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The 10 Styles of Massage Therapy You Need to Know

by Allen B. Ury

There's more than one type of massage. Like automobiles, massages come in a range of styles and prices to suit individual tastes. Some massages promote relaxation. Others help treat medical conditions and sports injuries. Massage styles also vary by place of origin. Numerous European, Asian and South Pacific cultures have developed their own homegrown massage techniques, which are often mixed and matched in spas here in the United States.

If you plan to be a professional massage therapist, it's in your interest to learn as many massage styles as possible. Some you will learn during your formal massage therapy training and others you can learn later as part of your continuing education. The more massage therapy techniques you know, the more valuable you'll be to your future employers. Having a broad skill set can also give you more choices when it comes to choosing a place to work.

Here are 10 popular types of massage therapy practiced in the United States and Canada:

1. Swedish Massage. This is the "baseline" massage most American-trained therapists learn in school. Invented by early 19th century Swedish fencing master Henrik Ling, Swedish massage involves long, flowing strokes, often in the direction of the heart, along with kneading and circular movements. The therapist uses massage lotion or oil to minimize friction. Swedish massage is sometimes called "relaxation massage" and is offered by most day spas throughout North America.

2. Hot Stone Massage. When giving a hot stone massage, the therapist lays smooth stones heated to just over 100 degrees on the client's shoulders and back muscles to increase circulation and promote relaxation. The therapist might also apply light pressure to the stones to enhance their effects. Hot stone massage is usually given in combination with Swedish massage.

3. Deep Tissue Massage. Deep tissue massage targets strained muscles and areas suffering from chronic pain. The therapist uses short strokes and focused pressure to target deep layers of muscles and connective tissue. Clients who have experienced deep tissue massage often feel sore for a day or two afterward, But its long-term effects can be worth the short-term discomfort.

4. Thai Massage. What we call "Thai Massage" actually originated in India, which is why it incorporates many yoga-like postures. In addition to stretching the client's arms and legs, the therapist may also pull the client's toes, fingers, ears, etc., as well as crack knuckles and walk on the client's back. Gaining its greatest popularity in Thailand -- hence its name -- Thai massage is considered by many to be the most energizing of all massage styles.

5. Reflexology. This massage technique originated in China and shares some concepts with acupressure. When practicing reflexology, the therapist concentrates on the client's feet, applying pressure to points supposedly associated with different organs of the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this kind of pedal stimulation promotes overall health. Its actual therapeutic benefits remain controversial, but it certainly feels good.

6. Shiatsu Massage. As you may have guessed, Shiatsu massage is of Japanese origin. When practicing Shiatsu, the therapist uses fingers and thumbs to apply pressure to acupuncture/acupressure points throughout the body to relieve stress and pain. Although more intense than traditional Swedish massage, Shiatsu can actually be quite relaxing. And there are usually none of the side effects associated with deep tissue massage.

7. Lomilomi Massage. Lomilomi is a Hawaiian style of massage that's part of a larger, holistic healing system. Meaning, "to rub, press, squeeze, massage, to work in and out, as the claws of a contented cat," lomilomi is offered in many Hawaiian resorts and spas, as well as by private native practitioners.

8. Maternity Massage. Also known as pre-natal massage, a maternity massage uses select Swedish massage techniques to target areas of discomfort associated with pregnancy. Because pregnancy lowers a woman's center of gravity, she may experience added stress on the back, neck, shoulders and abdominal muscles. Maternity massage is designed to relieve pain in these areas.

9. Sports Massage. Athletes, whether professional or amateur, are more prone to muscle strain and fatigue than more sedentary individuals. Sports massage is designed to give targeted muscle groups greater flexibility and endurance, as well as help them recover more quickly from injury by increasing local circulation.

10. Trigger Point Therapy. A "trigger point" is a localized muscle area that can cause pain to radiate throughout the body. Trigger point therapy is designed to relieve pain by applying isolated pressure and release to those areas where pain tends to concentrate.

 For more information on how you can train to become a professional massage therapist, please fill out and submit the Request More Information form on this page. A friendly Everest representative will contact you immediately to answer all your questions about our Massage Therapy career education program.

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