13 Different Types of Massage and their Benefits

From the timeless classics like Swedish massage to the allure of vibrating massage, we’re here to introduce you to the many types of massage. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, pain relief, or a holistic approach to wellness, these massages have something special in store for you.

So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of massage and explore how these various types can work wonders for your well-being.

What is Massage?

A couple trying different types of massage

Massage is one of the most holistic forms of physical and mental therapy, often available as a medical treatment, but more commonly as part of private practice. Home massage is available both through physical therapists, and electronic massage devices.

Massage is used to treat muscular strains, trapped or pinched nerves, pulled or stretched tendons, and any type of musculoskeletal inflammation. For maximum effect of these types of problems, massage should be used in conjunction with the appropriate medications, such as anti-inflammatories.

For skin conditions, and varicose veins, manual massage or massage rollers, can offer some relief from the pain and discomfort caused by topical conditions. Electric pressure, roller or kneading massagers are not suitable for these conditions.

Benefits of Massage

The key benefits of massage are pain relief, the release of deep tension, and as part of wider mental therapies, particularly to support stress and restlessness associated with anxiety.

One of the most attractive aspects of massage is that it treats the entire mind and body as one, supporting relaxation, which can in itself help to treat some forms of physical pain, simply by allowing the body to relax and release. 


Different Types of Massage

Massage is a varied form of therapy and is often misunderstood as a result. Therapeutic massage, including aromatherapy massage and heated massage tends to be gentle, sensory massages, while sports massage and percussion massage target particular muscle groups, or regions of the body to relieve specific symptoms.

Below, we’ll take a look at each of the main types of massage, as well as whether or not you’re likely to find them on offer from electric massagers.


What is a Shiatsu Massage?

Shiatsu massage

Shiatsu massage is the most common electric massage technique. It involves a combination of different massage techniques (we’ll look at each in detail below) including tapping, percussion, stretching, kneading, and pressure to reduce tensions and reset muscles across the entire body.

While shiatsu can be used for specific parts of the body it is most effective as a holistic massage therapy across the entire body.

Read our article on Shiatsu massage chairs to find out if it’s the one for you.

What is a Kneading Massage?

Kneading massage, like kneading bread, is a motion that lifts and rotates muscle tissue in circular motions. By kneading muscle in this way, either up and down, or side to side, it is pushed and pulled until pain either subsides or resets to give your body time to heal itself.

The kneading massage is very common in electric massage machines, which use two rotating balls, on a single wheel to mimic the kneading motion of hands. 

What is a Vibrating Massage?

Vibrating massage, or vibration massage, stimulates soft tissue, which can ease surface pains, and is also useful as a precursor to most other massage techniques by helping to relax the body and mind at once.

Vibration massage will not relieve deep tissue or muscular pain by itself, but is included as part of most electric massage machines, and can be used independently to aid relaxation. It is particularly effective when used with moderate heat.

What is Roller Massage?

Roller massage

Roller massage is a common facial massage therapy but can be used for many general skin conditions that benefit from improved blood flow. 

Plastic rollers, stone rollers, and metal rollers all have similar effects, but many people enjoy the feel of stone rollers, as well as the more holistic approaches to therapy that these rollers offer.

Roller massage works by increasing blood flow to the pressured areas, and in turn can support lymphatic drainage, which reduces topical swelling and inflammation.

What is a Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage is useful for stress relief and physical pain relief. It is the base of most massage techniques, but the term ‘deep-tissue massage’ is generally only truly applicable to deep, targeted massage that goes against the grain of muscle tissue (for example, deep, inward massage from the waist towards the spine). 

Key to feeling positive effects from deep tissue massage is time, as the motion must be done gently, slowly, and repetitively to have its maximum benefit.

What is a Swedish Massage?

Swedish massage is similar to deep tissue massage but applies gentler pressure, so is better suited to newcomers to massage, or those who are sensitive to heavy-handed massage.

Electric massage machines often have adjustable settings to mimic gentler Swedish massage, or you can cover massagers with padded blankets to soften the pressure of massage nodes.

Swedish massage is most commonly used as a holistic therapy, rather than physical therapy.

What is a Heated Massage?

Heated massage

Heat helps to relieve musculoskeletal tension, pain, and inflammation, particularly when used alternately with cold therapy. By itself, heat therapy can be incredibly effective at reducing chronic back pain, and topical inflammation.

Similar to vibration massage, heated massage is useful by itself as a physical therapy and mental therapy, but is also a practical way to improve the effects of other massage techniques by loosening up muscles so they are more receptive to deeper kneading or rolling massage techniques.

What is a Sports Massage?

Sports massage does not have one defining technique but is instead targeted at specific problems or injuries most typically incurred during sports. 

However, sports massage can be offered as a medical therapy for non-sporting injuries, as it is a general and targeted approach to muscular therapy which may be useful for both short and long-term pain.

What is Percussion Massage?

A woman using a massage gun

Percussion massage is a specific massage technique used to relieve tired or achy muscles after exercise. It does not have any particular benefit for chronic pain and is best used as needed to support blood flow to tired muscles, quickly relieve cramps, and move blood back to muscles that may have been flooded with lactic acid.

By disturbing the build-up of lactic acid, you can quickly relieve soreness. This massage technique can be done by hand, or using hand-held massage guns.

What is Aromatherapy Massage?

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to relax the mind during a massage. It is most commonly associated with Swedish massage but will support relaxation through any other form of massage too. 

While massage machines don’t offer aromatherapy, standard essential oil diffusers, or a few drops of select essential oils in warm water during your massage will help to boost relaxation.

What is Craniosacral Massage Therapy?

Craniosacral massage therapy

Craniosacral, or Cranio-Sacral therapy is a medical exploratory massage that cannot be replicated by electric massagers. It offers relaxation to the head, forehead, and brows, in search of tension caused most typically by fluid build-up.

Once diagnosed, other electric head massagers may support general relief.

What is a Trigger Point Massage?

Trigger point massage is a complex massage technique that works by cutting off blood flow to specific areas that may be causing pain. It can be used both as an exploratory massage technique to diagnose chronic pain and as a temporary form of pain relief.

Trigger point massage should not be offered with electric massage products.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is one of the many different types of massage

Reflexology is one of the easiest types of massage to mimic at home, though the diagnostic potential will obviously be impossible. Essentially, reflexology massage focuses on reflex points in the foot, which seem to be connected to certain parts of the body. 

By stimulating these trigger points, you can relieve pressure, or reduce stress on some muscle groups indirectly, which is particularly useful if the painful areas are very sensitive to touch.

Reflexology is not fully possible at home, but foot massagers do offer full body relaxation in a similar way.

Choose the Type of Massage that Would Best Suit Your Needs

In conclusion, massage therapy offers a wide variety of techniques, each with its unique benefits and applications. From the soothing strokes of Swedish massage to the rejuvenating effects of deep tissue massage, there is a method tailored to address various physical and mental needs.

Take the time to discover which technique suits your need the most. Also, be sure to check out guide to different types of massage machines and find out if it’s what you need. Consult with professionals to determine the best approach for your specific goals.

The path to physical and mental well-being is at your fingertips, waiting to be explored through the power of these different types of massage.