Massage is a type of treatment that involves manipulating the body’s soft tissues, primarily the muscles. Massage may be performed by a trained massage therapist in a clinical context. The massage therapist may use their hands, forearms, elbows, or even feet to apply pressure to the soft tissues. There are dozens of different types of massages that originate from various therapeutic traditions, such as Ayurvedic massage or Swedish massage. Types of massages vary largely in action and intensity.



Massage may be used to promote relaxation or to treat specific conditions, such as chronic pain, traumatic injuries, tense muscles, repetitive strain injuries, or poor circulation. Massage therapists may work at sports or fitness centers, nursing homes, spas, hospitals, and private practices. They may also offer to come to patients’ workplaces or homes.

massage therapy

Popular Types of Massage

There are over 80 different types of massages. In the United States, the following are some of the most popular:

  • Swedish Massage: is a very gentle technique. It is used to improve circulation and also to relieve the buildup of tension in the muscles. The therapist uses kneading in conjunction with long strokes and circular movements to encourage relaxation.
  • Hot Stone Massage: is a technique that involves placing heated stones on certain areas of the body. The stones warm and loosen the muscles and balance the body’s energy centers. The massage therapist may apply slight pressure to the stones to relieve tension in the muscles.
  • Deep Tissue Massage: is used to access lower layers of muscle and also the connective tissues. It may be painful as the massage therapist uses friction and pressure to manipulate deep tissues. Deep tissue massages are used to treat chronically tight muscles, repetitive strain injuries, postural issues, and injuries.
  • Trigger Point Massage: is another intense technique. The therapist applies intense pressure to tight muscles or knots in the muscles and continues until tension is relieved and the muscle relaxes.


There is a limited amount of evidence-based research on massage therapy and its effectiveness. However, some research studies have concluded that massage has a beneficial effect on some patients. One such study concluded that a single massage therapy session could reduce situation-based stress, blood pressure, and heart rate. Multiple massage sessions were shown to reduce depression, pain, and general anxiety. Some studies have shown that massage therapy is effective in improving the situations of those suffering from specific conditions, such as individuals with lower back pain, hospice patients with advanced stage cancer, and chronic neck pain.

Masseuse treating clients shoulder in massage chair

Benefits and Risks

Massage is generally considered a safe form of medical treatment. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is the mark of whether or not an individual has the required training and experienced to be called a massage therapist. If you decide to get a massage, you should check to see if your therapist is NCBTM certified before proceeding. It is still important to inform your doctor if you are seeing a massage therapist. If you have health insurance, massage therapy may not be covered.