The 14 Best Types of Massage Therapy

Different types of massage therapy

Did you ever have a massage but didn’t get what you expected? It was too deep or it was too light for you?

Massages are not something you experience every day, and when you decide to try it you want it to be an  amazing experience. Especially when you make a spa gift certificate to someone who never had a massage.

So many types of massage and you have to choose only one. It can be tough.

First choose a type of massage from one of the following categories.

  1. Massages that treat – They are painful and you may feel sore the next day, but they have a therapeutic effect on your body and a few days later you will feel much better.
  2. Massages that relax – They relax your body and mind so much that you can even fall asleep during the massage. This type of massage is enjoyable and is great for those who want to try massage for the first time.

Here are 14 types of massage to be aware of when choosing the best massage.

1.  Swedish massage

If you never had a massage before I would recommend to start with swedish massage.

By far swedish massage is the most popular form of massage.

Generically swedish massage is often referred to as “relaxation massage”. A swedish massage requires you to be unclothed because massage lotion or oil is applied on your body to minimize friction. Swedish massage is performed on a massage table.

The parts of the body that the therapist is not working on are covered with sheets.

Swedish massage is the best introductory technique for those who never had massage, because it doesn’t involve deep pressure and it’s a soothing form of bodywork.

2. Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu – all you have to do is press.

Shiatsu is a simplistic massage style.

It is performed on a mat on the floor and the patient is fully clothed as no oil is used.

The main technique in shiatsu is applying pressure using fingers, thumbs, elbows and knees to the acupoints which are situated along the meridians of your body. Each point is held for 2 to 8 seconds to improve the flow of chi and help the body regain balance.

The therapist uses his own body weight to apply pressure, so it can be quite deep in many places. Though the pressure is firm, there is usually no soreness after shiatsu.

3. Thai massage

Just like shiatsu thai massage is a simplistic massage style. The patient is fully clothed and oil is not used. The treatment is performed on a mat on the floor, because the therapist will have to change your position very often.

If you think you’ll lie calmly and relaxed during thai massage, you are wrong. Thai massage is one of the most dynamic form of massage.

The massage therapist will move your body quite a lot, positioning it into different stretching poses which are very much alike the yoga poses.

After thai massage you’ll feel like after a yoga class.

Besides the stretching there is also keen attention to acupressure points. It also includes compression of muscles and mobilization of joints.

4. Hot stone massage

Hot stone massage is one of the most relaxing forms of massage therapy, but it’s less therapeutic than Swedish massage, for example. The massage therapist is not able to feel how the muscles are reacting to the pressure.

Smooth warmed basalt stones are heated and are massaged over the body. The stones are placed on shoulders and on back muscles to increase circulation and promote relaxation.

Hot stones are quite soothing and relaxing, as they transmit heat deep into the body and loosen tight muscles and balances the energy centers in the body.

Hot stone massage is good for people who have muscle tension but prefer lighter massage.

5. Lymphatic massage

Lymphatic massage aims to stimulate the body’s lymphatic system by applying light, gentle, repetitive strokes.

A healthy lymph system requires that muscle cells are able to contract smoothly in the walls of lymph vessels so that muscles can shepherd lymphatic fluid through the vessels, lymph nodes, and the rest of the body.

Lymphatic massage isn’t a good fit for those looking for a more intense, hard-pressured massage. Instead, it is excellent for those who want to detoxify their body or reduce the swelling post injury or surgery.

6. Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage is another popular form of bodywork.

In the majority of cases people feel discomfort or pain during deep tissue massage. It’s ok to feel soreness or swelling in the regions that were massaged after a deep tissue massage. It should subside within a day or so.

Deep tissue is best to apply on certain painful and stiff regions on your body. The massage therapist applies slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on specific layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin.

Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage can be quite therapeutic — relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back pain.

7. Reflexology

According to reflexology, all the organs of the body are mapped on the feet, hands or ears. Applying finger pressure on certain points it links to various internal organs and promotes healing.

Reflexology can also be performed on the reflex points on your hands and ears.

It can be a perfect therapy for those who spend long hours on their feet.

8. Sports massage

Sports massageis not designed for relaxation purpose. It is firstly designed for people who are involved in physical activity, especially athletes.

Sports massage uses a variety of approaches to help athletes in training before and in between events during an athletic competition to warm and loosen their muscle. After the competition it may help to facilitate recover and rehabilitate injuries.

Many athletes receive regular massage to help optimize performance by improving flexibility, increasing range of motion and improving muscle balance.

The main focus is on enhancing athletic performance.

9. Aromatherapy massage

In aromatherapy massage essential oils are incorporated into the oil that is massaged into your skin.

Single or mixed essential oils are used in aromatherapy massage to address specific needs. To achieve better therapeutic results the massage therapists usually uses a mixture of essential oils for the treatment.

Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to stress-related conditions with an emotional component.

10. Lomi lomi

Lomi lomi is a Hawaiian form of massage and has many similarities with Swedish massage. It’s a very relaxing type of massage.

During the lomi lomi session the therapist is repeating a prayer which means that there is no conversation between the therapist and the patient.

The important part of this bodywork is that the practitioner focuses on the client using loving hands and loving heart. Lomi lomi facilitates healing on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels and it views all these aspects of the body as one.

In lomi lomi massage the person lies directly on the vinyl of the table and not on a towel, and rather than being covered completely by towels, is covered by a small sheet or towel leaving most of the body exposed during the massage.

11. Rolfing

Rolfing is painful. It’s tough to go to these sessions.

Rolfing is an uncomfortable deep massage. Many patients report soreness in muscles and joints after rolfing, but it’s truly a massage therapy technique that is highly recommended to any chronic pain sufferer.

The theory behind rolfing is that the body’s aches and pains arose from basic imbalances in posture and ailment, which were created and reinforced over time by gravity.

For example, our modern sedentary lifestyle has resulted in poor posture and the body’s muscles develop patterns of unnatural contractions. Rolfing aims to restructure and realign the body with it’s center of gravity and with the earth.

12. Cupping therapy

Cupping is a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy massage. In massage the therapist pushes the layers of the tissue in, while in cupping massage the tissues are sucked out.

The therapist uses oil on your back to facilitate a better slide of the cups on the body. The therapist creates vacuum inside the cup and puts them on the back of the patient. The therapist slowly moves the cups along the meridians on the back facilitating blood flow and getting some fresh oxygenated blood to the area.

13. Ashiatsu

If you need a deeper kind of massage, try ashiatsu.

In ashiatsu the massage therapist literally is walking on your back and uses bars to support himself and vary pressure and weight.

This technique uses the principles of shiatsu, but the technique is performed barefoot on the back on the recipient’s body.

14. Ayurvedic massage

Ayurvedic body massage uses warmed oil and applies continuous strokes and techniques, which is very relaxing. But that’s not all.

Before the massage is necessary to take a hot shower to soften and loosen the skin. After an hour of massage the client takes a hot shower to wash up the oil, following a steam bath for around 10-15 minutes and returns to the massage bed where the therapist applies a warm herbal scrub on the body. The client lies still for 10 minutes while the scrub exfoliates and becomes absorbed by the skin. Once the scrub is dry the client takes a hot shower to remove the scrub.

You may feel sleepy and weak and will certainly be slowed down a great deal.

If you liked this article Subscribe to MassageDreams!!

Did you enjoy this article?
Share the love
Get free updates


  1. thank you Ion
    ill add them as i rather having them Massages that treats & relax
    a combined treatment is the best and includes
    Hot stone massage
    Aromatherapy massage
    Ayurveda massage
    Swedish massage
    Lymphatic massage
    now I’m more relaxed
    Cupping therapy

    • Agree with you! However, it takes quite a while to learn that many styles of massage and incorporate them into your practice.

  2. I enjoyed your article and found it informative but incorrect in the area of hot stone. A properly trained LaStone therapist (certified hot stone worker via LaStone) will be able to feel able to “feel” the muscles responses through the stones. Additionally, hot stone work can be extremely therapeutic, particularly when combined with cold stones. Geo-thermal therapy (hot/cold) is very therapeutic in and of itself but when combined with the relaxation of a LaStone massage it just can’t be beat. If you’ve never had a therapeutic geo-thermal massage from a LaStone trained therapist I highly recommend it…you won’t regret it! Deb Baerwaldt, LMT Healing Sapphire Massage

  3. Thanks Deb for your informative comment.

  4. Lon, thank you so much for this informative cannot imagine how helpful an article like this will be to a front desk personnel who need to know and explain all the different therapies and their benefit.our practice for one needs this..

  5. Hello Ion.
    I combine sports massage with holistic techniques to incorporate muscle tightness/injury along with relaxation.
    I will spend a good half an hour on superficial relaxation techniques to relax both the client and muscles in question and then move on to the more deep tissue and My results are nearly always positive, even after just one treatment. I love my work. :-)

  6. Hey Annie, that’s a great approach – relax/deep massage.

    I wish I had this kind of treatment when I was an active athlete:)

  7. Perhaps a better title would have been “Best types of Bodywork.”. There are some modalities here that are NOT “massage.”. Specifically, shiatsu, Thai, Relexology, and Cupping. the first three are energy work, thus fit the category of bodywork. Cupping is in a class all by itself, but still can go under bodywork. The term “massage” has been added to some of these terms to sort of designate that it’s something done to the body, but they are not massage which refers to manipulating muscle tissue.

Speak Your Mind