How to Find the Right Massage for You

Swedish massage, Hot Stone therapy, Deep Tissue, Shiatsu, Thai--varieties of massage therapy are myriad. Add to that the proliferation of group buying (daily deal, coupon) websites, for which massage deals are among the most popular and frequent offerings. But how do you know if you want that style of massage? There are literally dozens of styles of massage, from all over the world, each with its own movements, focus, and purpose. (Some will even leave you sore for days after; but that's part of the therapy.) The thing to consider is what you need, in terms of pain, relaxation, stress relief, or concentrated focus on an injury or specific muscle group. Here are the five most popular styles of massage in the U.S., plus a few other variations that are growing in popularity, with descriptions of method and purpose.


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    Learn about the various types of massage. They are very different.
    • Swedish: The basic, simple method most people imagine when they think “massage." It employs long strokes, kneading and circular movements to release tension and soothe muscles. A Swedish massage therapist will often use lotions or oils. Aromatherapy adds the element of essential oils to provide an emotional component to the therapy: reduce stress, energize, provide a sense of balance, or treat chronic emotional conditions.
    • Hot Stone: This therapy uses heated stones placed along the spine or other points on the body to loosen tight muscles and bring balance to the body’s energy centers. The density of the rock allows for slow release of heat over a long period of time. Sometimes the therapist will gently press the stones, increasing the depth of the heat. Cold stone therapy is a variant.
    • Deep Tissue: The purpose of Deep Tissue massage is to go much deeper than Swedish massage in order to affect the deep muscles and connective tissues of the body. It also employs slower strokes, more pressure, and cross-grain friction on muscles, providing increased flow for the body’s lymphatic system. It is especially helpful for chronic muscle pain, recovery from injury, or repetitive motion strain. Deep Tissue massage often leaves you sore for a day or two.
    • Shiatsu: The Japanese method of Shiatsu employs finger pressure along classic acupuncture meridians. Rhythmic sequences of pressure at localized points, from 2-8 seconds in duration, improve the flow of energy through the body. Most find Shiatsu to be very relaxing.
    • Thai: Working with meridians of the energy in the body, Thai massage employs yoga postures—conducted by the therapist on the patient’s body—along with compressions and stretches. Besides being both relaxing and energizing, it improves flexibility and range of motion to counteract injury or aging.
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    Consider some popular variations:
    • Reflexology: Uses pressure applied to specific points on the foot to relax and affect corresponding parts of the body, including specific organs.
    • Sports massage: Often focuses on one part of the body to reduce strain, employs stretches, and uses generally faster strokes than Swedish massage.
    • Prenatal massage: If certified in prenatal massage, the therapist knows how to posture and support an expectant mother while reducing stress, relieving aches and pains; prenatal massage can also decrease swelling and improve emotional issues during pregnancy.
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    Look for businesses in your area that offer those types, and watch your favorite group buying/daily deal companies for the style of massage you want.


  • Be sure to read the "Fine Print" of any group buying deal or daily deal coupon for massage you may see. Clearly, not every form of massage is right for everyone. A half-off massage is no bargain if you can't use it.
  • Now that you're a little familiar with some of the more popular styles of massage therapy, go ahead and ask your doctor which of these therapies he/she would recommend (or prohibit!) based on your specific health, stress level, injury history or recovery/rehab needs.

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Categories: Spa Treatments & Massages