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What Are the Different Massage Therapy Styles?

Posted Wednesday, Sep 9, 2020 by Altierus

Interested in training to become a massage therapist? Massage can offer clients many benefits, from relaxation to renewed range of motion. In a massage therapy training program, you’ll learn foundational concepts in human anatomy and physiology, along with several different massage styles. These aren’t just individual techniques—they’re entirely different approaches to treating patients. Each style has its own applications. This article covers a few of the most well-known massage therapy styles.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is probably one of the most common types of massage therapy. Developed to help patients with tension, stress and joint stiffness, Swedish massage lasts 30 to 90 minutes.

This form of massage utilizes five separate types of massage strokes:

  • Effleurage (gliding strokes)
  • Petrissage (squeezing and kneading)
  • Tapotement (tapping or patting the body)
  • Friction (rubbing to warm an area)
  • Vibration (shaking the body)

During a Swedish massage, the therapist may also move the patient’s limbs to relieve tension. Swedish massage is usually performed with the patient unclothed and covered by a sheet. The therapist will move the sheet throughout the treatment to access different areas of the patient’s body. The goal is to relieve everyday tension and help the patient relax.

Deep-Tissue Massage

Deep-tissue massage draws on many of the techniques in Swedish massage but uses more pressure. In deep-tissue massage, the therapist may press hard with fingers or elbows in specific areas to relieve tension in the muscles and connective tissues.

Deep-tissue massage can also break up scar tissue in strained or injured muscles. It’s primarily used for more acute pain relief, although some people may find this more intense style of massage relaxing!

Trigger-Point Massage (or Myofascial Release Therapy)

People who have chronic deep muscle pain due to repetitive strain can sometimes develop “trigger points”—extremely sensitive places in the myofascial tissues that surround and protect muscles.

Trigger-point massage, also known as myofascial release therapy, can help alleviate pain in these areas. A massage therapist will apply sustained pressure on the trigger point or massage around it in order to release tension and relieve pain.

Sports Massage

Sports massage incorporates techniques from other styles and applies them to the specific needs of athletes. Massage therapists will tailor a sports massage depending on whether the athlete is looking to improve performance, restore range of motion, relieve pain or aid in recovery from hard workouts and events.

Hot Stone Massage

Hot stone massage involves heating flat rocks and placing them on various areas of the body before, during or after the area is massaged. These areas usually include the back, shoulders, and neck. Usually, the hot stones are made of basalt, a volcanic rock which is effective at retaining heat.

Sometimes, a massage therapist will hold the hot rocks in his or her hands and use them to massage the client’s body. Hot stone massages are often used in spas for relaxation, but like other massage techniques, clients may also experience pain relief or tension reduction during a hot stone massage.

Prenatal Massage

Like sports massage, prenatal massage combines techniques from other massage styles and applies them to a specific client—in this case, pregnant people. Prenatal massages are less intense than other massages. They aim to relieve the various discomforts that can crop up during pregnancy, such as lower back pain or swollen lower limbs.

Massage that is too intense or involves pressure on the abdomen must be avoided during a prenatal massage to avoid causing discomfort to the client. Pregnant clients who are more than four months pregnant should also avoid lying on their backs or stomachs during a prenatal massage—lying on the side or sitting over a chair is better.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant clients can benefit from massage at any stage of a pregnancy. Clients who have been diagnosed with certain risk factors, such as pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure) should probably avoid massage. 

Train for a Massage Therapy Career

Does massage therapy sound like an exciting career path to you? Learn more about the massage therapy diploma program at Altierus Career College today!


Train for a career in Massage Therapy

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