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Types of Massage Therapy to Try (health.clevelandclinic.org)

If you’re stressed and sore, you may think there’s nothing you can do but take some over-the-counter pain relievers and plow through your day. But licensed massage therapist, Victoria Bodner, LMT says you don’t have to grin and bear it. 

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Massage is a great tool for relaxation, pain relief, easing muscle tension and more, says Bodner. She filled us in on some of the common types of massage — and how to find the one that’s right for you. 

Types of massage therapy

Massages come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the offerings you might find on a massage therapy menu.

1. Swedish massage

Feeling stressed? A Swedish massage is the classic go-to for major relaxation. Swedish massage is typically a full-body massage that uses a gentle touch. It’s a good pick for people new to massages.

“It can help calm your nervous system. Swedish massage is also a good avenue for encouraging a relaxed emotional state of mind which can directly impact your muscles,” says Bodner.

2. Deep tissue

Your muscles can get tight from repeated use — even from something less active like sitting, driving or hunching over your laptop. “Deep tissue massage gets into your muscles and tendons to release that tightness,” Bodner says. It’s good for people with injuries, general muscle tightness and chronic muscle pain.

3. Sports massage

Sports massages are similar to deep-tissue massages, but they zero in on the muscles that take a beating when you play sports or do another repetitive physical activity.

“Athletes and dancers use their bodies differently than the average person,” Bodner says. “A massage therapist with experience in sports massage can get in there to break up muscle tightness and address sports injuries.” 

4. Trigger point massage

A knot in your neck or a tight spot in your back is known as a trigger point. “A trigger point is a tiny muscle spasm or tight spot in the tissue,” Bodner explains. In a trigger-point massage, the massage therapist uses focused and direct pressure to target those spots. This increases blood flow to the areas, helping them release. This type of massage can also be helpful for people with chronic pain. 

5. Myofascial release

The fascia is a web of connective tissue under the skin. “It supports the muscles and allows us to move freely,” Bodner explains. When you get a myofascial release, your massage therapist will knead and stretch the muscles and fascia to work out tension and tightness. “It’s a form of deep stretching often used together with other therapeutic massage techniques,” she says. “It’s great for opening up tightness in the neck, shoulders and your upper and lower back.”

6. Lyphatic massage

Lymphatic fluid has several important functions, including maintaining fluid levels and removing waste products from the body. Lymphatic massage uses a gentle touch to help lymphatic fluid flow more freely through the body.

“Lymphatic massage is great for people with inflammation — including people with illnesses like arthritis, as well as people who have had mastectomies, which often involve removing the lymph nodes,” Bodner says. 

7. Prenatal massage

Prenatal massages are great for helping moms-to-be relax and can help address the aches and pains of growing a baby. “Prenatal massages are wonderful for taking pressure off the hips and can help with swelling in the feet and legs,” Bodner says. “And when mom is relaxed and feeling well, the baby benefits, too.”

What massage is best?

Not sure what type of massage is right for you? You don’t have to zero in on the perfect passage before booking an appointment. In fact, massage therapists often mix and match techniques to address your unique concerns. 

“The different types of massage aren’t exclusive from one another,” Bodner says. “A massage therapist uses a combination of techniques to help you relax, get rid of tight muscles and address other concerns.”

Surprising reasons to book a massage

Stress, pain and muscle tension aren’t the only reasons to book a massage. Bodner suggests some lesser-known reasons to get hands-on therapy:

  • Pre- and post-surgery: “Before surgery, a massage can help calm your nervous system, so you’re in the best possible place for healing,” she says. “After surgery, it can break up scar tissue and keep blood flowing to help you heal.” Be sure to ask your doctor for the all-clear before booking a post-surgical massage.
  • Car accidents: After a crash, your body is probably holding onto a lot of tension. Massages can help you release and relax.
  • Trauma and anxiety: “Our body language changes with our emotional state,” Bodner says. Massage can be one component of treatment for trauma and anxiety. “It may help your body and brain release some of the negative emotions,” she adds. 
  • Cancer treatment: Research suggests that massage may help patients cope better with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer. 

“There are so many good reasons to see a massage therapist,” Bodner says. From head to toe, your body will be so glad you did.

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