tight muscles. This type of massage might help people who hold tension in their:
- Lower back14
Swedish Massage Techniques
In this type of massage, the focus is on general muscle relaxation. To achieve this, a massage therapist may use any of these techniques:
- Long strokes
- Deep circular movements
A Swedish massage may help with the following:
- Relaxation. Swedish massage may help you relax by easing stress and anxiety.
- Circulation. Studies show that Swedish massage may help promote blood flow and lower heart rate.
- Muscle discomfort. Studies show that massage may help with pain management and relief.
- Sleep. Studies show that the relaxation you get from a massage may help you get better sleep.16,17
Which Type Of Massage Works Best?
Still on the fence about which type of massage to pick? If you’re looking for a bit of relaxation or relief from tense muscles, you may want to choose a Swedish massage. If you’re recovering from an injury, have scar tissue, or have a specific area that’s uncomfortable, a deep tissue massage may be right for you. Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval first before booking the massage.
Many massage therapists will offer a hybrid approach and cater their style to your exact needs. When you talk to your massage therapist, be sure to discuss problem areas, what you are hoping to achieve, as well as any history of injury. Relax and enjoy!