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Types of Spa Massage Treatments

Posted by Emin Andreasian on

Massage therapy treatment is now widely accepted as part of complementary alternative medicine (CAM). They’re a widely popular way for people to not only blow off steam, but ease some minor ailments in the process. We’re breaking down a list of massage types so that you can consider adding to your spa or salon’s offerings this year.



Aromatherapy is a popular spa massage therapy treatment because it goes well with many other massage techniques; even the more vigorous ones. It's important to use the best quality oils that your budget allows, and at a very least, they should be steam distilled. Solvent extracted oils are less expensive, but are usually an inferior product and may have a chemical odor. You want your client basking in the treatment’s scent, not recoiling from it.

Aromatherapy oils used for massage are selected depending on the desired result. A therapist may use a commercially blended oil or select his or her own oils to combine. Essential oils can energize, uplift, or relax; they can help combat various ailments such as back pain, digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, and many other health issues.

Therapists should determine beforehand whether the client has allergies or if she is pregnant. Some essential oils should not be used during certain times of the pregnancy and some may trigger an allergic reaction. However, essential oils are generally deemed safe for most people. Do a bit of research up front about the kinds of oils you want to stock in your facility, and that prep work will pay dividends for as long as you’re offering aromatherapy.


Swedish Massage

By far the most common and most frequently requested technique, Swedish massage uses long, sweeping strokes to relax the body, and the massage can be performed with or without oil. Lack of oil provides more friction which loosens the fascia more quickly and may yield a more productive massage if the client is seeking muscle tension relief.

Swedish massages are particularly effective at speeding recovery to a client who has been injured. It stimulates blood circulation to the area and increases the efficacy of the lymphatic system, which speeds healing of the injured tissues.

There are five types of massage strokes used in a Swedish massage:

  • Effleurage, which are the long, sweeping strokes
  • Petrissage, which are the kneading, lifting, and rolling actions
  • Friction, which can be a small, circular movement
  • Tapotement, which is a percussive movement
  • Vibration, which rocks the client back and forth quickly

Swedish massage is one of the best massage therapy techniques for including aromatherapy. Both Swedish and aromatherapy are conducive to relaxation and alleviating stress, which is one of the main reasons clients seek massage treatments.


Deep Tissue

Deep tissue massage focuses on sore spots, adhesions, and trigger points that may arise in the body. It's not always as relaxing as Swedish because the focus is on eliminating problem areas deep in the muscle tissue rather than providing relaxation and stress relief.

Deep tissue massage is often used for those who experience chronic pain or who have old injuries that inhibit mobility. Repetitive stress injuries and osteoarthritis pain usually respond well to deep tissue massage.

Although not as relaxing as a Swedish massage, a deep tissue massage shouldn't be excruciating! If the pain becomes uncomfortable or intolerable, clients should immediately notify their therapist and the therapist should regularly ask the client about their pain level. Some clients will keep quiet for fear of offending the practitioner, which is why it’s your job to communicate throughout and ensure the client is comfortable with the level of pressure applied.



Shiatsu is a Japanese technique that resembles deep tissue massage. One main difference is that shiatsu uses the acupressure points to improve balance and energy flow rather than to stimulate healing to a specific area, although this can occur as a side effect.

In shiatsu, the client remains clothed and no oils or lotions are used. Shiatsu can promote healing, increase energy levels, and stimulate efficiency of the digestive system.


Thai Massage

Thai massage combines stretching, yoga, and massage to energetically align the body while increasing range of motion and reducing stress. It's also often considered effective for reducing migraines and improving balance. Like shiatsu, the client remains clothed during a Thai massage.


Sports Massage

Sports massage is a more vigorous type of massage that can help athletes to prepare for an event. The rapid strokes use friction to encourage blood flow, which increases the athlete's range of motion and flexibility. Techniques used in sports massage include compression, friction, joint mobilization, and pressure point therapy. Those who aren't athletes but have muscle injuries or a restricted range of motion may also benefit from sports massage.


Pregnancy Massage

Pregnancy massage, also referred to as prenatal massage, can help alleviate some of the lower back pain and stress that can occur during pregnancy. Please note that pregnancy massages should only be performed by therapists who have been specially trained in the technique.

It's vital to provide adequate support for the pregnant woman's body, and certain areas should be avoided. For those who are contemplating adding pregnancy massage to their spa massage therapy menu, be sure to have a therapist who specializes in pregnancy massage. Selective aromatherapy can be used, but again, some oils should be avoided during parts of the pregnancy.



Reflexology dates back to the ancients but has seen a revival in recent decades. Clients remove only their shoes and socks, and the therapist massages and applies pressure to points on the feet that correspond to specific areas of the body. Reflexology stimulates endorphins just as Swedish massage does, which causes the body to relax and the stress levels to fall.


Hot Stone Massage

A slight misnomer, hot stone therapy uses warm (not hot!) stones to relax and loosen muscles and sore spots. The stones are placed strategically, depending on the location of the sore spots or tight muscles, which increases the effectiveness of the massage strokes. Basalt stones are used for hot stone therapy because basalt retains heat well. This type of massage is contraindicated with certain health issues such as high blood pressure, varicose veins, or for those who take blood thinners. Make sure the therapist is trained in the use of hot stones and isn’t just heating stones to random temperatures and placing them on the body.

As you can see, massages come in many different varieties and styles. You’ll find that clients have a particular affinity for one style or another, which means it’s in the interest of your spa to offer as many choices as are feasible to make sure you can reach as many clients as possible.

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