Types of Massages and Benefits of Each

Massage, one of the oldest of the Healing Arts has a history dating back at least to 3000 BC and became a recognized part of the Healing Profession when it was endorsed about 460 to 380 BC by the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who it is believed learned the art from Herodicus. It was thought at that time that disease resulted from natural causes and the body had the power to heal itself. A written code of ethics that became the Hippocratic Oath in which Hippocrates said: hard rubbing binds…much rubbing causes part to waste and moderate rubbing makes them grow.

Thru the ages the Art of Massage took on many new faces and its advantages and proponents of utilizing it as a Medical Modality have continued to grow and change until it has evolved into the many facets that we see and will discuss in more detail for your information.

Chinese and Japanese medicines have always incorporated Massage into their Health Care Professions. In fact the names and techniques of many types we are going to discuss came from these two cultures and the names they carry reflect their origin.

Before discussing the different types of Massage used today and their benefits, I want to briefly touch on the subject of MODALITIES USED IN THE MASSAGE PROFESSION.

Tony Little, your Personal Trainer, offers several of these modalities for sale through his businesses.

For example, vibrators and even chairs that invert, recline putting your feet above the rest of your body, that produce both vibration and relaxing and soothing heat are available. He offers simple hand held vibrators that send wave after wave of relaxing movement into the body’s deep tissue as well as heat that thins blood, thus, increasing blood flow to all parts massaged with the instrument. The Inversion Chairs place your feet and legs above the rest of the body as you relax to the soothing vibration and heat provided the entire dorsal side of your body. A chief advantage of having the feet and legs raised above the rest of the body is to return blood flow to the heart, lungs and even the brain. Keep in mind how important it is to have the blood flow returned to these organs as the blood is purified in the lungs, the heart is able to function with greater ease as less pull from gravity makes pumping the blood through the entire body much easier. Finally, the brain benefits again from the reverse pull of gravity taking the blood flow from the lower extremities and sending it directly to the head and the master brain computer.

In addition to these modalities, Tony’s businesses offer Percussion Massage modalities which allow for deeper penetration into the deep muscular tissues. This is important as often persons massaging the body do not have the strength or endurance to send this deep pulsating action deep enough or for long enough periods to be beneficial to break up muscular spasms or deep tissue injuries.

He also offers Shiatsu modalities that stimulate superficial and deep tissue of the body. These modalities give deep acupressure massage to areas treated and give one the feeling of moving thumbs pressing deeply as they move up and down the area of treatment. The chief benefit of this is much like the treatment by hand that increases energy flow to the body part being treated by the modality.

An up and coming field of modalities for treating the body more and more includes the use of water either through waves where heat may or may not be included. This includes both dry and moist heat, water in motion such as a whirlpool or footbaths and even vibrators that include moving water with or without heat. Infra light is often associated with modalities where water therapy is included. Tony offers some products of this nature at this time and hopes to increase his use of water wave therapy in future modality development. Water as a modality has long been a part of the healing process as it is a gentle but effective way of increasing blood flow to injured areas. Increased blood flow to a body part means the amount of oxygen, the body’s healer, is increased thus promoting a more rapid recovery period of injuries sustained.

Now, let’s discuss in more detail the different types of massage being offered today by persons trained in the fields of both Physical and Massage Therapies.

SWEDISH MASSAGE: This is usually the style of massage most people picture in their mind when the word, “Massage,” is spoken. This involves the use of seven different techniques during the treatment session. Effleurage, Petrissage, Friction, Vibration, Percussion, Passive/Active Movements, and Nerve Strokes are the techniques the Massage Therapist is trained to perform in order to carry out this form of care. It involves the use of long slow strokes of the body tissue, some deep rubbing is often incorporated into the treatment, as well as some shaking or mild stroking of body parts by the hands formed in the shape of cups or the small finger striking the body parts with all fingers being slightly apart to add pressure to the mild hitting of the body.

If the client is experiencing a joint range of motion problem a number of Passive Movements in which the, “Client is assisted in moving the joint,” or Active Movements where, “the Client is instructed in movement of the joint by themselves” may be incorporated as part of the massage.

The Swedish massage usually ends with Nerve Strokes where the Therapist just lightly goes over the entire body with finger tips lightly stroking the entire body.

Benefits of the Swedish massage are considered to be an increase of circulation of blood through the body. These physiologically results in an increase of Oxygen to all parts of the body and thus the reduction of Lactic Acid which tires muscles and the body in general. Another benefit is the reduction of stress and the bodies’ nervous system in general. Lymph nodes and other body glands are drained though this treatment as well. In general it is believed to just promote a healthy body physically and mentally and over all well being.

SPORTS MASSAGE: This form of massage is related mostly to those who participate in different forms of athletic activity. It is usually utilized for a specific reason to a specific body part or section that has been injured in some type of recreational, professional, or personal exercise activity. The person receiving this type of massage may receive treatment by a Massage Therapist, Physical Therapist, or Athletic Trainer. Sometimes this type of care is offered not only for the treatment of an injury but also for the prevention of athletic injuries as well. It often is considered as a form of enhancing performance of athletes in their particular group or individual sport. It may be used before, during and after an athletic event.

The benefits of this type of massage most often depend upon the athlete and the specific outcomes desired by the individual, his manager, coach, etc.

CHAIR MASSAGE: This type of massage is becoming more and more popular in today’s world of high stress in the work place. Although it is not entirely used as a form of stress management more and more businesses are encouraging this type of therapy. It is performed with the client fully clothed and sitting on a specifically designed chair with the face resting in a holder much like that found on modern massage tables.

The person being treated relaxes for a period of ten to twenty minutes as the therapist performs a kneading of the neck, and shoulder muscles and eventually works their way down the back of the client with friction rubbing and often some acupressure or Trigger Point Therapy, where pressure is applied with the thumbs or some specifically designed massage device to areas of stress or pain that is recognized by the trained hands of a skilled therapist.

The benefits include the relaxed states in which the clients find themselves during the treatment as well as the release of pain resulting from lactic acid that is stored in certain areas of the client’s body being treated. A really great benefit of this type of massage is the convenience of being able to perform it anywhere such as the workplace, health clubs, malls, health food stores, airports, private locations, parties, etc. People who are shy about removing their clothing for a massage find this a most beneficial health care modality.

SHIATSU: This massage method is related to Acupressure therapy. It has been used for probably more than 1000 years in Japan and other Asian countries. Meridians or imaginary lines are followed through the body in this form of massage. Pressure, usually with the Thumb is applied along these body pathways at different locations. It may be slightly painful for some people and often the client may experience soreness of areas treated and sometimes the skin will evidence broken blood capillaries and dark spots appear to the eye. This is temporary and will go away in a few days.

Benefits of this form of massage are related as being stimulation of the flow of energy to the parts being treated. Sometimes the person performing the treatment may resort to using their elbows, knees, or feet to apply different amounts of pressure to the area of treatment. Other benefits purported are pain relief and even to relax and promote healing of illnesses.

ACCUPRESSURE OR DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE: As mentioned above this form of massage is incorporated in Shiatsu and many other forms of massage treatments. Again, the thumb is often used to apply pressure to different spots on the body. Many times the therapist will incorporate a wooden or hard plastic type instrument to apply the pressure. This saves the therapist from having health problems develop in their hand joints such as arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Benefits are much like those experienced in other forms of massage and once more the client may experience some pain or soreness at the points treated as well as bruises due to the great amount of pressure applied, but once more most people receiving this type of treatment declare relief of pain in areas treated and many state this form of treatment is quite relaxing both emotionally and physiologically.

This type of treatment is often called TRIGGER POINT THERAPY by some practitioners.

REFLEXOLOGY: This type of massage treatment was developed by a woman in New York City. Her name was Eunice Inghram. Her nephew used to go with his Aunt Eunice as she went about treating people for various kinds of ailments and learned much from her. He continues to teach his aunt’s method of treatment all over the country. He is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida. His aunt was credited with not only helping many people back to a healthy lifestyle which traditional Medical Practitioners had given up as incurable, but she also dealt with those other medical conditions to which no other medical field could offer simple relief of pain.

Like Acupressure and some of the other therapies we have already mentioned she based her treatment on the meridian lines that run through the body that we spoke of earlier. The difference in her treatment was that her major point of attack during treatment was in those locations where these meridians ended in the hands and feet. Many books are written on this subject some include a little poem that stresses her mode of care:

If you’re feeling out of kilter

Don’t know why and what about;

Let your feet reveal the reason,

Find the sore spots, work them out.

Benefits of Reflexology are credited with stimulation of congested and related body organs and is said to be cleared out. In general it is used as a means to help the body restore itself to health once more.

ROLFING ( aka STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION ): This massage treatment has quite an interesting history and came about as the results of woman who lived in the Chicago area. The traditional medical community gave up on her illness that developed and could find no further treatment or cure for the state of her health. She was told by her doctors to prepare to spend her remaining lifetime in a wheel chair. Her name was Ida Rolf. Ms. Rolf did not accept the opinions of the medical professionals and looked at the state of her health. She decided life in a wheel chair was not for her. So, she began to study her own body and work on it herself. She concluded that simple day to day living activities could cause the body to become out of proper alignment thus weakening the entire body system. She began working the myofascial (soft tissue) of her body in several ways and kept careful documentation to both what she did to her body and the results she obtained from doing the different techniques. A whole new field of massage grew out of this and bears her name today.

After ten or so treatment sessions, Ms. Rolf was up walking and devoted the rest of her life to teaching her method of treatment. She encountered a lot of problems with the traditional medical community in the United States and moved her business to Canada, where a number of devoted patients, friends, etc built and established a clinic for her to perform her practice. Thus this has grown into a field of Massage Therapy on its’ own and is performed by therapist trained and Certified in the field of Rolfing.

The chief benefit believed to be achieved by the Rolfing treatment is rebalancing and structuring the soft tissue of the body. People who have been helped through this method of care sing her praises highly. One interesting point I would make is that Ms. Rolf herself stressed taking only patients the traditional medical community had given up hopes for in this country. She was allowed to treat some patients in hospital on whom all hope had been given up for recovery. Many responded to her treatment and thus she was not well received by members of the traditional medical community which lead to her move to Canada during the latter years of her life.

HOT/COLD STONE MASSAGE: This is a relative new form of massage although it probably has a long history if researched. During the treatment with HOT or COLD stones it is determined what parts of the body will be treated. Either HOT or COLD stones are placed in various places along the meridians once more. During the treatment the stones are massaged or moved back and forth over the body areas being treated. HOT items diffuse or thin blood in the body tissues and COLD on the other hand propels the blood out of the tissue. Again, these would both remove lactic acid from the tissue where treatment is occurring. The stones are moved around with light pressure.

Again the benefit of removing lactic acid from the areas being treated is a major benefit, plus the light moving back and forth relaxes the client and thus stress is reduced.

This method of care is becoming more and more popular as the public become aware of it.

REIKI: This form of massage was brought to the United States in the 1930’s by a Japanese monk. Thus, this form of massage carries both physical or hands on care of the client as well as the belief in Spiritual Growth. During the treatment the therapist places their hands in specific positions on or above the problem the client is experiencing. This along with some vibration of the area is believed to promote the benefit of transmitting healing or “living energy” to the client.

The long range benefits are believed to be the relief of pain, healing illnesses, and spiritual growth for the person being treated. One must never underestimate the “POWER OF TOUCH” which is the basis of all massage.

THAI MASSAGE: We are beginning to hear more about this type of massage in the United States. As a treatment it may be considered as a combination of shiatsu, acupressure, and some yoga. Once more pressure is applied to the body meridians to stimulate blood flow and increase energy to body parts. Muscle aches and pains are relieved during the process as well as joint movement being increased and tension taken off stressed joints. The exercise or yoga type movements are very important in increasing flexibility of the client’s body. Older people need this as they are often living a sedentary lifestyle.

As mentioned above the benefits include relief of pain, increased blood flow through the body, muscular and joint pain is relieved and flexibility is improved for those whose bodies are stiff in general.

FRIEND TO FRIEND MASSAGE: Not all massage must be performed by a trained Massage Therapist. Husband and wives, and just friends may find that by simply applying some lotion and rubbing the back, feet, etc of their mate or friend gives the person great pleasure and benefit. We all love to be touched and need it at certain points in our lives. Naturally the results or benefits are not going to be in any manner close to what a trained, professional person would achieve.

The benefit of simply being touched is not only relaxing but my have psychological results as well. It gives the receiver the feeling of being special and loved. Often time this type of massage may lead to more intimate things happening and many books are available to give you a better understanding of the reason massage may not only be relaxing but stimulating. The main thing is to enjoy what you are doing and don’t forget to reciprocate by offering the person massaging you the same experience.

INFANT MASSAGE: We all know that babies love attention and mothers are being taught today to add massage or gently rubbing of a baby while they are infants. This is not only beneficial in keeping child healthy, but soothing as the baby may be suffering during the teething process and in moments of fright or other pain.

Studies are being presented that claim babies receiving daily massage appear to gain weight faster and later in life do not seem to experience some of the physical, neurological, and psychological problems that infants who did not receive the same attention experience.

SELF MASSAGE: We must not forget to be good to ourselves as well. If you cannot afford professional massage, or have a friend or partner you feel comfortable with asking to perform massage on you; as TONY LITTLE always says, “YOU CAN DO IT!” Purchase some lotion that smells good to you and give yourself a massage. Simply pour some lotion into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together to warm the lotion before beginning to rub your face, neck, shoulders, arms etc until you have lovingly rubbed your entire body. Take long slow strokes as you rub your body. You are able to tell the amount of pressure you can tolerate. Go deep enough to feel the motions, but not to the point that it is painful.

The benefits are the same as with any other massage you may receive. More important you are being good to yourself as well as exploring your own body. If you notice any unusual things such as a mole, lump under the skin, etc that does not seem natural to you or you had not noticed previously; call it to the attention of your doctor on your next visit. This exploring of your own body with self massage or even massaging your body while bathing may save your life if you come upon something that does not look or feel normal to you.

PET MASSAGE: Talk about a love of massage we must never forget our furry friends. Like the old saying, “Watch a man and his dog.” Dogs love having not only their ears scratched, but entire body massaged.

In fact, some people think that man got the idea of rubbing the body from watching animals massage their own bodies while licking their bodies’ hours at a time. Watch a mother cat care for her kittens.

Pet massage has developed into a whole new field of massage therapy practice that is becoming more and more recognized. Horses for example are now being given entire body massages similar to people.

The benefits of this are the satisfaction one receives from offering this service to what may be your BEST FRIEND in the world. Animals like people are often scared, stressed, injured, or just need to know that someone cares about them. The physiological benefits to animals are the same as for people. It increases blood flow, relieves pain, stress, improves joint and general flexibility, and finally shows that you really love and care for them.


This article was contributed to Tony Little’s web site, at Tony’s request to enhance the knowledge of his clients in this realm of natural health care. Tony is able to help in this area by manufacturing and selling several modalities for your use in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The article was written by Dr. Lloyd J. Minter who maintained a clinic in Clearwater, FL where allopathic, holistic, physical and massage therapies, acupuncture, colon therapy, nutritional guidance etc were offered. Dr. Minter completed his undergraduate work at Salem College, Salem, WV, with graduate work completed at Ohio University, Ohio State, and Ohio Christian. He is presently retired and working with Health International Corporation in a consultant capacity.