Swedish massage is the standard type of massage offered in most clinics, gyms, spas, and wellness centers. Using lotion or oil, massage therapists typically begin with broad general strokes and then transition to specific strokes to address problem areas. Swedish massage provides full-body muscle relaxation, and it can be especially helpful if you're recovering from an injury.
As the name implies, a hot stone massage uses heated stones. The massage therapist places warm, smooth stones on specific points on the body and also holds the stones while giving the massage. The stones are usually basalt (a volcanic rock that retains heat well). The warmth of the smooth stones can be quite relaxing. Also, heat has been shown to relax tight muscles, so the hot stones allow the therapist to relieve areas of muscle tension quickly. If you have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, or varicose veins, you should check with your healthcare provider if you plan on getting a hot stone massage.
A therapeutic massage that targets muscle knots (also known as "adhesions") and specific problem areas in the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Using deliberate, slow strokes or friction across the grain of the muscle, the therapist can address chronic tight or painful muscles, repetitive strain, postural problems, or injuries. While it's true that the pressure of deep tissue is generally more intense than that of a Swedish massage, it shouldn't have to be painful to be effective. If you're experiencing pain, let your massage therapist know right away. This type of massage is particularly beneficial for people with chronic pain or lingering injuries that cause limited mobility. It's effective in treating repetitive stress injuries such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome.
A form of Japanese bodywork, shiatsu massage involves localized pressure using the therapist's fingers (or sometimes hands and elbows), applied in a rhythmic sequence along the body. Each point is held for about two to eight seconds. With roots in traditional Chinese medicine, the goal of shiatsu is to stimulate acupressure points on the body to improve the flow of energy and help regain balance. Since no oil or lotion is used, you wear loose clothing. Shiatsu is normally done on a mat on the floor or on a low massage table and is often used to reduce stress and protect against stress-related health issues. Some research has shown that shiatsu may be effective for treating pain, nausea and insomnia.
A unique blend of assisted yoga, passive stretching, and pressing massage movements, Thai massage is more energizing than other forms of massage. It's a little bit like yoga without doing the work, as the therapist moves and stretches you in a sequence of postures, usually on a mat on the floor. Like shiatsu, Thai massage aligns the energies of the body.8 The massage therapist uses rhythmic compression along the body's energy lines to reduce stress and improve flexibility and range of motion. It is done fully clothed. This type of massage can improve range of motion and back pain, and has been shown to be useful in reducing anxiety.
Also known as prenatal massage, pregnancy massage is customized to an expectant mother's needs but is most often used to promote relaxation. Since many pregnant women suffer from lower back pain and swollen ankles especially in the later months, prenatal massage is a relatively safe, drug-free way to provide relief. Massage therapists who have received specialized training and are certified in prenatal massage know how to position and support the woman's body during the massage, modify techniques, and avoid certain areas and techniques during pregnancy. Most will have a special table that allows the woman to rest comfortably and safely during the massage. Ideally, you should seek out a practitioner who is experienced and licensed in prenatal massage.