Massage therapy can have a different meanings for different people. A recent article identified 80+ different massage styles, and majorities of them were developed in the past 30 years. How can we define massage? A simple definition may state that it is a manual manipulation of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues to enhance a person’s wellbeing and health.
This definition does not include some therapies like craniosacral therapy, Feldenkrais, and Traeger. Although they are sometimes called massage, they do not use manual manipulation of soft tissues as the primary therapy. This definition excludes energy work therapies like Reiki, Healing Touch, Reflexology, and acupuncture as well.
People use massage for relaxation and specific reasons like pain relief, stress reduction, and athletic performance enhancement. Whether you have a specific goal in your mind or not, massage therapy will enhance your general health and wellbeing.
What are the common styles of massage therapy?
We can categorize massage therapy styles into two categories: commonly used (commercial) names to market a massage and its clinical name. A massage therapist usually uses more than one style to address different goals.
The relaxation style uses gentle techniques. Its goal is to reduce stress, relax muscles, increase blood circulation, diminish pain, and promote overall wellness. The specific goals of relaxation massage include:
- Relaxation of tight muscles (knots)
- Improving blood circulation
- Reduce stress
- Enhance overall wellbeing
- Improve mood
- Reduce anger, anxiety, and depression
- Improve sleep
- Increase energy
- Sense of comfort through touch
The following list shows massage styles/commercial names for relaxation massage.
- Swedish massage
- Thai massage
- Balinese massage
- Chair massage
- Esalen massage
- LaStone massage
Clinical styles focus on therapeutic goals like releasing muscle spasms and strengthening and stretching muscles affected by an injury. This uses specific techniques to manipulate the muscles and surrounding connective tissues. This list shows specific goals for clinical massage.
- Relieve pain
- Release muscle tightness
- Help recovery of injured tissues
- Release scar tissue
- Increase flexibility
- Release nerve compression
The following list shows massage styles/commercial names for clinical massage.
- Rehabilitative therapy
- NeuroMuscular therapy
- Myofascial release
- Orthopedic massage
- Post-surgical therapy
- Sports and athletic
Don’t think that massage is only a feel-good way to pamper or indulge yourself. Massage can be a useful tool to help you improve your health and well-being.