Understanding 5 Different Types of Massage

Understanding 5 Different Types of Massage

by Natalia Rączka

Everyone loves a soothing massage, but not all massages are created equal. Each type of massage is distinct, and knowing how they differ helps you choose the right one for your own body’s needs and preferences. Try one of the five types of massage we offer:


Swedish Massage is the most common and best-known relaxing massage technique. The massage therapist uses oil or lotion and combines long, gliding and kneading strokes over the topmost layers of muscles. Pressure varies from light to firm. Often combined with manipulation and stretching of your arms and legs, Swedish massage relieves muscle tension, improves circulation, increases energy, and can help you heal after an injury.

A recent study (1) found that a single session of Swedish massage resulted in a significant decrease in the hormone arginine-vasopressin (which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and water retention), and may have a positive effect on the immune system.


Deep tissue massage is an effective massage technique for releasing chronic muscle tension, and increasing circulation. In addition to hands, the therapist may use their elbows, forearms, and even feet to apply pressure. Deep tissue massage uses some strokes from Swedish massage, but movements are slower and pressure is heavier. Deep tissue focuses on reaching sub-layers of muscles, tendons, and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding muscles, bones, and joints). When you have chronic muscle tension or an injury, adhesions (bands of painful, rigid tissue) often develop in your muscles. Deep tissue massage can break down these adhesions to relieve pain, and restore normal circulation and movement.

A recent study (2) found that deep tissue massage has a positive effect on reducing pain in patients with chronic low back pain.


Sports massage is a technique geared toward athletes of every kind, from professionals to the occasional exerciser. In addition to promoting relaxation and pain relief, it can help improve performance, prevent injury, and help the body recover from injuries associated with physical activity. Sports massage uses deep massage strokes combined with focused stretching to concentrate on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements. This can relax tight areas (often called “knots”) in your muscles that develop from small tears caused by overstressing, either through overuse or trauma.

A recent study (3) found sports massage after exercise helped the quadriceps recover more rapidly.


Prenatal massage is a safe massage technique for pregnant women that decreases stress and promotes deep relaxation. The therapist uses gentle massage strokes to relax muscles, soothe sore areas, and improve circulation and mobility. Prenatal massage incorporates positions, such as side-lying, and movements that are modified to address changes in pregnant women’s bodies. Prenatal massage can help ease many of the common physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy, including headaches, back pain, nausea, fatigue, moodiness, difficulty sleeping, and swollen ankles and legs. (4)

A recent study (4) found that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pains, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health.


By applying pressure in specific ways that target lymph nodes and vessels, a therapist trained in the lymphatic drainage therapy technique can directly target the lymph system to activate lymphatic fluid circulation and stimulate the functioning of the immune and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The technique includes holding the hands flat and moving them over the body to detect and assess current lymph flow patterns, and moving them in wave-like movements to release blockages in the network of lymph nodes and vessels.

The benefits of lymph drainage therapy include a reduction of inflammatory responses (both acute and chronic), detoxification, regeneration of tissue, and deep relaxation.



1. Rapaport, M.H., Schettler, P., Bresee, C. (2010). A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20809811
2. Majchrzycki M., Kocur P., Kotwicki T. (2014). Deep tissue massage and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain: a prospective randomized trial. ScientificWorldJournal. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24707200
3. Boguszewski, D., Szkoda, S. Adamczyk, J. G., Bialoszewski, D. (2015). Sports massage therapy on the reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness of the quadriceps femoris. Human Movement, 15(4). Retrieved from https://content.sciendo.com/view/journals/humo/15/4/article-p234.xml
4. Field, T. (1999). Pregnant Women Benefit From Massage Therapy. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mar 20(1). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10212885
5. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy: “Systematic Review of Efficacy for Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Practice Approach” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755111/