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What type of massage should I get? That has to be the most common question massage therapists are asked. It can be overwhelming, looking at the list of services offered at a practice or spa. The best massage therapists incorporate a variety of modalities into their massage to meet your goals. Here is a general idea of the differences between the four most common types of massage.

Swedish massage is the best-known massage. It's what comes to mind when you think of a nice relaxing massage. It is generally unclothed, or undies only. The massage therapist uses gliding strokes, gentle pressure and percussion like strokes. The primary result is increased circulation.

Sport massage is a more invigorating type of massage. It's primary goal is muscle injury prevention and muscle rehabilitation. This type of massage uses a lot of stretching and pressure on sensitive areas called trigger points along with deeper massage strokes to break apart adhesions, increase flexibility and range of motion, promote proprioceptive awareness and maintain muscle tone and balance.

Ashiatsu or Shiatsu massage is probably the second most recognized type of massage practiced. This has been popularized by mainstream entertainment showing the barefoot massage therapist balancing with a railing while walking on your back. The general idea is therapeutic pressure applied to sensitive areas on the body. Traditionally this is performed by a barefoot massage therapist using foot pressure on your back. The primary result is pain relief. This method addresses the deepest muscles and is known to be quite therapeutic.

Reiki treatment is not really massage because there is no soft tissue manipulation, but it has become very popular in relaxation and healing treatments. This treatment is based on eastern philosophy and involves the practitioner manipulating energy instead of soft tissue. The practitioner may either apply gentle static pressure or hold their hands a few inches above your body to accomplish this. The idea is that energy or Chi (life-force) flows through the body in predictable paths and these paths can become blocked. Blocked paths can result in both physical and mental conditions such as indigestion or depression. The eastern theory behind this is once the energy paths are no longer blocked, the body can begin the healing process.


1. Image, "Natural Yin Yang" courtesy of digitalart at Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

2. Image, "Sweden Flag On Hand" courtesy of domdeen at Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

3. Image, "Female Body In Underwear" courtesy of marin at Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

4. Image, "Happy Woman Lifting Dumbbells" courtesy of stockimages at Accessed Mar. 21, 2016.

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