The difference between different modalities of massage

As a massage therapist, I find that one of the most popular questions I get is what exactly is the difference between different modalities of massage. So, this is a comprehensive list of all the different types of massages and how they benefit the body.

Swedish Massage – Also known as Relaxation or Western massage, is the most common massage technique in the United States and in many places throughout the world. It is a dynamic therapy of long strokes, friction, and compression, designed to invigorate the body by stimulating the flow of blood to the heart. These strokes help to manipulate the muscles and connective tissues of the body. Therapists apply circular movements on superficial layers of injured tissues using massage lotion or oil to diminish friction on the skin. Patients wear a sheet during the session with only the area being treated on exposed. This is the softest of massage methods and is meant to entice a gentle and relaxing experience and is the best option if a client has never had a massage. The benefits of Swedish massage include integral relaxation, removed waste products from tissues, improved circulation, pain and tension relief, nourished muscles, rehabilitation and overall health maintenance and well being.

Deep Tissue Massage – Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It is especially helpful for chronic aches and pains and contracted areas such as stiff neck and upper back, low back pain, leg muscle tightness, and sore shoulders.

Some of the same strokes are used as Swedish massage therapy, but the movement is slower and the pressure is deeper and concentrated on areas of tension and pain in order to reach the sub-layer of muscles and the fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles). At certain points during the massage, most people find there is usually some discomfort and pain. It is important to tell the massage therapist when things hurt and if any soreness or pain you experience is outside your comfort range. There is usually some stiffness or pain after a deep tissue massage, but it should subside within a day or so. The massage therapist may recommend applying ice to the area after the massage. Massage therapists may use fingertips, knuckles, hands, elbows, and forearms during the deep tissue massage. You may be asked to breathe deeply as the massage therapist works on certain tense areas.

Accupressure – It is a millenary Chinese technique of healing that uses the fingers (and sometimes the toes) to press certain points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the natural self-curative capacity of the human body. When these points (called meridians in Chinese traditional medicine) are pressed, they liberate muscular tension and improve the flow of blood and the body’s life energy (known as “qi”) to help in the healing process. Acupressure shares the same meridian theory with acupuncture. The difference is that an acupuncturist stimulates points by introducing needles, while an acupressurist stimulates the same points using the firm pressure of hands and feet. That is why acupressure is frequently referred as “needleless acupuncture”. The benefits of acupressure include: alleviated headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle pains, tension produced by stress, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation, and indigestion. Acupressure is also useful relieving anxiety and improving sleep thanks to the release of endorphins (corporal chemicals that mitigate pain). In general, it aids to balance the body, improves the resistance to illnesses and promotes good health.

ShiatsuIt is a Japanese system for healing and health maintenance that has been developed for thousands of years. It is based on a combination of acupressure (Shiatsu literally means “finger pressure”) and the traditional massage technique of Japan called “Anma”. Shiatsu uses the acupuncture points or meridians plus the reclined posture of the anma method. Therapists apply pressure with the finger, thumb, palm, elbow, or knee to certain areas on the skin. Benefits of Shiatsu are similar than acupressure. This massage therapy is widely practiced in Japan and its popularity is growing in Western countries. The benefits of this therapy include: relaxation of the body and mind, feeling of weightlessness, pain relief, stress reduction and deep self-reflection.

Hot Stone Massage: Smooth and hot stones are used in this massage to apply pressure and heat to the body. The heat from the stones goes deep in to the muscles of the one receiving the massage and release stress. Stones can also be applied strategically on different parts of the body by the therapist to bring out specific results. Apart from relaxing the body, this massage may also relieves pain is the client is experiencing any. This is very useful for conditions such as back pain, ache, muscle tension, anxiety and stress.

Chair MassageChair massage, as compared to other types of massage therapy, has fast become popular. You can get it while shopping in a mall or traveling by air. Chair massage therapists can also often be found at your local health food store. The massage therapist doesn’t use oil or lotion, and you’re fully clothed during the massage. In addition, the sessions are shorter than traditional massage, usually 20 minutes or less. Chair massage focuses pressure only on the head, neck, shoulders, back, and arms. Chair massage is great when you don’t have time for a traditional massage.
The cost is easy on your wallet, too, usually costing approximately $1 a minute.

Prenatal and Antenatal Massage: Massage during and after the pregnancy was earlier given by midwives. These days it is given by the trained therapists. The massage is modified according to the condition of the pregnant woman. Antenatal massage is very effective for fast restoration of the body of the mother. Massage during pregnancy is useful to relieve pains, cure swelling, remove depression, and to alleviate the mood of the expectant mother.

Lymphatic massage, – Also called lymphatic drainage or manual lymph drainage, is a technique developed in Germany for treatment of lymphedema, an accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, most often a mastectomy for breast cancer. Lymphedema can also be present at birth or develop at puberty or during adulthood. This type, known as primary lymphedema, can affect as many as four limbs and/or other parts of the body. The cause is unknown. Lymphatic massage for conditions other than lymphedema is not medically recommended, although it may be promoted by some therapists.

Chinese Cupping –


Chinese cupping therapy is a process of suctioning or vacuuming sections of the body’s meridian system for the purpose of drawing out toxins, pain management, increasing blood flow, and promoting a healthier flow of chi energies. The massage therapist or acupuncturist will apply massage oil or baby oil to your skin prior to placement of the cups. The air inside each cup is heated with a flame prior to placing the cup upside down directly onto the skin. As a result, a suction sensation occurs and attaches to the body. The cups are left on the body for a few minutes. Welt marks, an effect of the air pressure, could remain on the skin for up to fifteen days following your treatment. Traditional cups used in cupping therapy are made of glass or bamboo, and hollowed out animal horns.

I hope you find this information helpful when choosing your next massage with us at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s