There are many types of massage therapy, from classics like Swedish and deep tissue to more exotic styles like shiatsu. Whether you'd like to branch out a bit or have a health condition or injury, choosing a style of massage can be confusing if you're not quite sure what it involves. Here is a list of the most popular types of massage (including some that may be new to you).
A good massage therapist will never force pressure into the muscle. They will continue to apply pressure until the muscle pushes back against them. The muscle will then slowly begin to release and allow the therapist to move along it. The pressure used should not be painful, but should walk a fine line between pleasurable release of tension and a pain-blocking response from the body (tensing up).
Reflexology is basically a study of how one part of the human body relates to another part of the body. Reflexology practitioners rely on the reflexes map of the feet and hands to all the internal organs and other human body parts. They believe that by applying the appropriate pressure and massage certain spots on the feet and hands, all other body parts could be energized and rejuvenated. This review aimed to revisit the concept of reflexology and examine its effectiveness, practices, and the training for reflexology practitioners. PubMed, SCOPUS, Google Scholar, and SpringerLink databases were utilized to search the following medical subject headings or keywords: foot massage, reflexology, foot reflexotherapy, reflexological treatment, and zone therapy. The articles published for the last 10 years were included. Previous systematic reviews failed to show concrete evidence for any specific effect of reflexology in any conditions. Due to its non-invasive, non-pharmacological complementary nature, reflexology is widely accepted and anecdotal evidence of positive effect reflexology in a variety of health conditions are available. Adequate training for practitioners is necessary to ensure the consistency of service provided.
So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Massage may be an appropriate technique for helping certain sports injuries, especially muscle injuries, to heal. When treating an injury, however, it is best to seek advice from a qualified sports therapist or a specialist in sports medicine before performing any massage. Certain ligament and joint injuries that need immobilization and expert attention may be aggravated by massage.

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In Japanese, shiatsu means "finger pressure." For shiatsu massage, the therapist uses varied, rhythmic pressure on certain precise points of the body. These points are called acupressure points, and they are believed to be important for the flow of the body's vital energy, called chi. Proponents say shiatsu massage can help relieve blockages at these acupressure points.
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BC 500 Jīvaka Komarabhācca, also known as Shivago Komarpaj, the founder of Traditional Thai massage (Nuad Boran) and Thai medicine.[citation needed] According to the Pāli Buddhist Canon, Jivaka was Shakyamuni Buddha's physician.[citation needed] He codified a healing system that combines acupressure, reflexology, and assisted yoga postures.[citation needed] Traditional Thai massage is generally based on a combination of Indian and Chinese traditions of medicine. Jivaka is known today as "Father Doctor" in Thailand.[citation needed]

Biomechanical stimulation (BMS) is a term generally used for localised biomechanical oscillation methods, whereby local muscle groups are stimulated directly or via the associated tendons by means of special hand held mechanical vibration devices. Biomechanical oscillation therapy and training is offered in a variety of areas such as competitive sports,[37] fitness, rehabilitation,[38] medicine,[39] prevention, beauty, and used to improve performance of the muscles and to improve coordination and balance. It is often used in the Myofascial trigger point therapy concept to invoke reciprocal inhibition within the musculoskeletal system. Beneficial effects from this type of stimulation have been found to exist, the efficacy of the BMS Matrix therapy was proven in an independent study.[40] carried out by TÜV-Süd which was commissioned by German health insurer BKK Gesundheit.
Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating. Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating.
Reflexology is best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option if you aren’t comfortable being touched on your entire body. Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.

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Typically, sports massage therapists hold a certification and maintain licensure. A good option is to become board certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and have an active membership with an association, like AMTA, to keep up to date with industry trends. Exact requirements depend upon the state in which the sports massage therapist practices.
"Back before we started wearing shoes everywhere, we developed natural stimulus points from the ground [making direct contact] with our feet," Colin says. "By walking and getting that stimuli, we would relieve stress. We don't get that anymore. So the idea of reflexology is going back and mimicking that stimuli to specific points and feeling where that stress sits."
So what should runners book instead? Anna Gammal, a massage therapist who works with elite runners at the Boston Marathon each year and also massaged athletes at the 2004 and 2012 Olympics, recommends either a sports massage (i.e. targeted therapeutic treatment for the unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes) or a myofascial release massage (i.e. the application of gentle, sustained pressure on soft tissue restrictions). Both specifically target muscle release and will help improve flexibility, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
Deep tissue massage is a massage technique that’s mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues, such as strains and sports injuries. It involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.

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Inflammation caused by chronic stress and muscle tension can lead to worsened overall health, longer recovery time, reduced immune function and cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure. Studies have found that massage therapy can help lower cortisol levels and even boost production of the hormone called oxytocin, which relaxes the body and has soothing effects. (7) Oxytocin is the primary hormone responsible for sustaining social bonds in humans and increasing motivation for cooperative behaviors, which is why it’s often called the “cuddle hormone” and known to be released during hugs, birth, social bonding and from touch.

The literature on reflexology is only beginning to emerge since early 1990. Several methodological shortcomings in the previous studies of reflexology safety and efficacy are worth mentioning. Firstly, the number and the methods of reflexology treatment given are not standardized. Furthermore, most studies have small sample size (around 20 participants).


AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion."[14]

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Hair loss: Massaging several acupressure points will “stimulate and energize the nerves that are causing the problem.” The Paihui is important. “The Paihui is located right in the middle of your scalp. Most of the pressure points related to the hair re-growth are present near this area. Take ten toothpicks and wrap them in a rubber band. Use them to gently poke the paihui, be very careful not to hurt yourself. This action improves the blood circulation in the scalp, which reduces hair fall.”


During most full-body massages the expectation is you’ll be undressed. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress for your massage while they wait outside. It’s up to you whether or not to keep your underwear on. Your massage therapist will drape a sheet over your body, which they will pull back and adjust as they work their way around. You will be covered most of the time.

Swedish massage therapy can be helpful with a number of other physical challenges, such as reduction in scar tissue by physically manipulating the fibers of the tissue, allowing the scar tissue to be successfully reabsorbed into the skin. Additionally, it can aid with lymphatic drainage, where the long strokes of the therapist help move fluids successfully out of clogged areas.

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As for the basics of how it works, foot reflexology simply refers to the reflexes that have been mapped out in the foot. There are many different foot reflexology charts that show where the reflexes are for every part of the body. Although it is like a massage, its principles are entirely different. It is thought that reflexology works through nerve endings, while massage focuses on the muscles and soft tissue of the body. This is where the practice gets its name; it works on the reflexes, not just the skin, muscle, or tissue. It should not be painful, though like in a massage there could be stressed areas of your body that are more tender or uncomfortable. However, the applied pressure to those areas, the less tender they will become.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, up to 25 percent of American adults had a massage at least once during 2016-2017. And, they have a wide range of reasons for doing so. More and more people -- especially baby boomers -- recognize the health benefits of massage. They choose from among many massage styles to get relief from symptoms or to heal injuries, to help with certain health conditions, and to promote overall wellness.

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Swedish massage was invented by a Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling in the 1830s. When he was injured in the elbows, he reportedly cured himself using tapping (percussion) strokes around the affected area. He later developed the technique currently known as Swedish massage. This technique was brought to the United States from Sweden by two brothers, Dr. Charles and Dr. George Taylor in the 1850s. The specific techniques used in Swedish massage involve the application of long gliding strokes, friction, and kneading and tapping movements on the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes passive or active joint movements are also used.
It’s just a theory: no one knows if this is actually effective.11 However, it may explain why so many massage patients report a “gets a bit worse before it gets much better” response to quite painful treatments: motor end plates are (painfully) destroyed by strong pressures, and then that tissue is quite sensitive and a bit weak as it heals over a day or two … and then you finally feel much better after that!

Continual improvement is the reason you train in the dead of winter, hammer up the hills on the bike, do track work, and train in the pouring rain. Well, that is the same reason you should get a good sports massage. After a massage you'll feel lighter, more powerful and more flexible, and all those nagging aches and pains can be addressed, helping to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the "Flying Finn," was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.

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Reflexology is primarily used by many people as a method of eliminating pain. As an analgesic treatment, reflexology can reduce the severity of a migraine and headache, simply by relieving tension in the muscles that can often result in these conditions. A headache induced by stress can also be eliminated since stress and psychological factors often manifest in the physical symptoms of a migraine.

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One of the greatest Persian medics was Avicenna, also known as Ibn Sina, who lived from 980AD to 1037AD. His works included a comprehensive collection and systematisation of the fragmentary and unorganised Greco-Roman medical literature that had been translated Arabic by that time, augmented by notes from his own experiences. One of his books, Al-Qānūn fī aṭ-Ṭibb (The Canon of Medicine) has been called the most famous single book in the history of medicine in both East and West. Avicenna excelled in the logical assessment of conditions and comparison of symptoms and took special note of analgesics and their proper use as well as other methods of relieving pain, including massage.
The Swedish body massage has become the most common massage practice in the West, and the one that’s associated with that quintessential massage blissfulness. That’s because of the soothing strokes and gentle kneading, which are meant to relax, not stimulate, the body. And yet studies have shown, Swedish massage reduces stress, promotes health, and prevents injuries. At most spas, Swedish massage is the most popular treatment, and it’s for good reason. It helps jangled nerves and release neck knots without being too demanding of the spa-goer. 

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Massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed or infected skin, skin rashes, unhealed or open wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, fragile bones, or areas of recent fractures. Massage may cause bruising and rarely, hematoma (a localized collection of blood outside of blood cells), venous thromboembolism, and a condition known as spinal accessory neuropathy.
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Massage has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, if you need or want a massage, you can choose from about 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of pressures, movements, and techniques. These all involve pressing, rubbing, or manipulating muscles and other soft tissues with hands and fingers. Sometimes, even forearms, elbows, or feet are used.
Referred pain spreads the goodness. Undoubtedly another reason that massage pain can feel good is the phenomenon of referred sensation. If you stimulate internal tissues anywhere in the body, muscle or otherwise, the brain really has trouble telling quite where the sensation is coming from. When you press hard enough on your muscles, particularly on sensitive trigger points, the pain is often experienced as though it originated from a much broader area.

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One narrative review in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine explains that the impact of using these two modalities combined are somewhat inconclusive, mainly due to research limitations; however, after looking at 21 randomized controlled trials, the author ultimately concluded that “the effects of cold and static compression are clearly better than no treatment.” 

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Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. One benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This is thought to contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection may also help facilitate better physical health.

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In this particular study, published in Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, therapeutic massage included techniques of tapping and friction, while DTM used “oblique pressure and a combination of lengthening and cross-fiber strokes.” All sessions were 30 minutes long and preformed daily, and all participants did not receive any other treatments during the course of the study. After 10 days, participants treated with DTM reported significant improvements in pain (lower back pain in this case) compared to those treated with therapeutic massage, based on scores using the Modified Oswestry Low Back Pain Disability Index, Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale and Visual Analog Scales. (4)

Pain is a stressor in the body system and any injury occurs to any part of the body will cause the whole system to be stressed.1 Endorphin is a body's natural pain-relieving chemical will be released as a response to reflexology. Endorphin teaches the body how to adapt any injuries. Those who practice reflexology in their life believe that healing from any injuries comes from the role of reflexology.3
Massage of Chinese Medicine is known as An Mo (按摩, pressing and rubbing) or Qigong Massage, and is the foundation of Japan's Anma. Categories include Pu Tong An Mo (general massage), Tui Na An Mo (pushing and grasping massage), Dian Xue An Mo (cavity pressing massage), and Qi An Mo (energy massage). Tui na (推拿) focuses on pushing, stretching, and kneading muscles, and Zhi Ya (指壓) focuses on pinching and pressing at acupressure points. Technique such as friction and vibration are used as well.[70]
Bastian B, Jetten J, Hornsey MJ, Leknes S. The Positive Consequences of Pain: A Biopsychosocial Approach. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Apr;18(3):256–279. PubMed #24727972. Bastian et al. write about “pain’s capacity to produce positive consequences, thereby decoupling the experience of pain from the experience of suffering” — pain’s silver linings, basically. BACK TO TEXT

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The proper design, control, and intervention protocols of research on reflexology remain debatable. The use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) is the golden standard in assessing the efficacy of complementary therapies such as reflexology.34 Verhoef et al. have described the challenges when researching complementary therapies: standardization of regimented treatment that limit the individualization of treatment; client's focus on health with restricted roles for disease treatment; ethical issues involving the recruitment and randomization due to participants pre-conceived belief on reflexology; practicality of applying sham reflexology; interference of psychological influence on rapport between patient-provider.35
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Prenatal massage can be a safe way for women to get a massage during pregnancy. It can help reduce pregnancy body aches, reduce stress, and ease muscle tension. You can get a massage at any time during your pregnancy. However, many facilities, especially in the United States, do not offer massages to women in their first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage during this time.
Certain massage therapists have specialized training in techniques that help treat people with injuries, inflammation, tears and limitations. Although more than one massage session is usually needed to provide relief and see improvements in pain, well-trained therapists can usually recommend practices or stretches for you to try at home that can further help improve healing.

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Massage may be an appropriate technique for helping certain sports injuries, especially muscle injuries, to heal. When treating an injury, however, it is best to seek advice from a qualified sports therapist or a specialist in sports medicine before performing any massage. Certain ligament and joint injuries that need immobilization and expert attention may be aggravated by massage. 

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