Navigating Different Types of Massage Therapies

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There are many different styles of massage therapy. In fact, selecting the right kind of massage for you can be as complicated as picking out a favorite food or drink item on a restaurant menu.

From Swedish to Ashiatsu, there’s a style of massage therapy that can treat any and every part of the body and satisfy the most stressed or injured of clients.

Common massage therapies

The most common type of message therapy in the U.S. is the Swedish massage, which typically is a whole-body massage designed to relax the muscles and joints.

Massage therapists use long, smooth strokes, kneading, and circular movements on superficial layers of muscle using massage lotion or oil. It is very gentle and relaxing and a good style of massage therapy for first-time clients.

Another very common style is deep tissue massage, which is much more aggressive toward problem areas than is Swedish. Deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. The therapist uses slower strokes or friction techniques across the grain of the muscle.

It is used for chronically tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems or recovery from injury. People often feel sore for 1-2 days after deep tissue massage.

Then, there is the kind of massage that combines the two.

“Therapeutic massage is where the client can customize the massage,” said Lawanda Allen, LMT, Massage Therapy Clinic Coordinator at Concorde Career College’s Southaven, Miss. campus. “It’s a combination of deep tissue and Swedish. Therapeutic usually also uses a combination of heat and ice. Again, it’s the client who can customize to his or her needs.”

Massage therapy for athletes

A massage type that seems to be quickly gaining popularity is sports massage, Allen said.

“With sports massage, you’re working toward a certain goal,” she said. “It’s more stimulating. You’re getting muscles ready to perform. There’s a lot of stretching involved.”

It’s this type of massage in which many of Allen’s students get the most practice. The Southaven MT program has an arrangement with the Mississippi RiverKings minor league professional hockey team whereby students get to hone their skills by providing RiverKings players with sports massages.

Other types of massage therapy

Another up-and-coming massage technique, Allen said, is what’s called Ashiatsu massage. It’s a form of massage that originates in the Far East and utilizes the feet as well as the hands.

“It also incorporates a lot of stretches,” Allen said. “As massage therapists, we’re taught to use more than just our hands.”

Other kinds of massage include:

  • Aromatherapy – adding scented plant oils to address specific needs
  • Hot stone – heated, smooth stones used to loosen tight muscles
  • Shiatsu – using localized finger pressure in a rhythmic sequence
  • Thai – using gentle pressure on specific pain points
  • Pregnancy massage – customized to a woman’s needs
  • Reflexology – applying pressure to certain points on the feet that correspond to organs and systems in the body
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