DIY Guide to Health, Happiness & Prosperity

Types of Massage Therapy | Top 10 Most Popular

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Types of Massage Therapy - Top 10

Top 10 Most Popular Types of Massage Therapy

Here are my Top 10 picks for a great massage experience. Each of these types of massage therapy has its own unique benefits. You’ll find suitable massage types for everyone in the family from weekend warriors to expectant moms. And don’t forget that kids benefit from massage, too!

Try both Western massage techniques, such as Swedish and Deep Tissue, and Oriental massage techniques, such as Shiatsu and Thai Massage.  If you like yoga, you will love Thai Massage!

Have you been avoiding getting a massage because you don’t want to undress? Not all types of massage therapy are done nude. In this lineup, try Foot Reflexology, Shiatsu or Thai Massage.  For these, you typically wear comfortable loose fitting or stretchy clothing like you would wear to workout at the gym.

Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage is the most widely practiced and best known Western type of massage therapy. It is the “classic” relaxation massage offered in spas. Swedish massage consists of 5 basic strokes:

  • Effleurage – Long, luxurious gliding stroke
  • Petrissage – Kneading stroke
  • Tapotement – Percussion or tapping
  • Friction – Rapid, repetitious, heat producing stroke
  • Vibration – Vibrating or jostling

Although wonderful for relaxing and revitalizing, Swedish massage can also release muscle tension, increase circulation of blood and lymph and help dissolve scar tissue adhesions. Swedish is a good choice for a first massage.

Deep Tissue

Deep Tissue refers to a number of different massage techniques used to access deeper layers of muscle tissue and fascia. It reduces pain and inflammation and helps rehabilitate injuries.

Deep Tissue massage is sometimes combined with other types of massage therapy such as Myofascial Release or Trigger Point Therapy. Deep Tissue does not need to be painful to be effective and in fact can feel really good.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger Point Therapy searches out and deactivates painful fibrous nodules in your muscles and connective tissue. These exquisitely tender points may also refer pain to other parts of your body in predictable patterns.

Typically, your therapist will do a combination of applying static pressure on the trigger points and stretching and manipulating the area to soften the tight, painful tissue. Trigger Point Therapy often integrates other types of massage therapy such as Sports Massage.

Sports Massage

A Sports Massage warms and loosens your muscles before and in between events during an athletic competition. It also facilitates recovery and injury rehabilitation after a competition.

Many athletes receive regular massage to to help optimize performance by improving flexibility, increasing range of motion and improving muscle balance. Sports Massage can incorporate Trigger Point Therapy, Deep Tissue, Myofascial Release and other types of massage therapy.

Pregnancy Massage or Prenatal Massage

Pregnancy Massage, also known as Prenatal Massage, helps ease the discomforts of pregnancy. When you receive regular massage throughout pregnancy, your delivery may be easier and labor times shorter.

Postpartum or Postnatal Massage and Infant Massage help new moms normalize their bodies and emotions and can help them bond with their new babies. Some massage therapists require your health care professional’s OK before you receive a Pregnancy Massage.

Aromatherapy Massage

Aromatherapy Massage is the perfect pairing of two ancient alternative healing modalities, Aromatherapy and Massage Therapy. In Aromatherapy Massage, the therapist massages your skin with oil suffused with aromatic essential oils. Alternately, you inhale fragrant essential oils diffused into the air during your massage.

Aromatherapy helps relieve tension, reduce pain and inflammation, influence mood, ease cramping, aid digestion, relieve sinus congestion and far too many other benefits to mention here.

Hot Stone Massage Therapy

In Hot Stone Massage Therapy, warmed basalt or other stones are massaged over the body with warm oil. Hot Stone is one of the most relaxing and sedating types of massage therapy. It is a great choice for people with insomnia. The heat from the stones melts away tension and reduces tight muscles to jelly.

Hot Stone Massage Therapy is truly the “Chocolate Decadence” of the massage menu! Be prepared to pay extra for this indulgence because of the extra labor involved with the setup and cleanup of the stones.

Foot Reflexology

Did you know that your feet have reflex points to other parts of your body including your internal organs? When you receive Foot Reflexology, your therapist stimulates these reflexes using the thumbs or fingers. If you love getting your tired, sore feet rubbed, this is for you! For a special treat, ask for a foot bath before your Reflexology session.

Reflexology is also performed on the reflex points on your hands and ears. It is very relaxing to receive and is also a great way to receive the benefits of massage when you are unable to have a full body massage.


Shiatsu is a form of Japanese acupressure that is typically performed on a mat on the floor. Shiatsu means “finger pressure”. Pressure is applied to acupressure points along the energy meridians of your body to balance the flow of “ki” or universal life force. Stretches and other techniques are also used.

While you are receiving Shiatsu, breathe slowly and deeply into your belly or “hara” to encourage relaxation, almost as though you are meditating. Breath is a very important component of Oriental massage types. In the best Shiatsu massages I have had, the therapists synchronized their breathing and movements with mine, which can deepen the experience and make you feel very connected.

Thai Massage

Thai Massage is a traditional form of healing that has been practiced in Thailand for around 2500 years. Like Shiatsu, Thai Massage is done on a mat on the floor. It combines gentle, rhythmic compressions along energy flows called “sen” with deep yoga-like stretches.

Pictures you see of Thai Massage are often of the more extreme positions but many people are not that flexible. But don’t worry, your session is tailored to accommodate your needs and level of flexibility. All you need to do is lie back and let your therapist do all the work!

There are several hundred unique types of massage and bodywork to explore once you get your feet wet. Some can be hard to find but the ones on this top 10 list should be available in most areas.

Explore more:
Massage Guide: Types of Massage Therapy A-L
Massage Guide: Types of Massage Therapy M-Z

What is Your Favorite Type of Massage?

What is your favorite type of massage? Leave me a comment below or come over to my Facebook page and share your ideas!

With love,

Heather Beach



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