You might not realize it now, but massage therapy is a huge and varied field! Massage has been practiced for millennia in the medical traditions of many countries around the world. Today, people turn to massage therapy as a treatment for everything from sports-related injuries to depression, and sometimes just for a relaxing treat. There are also many different types of massage—some are widely recognized as integral parts of modern Western medicine, while others fall into the category of alternative medicine.
As a massage therapy student, you will learn the basic principles of massage and take courses in different types of massage or you may choose to attend a school that specializes in one type of massage. As a practitioner, you will likely choose to specialize in one or a few types of massage. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, the most common types of massage therapy are Swedish, deep tissue, sports, and chair. In this post, we’ll review these four common types, and in the next we’ll look at a few less common ones.
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage and the one most people think of when they think about massage therapy. This type of massage uses a combination of stroking, kneading, and tapping. It is meant to be both relaxing and energizing, and it can help patients recover following an injury. There are many dedicated Swedish massage training programs at well-respected institutions around the country.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage focuses on relieving specific pains, such as those caused by chronic tension and injuries. This is accomplished by the therapist putting targeted pressure on the muscles. This type of massage is much less relaxing than Swedish massage, but its goal is therapy, not relaxation.
Athletes can be hard on their bodies, especially those playing at collegiate and professional levels. Sports massage is a specific type of therapy that seeks both to prevent sports injuries and to help athletes heal following sports injuries. Sports teams, health clubs, and physical therapy clinics are common employers of sports massage therapists.
Chair massage stations are common sites at malls and trade shows. Generally, therapists set up a massage chair and then treat clients to a 15-, 30-, or 60-minute massage. The clients are fully clothed, and the massage generally focuses on the back, neck, and shoulders. Chair massage is also a growing trend in workplaces—many companies hire massage therapists to come in once or twice a week and give chair massages to their employees, providing great opportunities for massage therapists who have their own equipment and are willing to travel.
The next post will profile some more common massage therapy specializations available for students and practitioners.
American Massage Therapy Association. Types of massage.