What's the Difference ......... Massage Styles
Clients often ask: "What's the difference between the various types of
massage." They want to be sure that they are making the correct choice
for their needs. Friends have told them: "Oh, I had a Shiatsu, or Thai
or Swedish, and it was the best ever!"
A good therapist will be able to perform a number of different styles
and combine them so that you can get the best treatment. As the paying
customer, you should be able to sit down with your therapist and
describe your needs rather than just have to pick one option. The
therapist can then adapt the massage to you. It would be very
frustrating to go for a massage for those achy shoulders and find that
the therapist spends half the time working on your legs.
So as a short lesson in improving your understanding of the subject, here is an outline of some of the better-known massage styles.
This is arguably the best known style and is one of the most widely
used in Irish hotel spas because of its relaxing benefits. It's the
one I recommend if a client is unsure about the different styles.
The client undresses to their own level of comfort and is covered by warm
towels. Often, the special massage bed is also heated.
The therapist uses a number of different massage strokes, normally
with oil to reduce friction and make the treatment more pleasant and
relaxing. These strokes serve to relax the tense muscles and help
release any trapped toxins. It's a really nice treatment, especially
for the novice who hasn't had a massage before. A good Irish hotel spa
will provide a nice environment, with relaxing music and candles to
really enhance the whole experience.
It's a good idea to chat with the therapist before the treatment if
it's your first time. I spend a lot of time with new clients,
answering any questions and demonstrating the various strokes before I
start. That way you can thoroughly relax and enjoy the whole experience.
This massage usually involves the whole body, back and front of legs,
back, shoulders, neck, shoulders, hands, arms, abdomen and face. The
pressure is usually light to medium, depending on the client's wishes.
Another popular style is Sports Massage. This uses all of the
techniques from Swedish Massage, plus some additional intensive
techniques that are specifically designed to prevent and treat sports
injuries. These include stretches and more vigorous strokes.
Usually the massage will focus on the particular muscles used in the
client's particular sport, whether this is golf, tennis, rowing, GAA,
soccer, rugby, basketball or whatever.
That being said, you don't have to be a sports person to benefit from
a Sports Massage. A lot of my clients are businesswomen and men who
lead very stressful lives, with a lot of travel and long working
hours. I find that Sports Massage really helps them work on the
problem areas, such as shoulders or lower back. I use a lot of
different strokes and stretches to help them improve their flexibility
and circulation and relieve tension in those problem areas.
Sports people will tend to use Sports Massage for improved
performance, injury prevention and quick recovery.
The techniques I use vary depending on whether the person is preparing
for an event or recovering from one. If it's before an event, the
focus is on waking up the muscles and preparing joints for maximum
exertion. After a sports event, I work on the tired muscles to help
them eliminate toxins and speed recovery.
This is another style that I get a lot of questions about. Many
people say they want a deep tissue massage, because that's what their
friend recommended. When you ask them though, they actually have no
idea what it means.
When you ask people to point out their muscles, people will usually
point to the biceps in the arm, or perhaps their legs, or if they
want bonus points, they point to the heart. The body is actually
covered in muscle, to make the skeleton move in all directions. Deep
Tissue massage uses pressure on the top muscles to affect the
I use various parts of my body, such as elbow, thumbs and fingertips,
forearm to work on the affected areas. The strokes are slow and deep
and can be a little painful. With techniques such as Swedish Massage,
you tend to work along the grain of the muscle, in Deep Tissue you
work more across the fibres to release tension.
Because it is very effective, but can be painful, I usually don't ring
my client for feedback until 2 days after the treatment.
During a Shiatsu massage, the client is fully clothed while the
therapist applies pressure to energy lines along the body. The purpose
of this is to release any blockages along these lines and allow energy
to flow more freely.
This kind of massage can be useful where the client cannot get
undressed for a massage. I use some of these techniques when I do
office massage, also known as chair massage or seated massage.
Progressive companies will pay for a therapist to come to the office
and offer short treatments to its employees. It is often used in
Irish spa hotels for conferences or conventions. I use a special chair
where the client sits so that their back, neck, shoulders, arms and
hands can be worked on.
These chair massages tend to be for 10 or 15 minutes and are used to
incentivise and reward office workers or indeed to attract people to
your stand at conferences. The techniques can also be used during a conventional massage.
Described sometimes as assisted yoga, Thai massage is carried out on a
futon or mat on the floor. Here the client remains fully clothed,
though it's suggested that you wear lose-fitting clothing. The
therapist uses their hands and feet to apply pressure to the muscles
and to carry out a range of gentle stretching movements. It's usually carried out in silence, allowing time for meditation and
Some of the techniques are quite progressive and should only be
attempted by someone who is extremely flexible, but your therapist
will be happy to advise you.
So, now you should know your Shiatsu from your Thai, and your Swedish
from your Sports massage. There are other styles also, so the
important thing to remember is that you are the customer, ask
questions to ensure you get the massage that is just right for you.
That after all is the most important point. Your therapist wants the best result for you ...... and, of course, so do you. Already, both of you are working together. Exactly as it should be.