For absolutely no good reason, I’ve only had about three massages in my entire life and two of those happened in the last two years. Despite this, I love them IMMENSELY, but I never really know which type means what or how it’s going to help me.

Like, sometimes I want to go because my left calf won’t stop knotting up every time I hit the gym (wtf even is that?), others because I just want to chill out and treat myself. I figure I can’t be the only one with no clue, so I’ve done the groundwork for all of us so we can work out what type of massage we should book next.

Chilling Out & Feeling Good

Swedish

This is the one most people are thinking off when they want a massage. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to the massage world, and can certainly help with cramped or tense muscles, but is gentler and more relaxing than other types. You’ll get a combo of movements like sweeping strokes and muscle kneading.

Aromatherapy

You’ll probably want to be a believer of aromatherapy and the powers of essential oils for this one, but if that’s your jam then this is a super relaxing massage option for you. It’s essentially a combo of Swedish massage techniques with essential oils to also better your mood and relieve stress.

Hot Stone

I never really got this one, because it looks like the therapists just chuck hot stones on your back and leave you to it. I have now discovered that IS an element, but the stones are also used to actually massage you. So basically it’s a Swedish massage adding the elements of heat (and sometimes cold) to further relax tense muscles. Apparently, the stones can be really quite hot at times though, FYI.

Getting Down To Business

Deep Tissue

Let’s start here because it always sounded the most intimidating to me – and it seems I wasn’t wrong. Basically, it’s going to hurt. The therapist uses knuckles and elbows to put a whole lot of pressure specifically on your knotted muscles. It’s more commonly used for elite athletes, to help breakdown scar tissue after a person has undergone, and healed from, physical therapy or people with “dense tissue”.

Trigger Point

This one is along the same lines as Deep Tissue, with the main difference being that Deep Tissue is still using traditional massage techniques to work the problem area, whereas Trigger Point is literally just pressing down on the one spot on the problem area that’ll relax the tight muscle – think what you ask your friends to do when you get a knot in your shoulders. Or at least, what I ask them to do.

Sports

You don’t have to be a professional, but yes this massage is for the very physically active. It uses a combination of Swedish, Shiatsu and other massage techniques to concentrate and improve areas that are specifically used in your sport. It might be used to prepare for peak performance and injury prevention at an event, but also to treat injuries.

If It Floats Your Boat

Shiatsu

Originating in Japan, this one is all about calming TF down. It works the whole body with pulsing or rhythmic pressure – Shiatsu literally means “finger pressure” – to balance the flow of your energies. No, there is no concrete scientific evidence that it works, but those who love it swear it relieves stress and pain. You can also stay clothed for this one, if that’s a comfort factor for you.

Reflexology

Another one that keeps you fully clothed, reflexology works by working the pressure points of hands, feet and ears. Again, no scientific evidence for this one, but if you’re a believer of that whole ‘press here to relieve over there’ theory, then this might be your jam. I will say that the only pressure point I know is the one in the hand that is meant to relieve headaches and I feel like that works, so who knows?

Thai

Look it’s such a common one that I had to include it on here, but please note that during uni I worked in a healthfood store that had two clinical masseuses renting out the backrooms (wayyy more legit than I just made it sound), and they told me half their clients were people who needed to be fixed after going for a Thai massage. Make of that what you will, but if you go maybe be sure to check they’re reputable first?

Image: FRIENDS