Which Massage is best for you? 5 massage techniques explained

A woman receiving a head massage

Massage is much more than just a couple of luxurious hours at the spa. You probably already know that, judging by how amazing you feel physically and emotionally after each massage session. It’s a fact: massage gives you major health benefits.

Really, though, the basic aim of massage is to put you in sync with your environment. When you are “one with the universe,” energy flows freely through you, unblocking those sticky areas that tend to attract sickness and pain. There are different reasons why someone can get out of sync; injuries and traumatic experiences are the most common. Stress and anxiety can also play havoc on your physical body due to tension and posture.

Different kinds of massage provide relief from all sorts of ailments. The trick is to find the right type of massage for whatever is bothering you, physically, mentally, or emotionally. We’ve put together five of the most common massage types—take a look to find the one that’s the right fit for you.

Deep tissue massage

As its name implies, this kind of massage targets the inner layers of muscles and connective tissues. It uses slow, sustained strokes to treat musculoskeletal problems. Those broad, deep strokes do several things: break up scar tissue, increase circulation, reduce inflammation, and, following all these, relax muscle and tissue.

Who needs deep tissue massage?

People who suffer from:

  • Sports injuries
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis elbow

Shiatsu massage

Developed in Japan, “shiatsu” means “finger pressure.” That, in a nutshell, explains how this type of massage works. Without the use of massage oils, shiatsu massage uses light tapping, pressing, kneading, and stretching techniques. Like acupuncture, shiatsu massage accesses our body’s meridian points to unblock them so that Qi (our vital life energy) can flow freely.

Who needs shiatsu massage?

People who suffer from:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Painful pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fatigue
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive disorders
  • Musculoskeletal pain

Read: How Infrared Light Therapy Can Help Relieve Chronic Pain

Remedial massage

This is a complementary therapy. The main goal is to find and then repair damaged muscles. Since injured muscles usually radiate pain throughout the body, it’s the job of a practitioner of remedial massage to trace that pain to its source and repair it. Ultimately, though, remedial massage is meant to stimulate the body’s self-healing process.

Who needs remedial massage?

People who suffer from:

  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Arthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Addiction
  • Cancer

Lymphatic drainage massage

Lymph fluids in the body act like the drain cleaners you use in your sinks—they flush the toxins and waste from your bodily tissues. To do their job well, lymph fluids rely on the smooth movement of muscles, which transport the fluids through the lymph vessels. When the muscles are injured, lymph fluids build up in a particular spot in the body, usually in the arms and legs. It then causes swelling.

The role of lymphatic drainage massage is to relax injured muscles so that lymph fluid is unblocked and can flow freely again.

Read: 3 Top Natural Pain Relief Techniques You Can Try

Who needs lymphatic drainage massage?

People who suffer from:

  • Lymphedema (swelling in the arms and legs)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Skin disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Migraines
  • Chronic stress


It’s more than just a foot massage! This type of massage involves applying different levels of pressure on the feet, hands, and ears. Why these specifically? In Reflexology, these areas are connected to specific body systems and organs. So when they apply pressure on the feet, hands, and ears, reflexologists are actually relaxing the corresponding body part, bringing healing to it. The main goal of reflexology, aside from relieving pain, is to ease stress and anxiety in the body.

Who needs reflexology?

People who suffer from:

  • Anxiety and chronic stress
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cancer
  • Sinusitis
  • Chronic back pain
  • Constipation

Finding the right massage treatment is the first step. But there are also many at-home massage tools that can get you started, or be used in between your professional massage treatments. Try this  deep muscle massage gun after work or a run; it can help relax those tense muscles. On the other hand, if you’d like a lighter (but equally effective) touch, go for this jade “gua sha” massage set. (Your baggy eyes will thank you!)

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