Your guide to choosing a massage therapy

written by The WellBeing Team


Massage therapy involves the systematic manipulation of the body’s soft tissue structures in order to alleviate physical pain and/or discomfort and improve general health and wellbeing. As more people search for natural and holistic remedies to their ailments, the range of massage therapies available in the Western world has significantly expanded over recent years. While this is fantastic news, it can also be greatly confusing; with so many different and exotic styles offering so many different benefits, how do you know which massage therapy is best suited for your condition? The first step to finding your perfect massage therapy is gathering the facts.

Aromatherapy as massage therapy

Aromatherapy massage therapy uses specialised mixtures of concentrated essential oils to treat a range of mental and physical conditions. When the essential oil molecules are inhaled, messages are transmitted to the limbic system via the nostrils to positively affect heart rate, stress level, blood pressure, breathing, memory, digestion, and the immune system. The oils, specifically combined to either calm, uplift, energise, cleanse or decongest, are also absorbed into the skin, where their benefits are believed to seep further into the body. Aromatherapy massage therapy is known to assist with stress and stress-related conditions such as insomnia, headaches, digestive disorders, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and back pain.

Chinese massage therapy

There are five encompassing treatment components to traditional Chinese massage therapy:

  1. Amno, for rejuvenation and health maintenance.
  2. Tuina, a medical massage therapy used to treat injuries, joint and muscle problems and internal disorders.
  3. Infant Tuina, a specialised treatment for babies and children
  4. Dian Xue, utilising point press techniques similar to Acupressure.
  5. Wai Qi Liao Fa, curing with external qi (energy)

Central to all components exists the idea that massage therapy affects the physical body with the qi body of energy and the mental/emotional body. Chinese massage therapy manipulates the points where blockages of qi can occur. Massage therapy techniques are understood to activate and regulate the flow of qi and blood and promote relaxation which eases pain, spasms, increases flexibility and straightens the joints.

Hot stone massage therapy

During hot rock massage therapy, heated, smooth, flat basalt rocks are placed on specific points of the back, in the palms of the hand, or between the toes, to relax muscles. The warmth of the hot stones almost instantly improves circulation and calms the nervous system. Lithos cold stone therapy has a similar effect, stimulating lymphatic flow and cleansing the blood. Stone massage therapy is perfect for anyone who wishes to feel rejuvenated and relaxed without being necessarily feeling deep pressure, and is known to assist with back pain, poor circulation, osteoarthritis and arthritis, stress, anxiety and tension, insomnia and depression.

Shirodhara massage therapy

Based on the ancient principles of Ayurvedic medicine and having originated in India, Shirodhara massage therapy has been practised for over 5000 years. It involves the warm and consistent flow of aromatic oils on the forehead, specifically on the ‘third eye’ which is believed to be the centre of human consciousness. The flow of oil over the third eye has a balancing effect on brainwaves, stimulating the endocrine system, balancing hormonal upsets and relieving depression and emotional insecurities. Mental burdens such as fear, anxiety, anger and irritability dissolve as the mind is lulled into a state of serenity and expanded consciousness. The deeply relaxing Shirodhara massage therapy is great for detoxing the mind, and perfect for anybody suffering from stress or insomnia.

Ka Huna massage therapy

Ka Huna is another style of traditional Hawaiian massage therapy whereby practitioners use their hands, forearms and elbows to treat the entire body. Music is played during the massage therapy and the practitioner may dance around the table using hula or tai chi style movements in order to attune to natural bodily rhythms and create a harmonious balance between mind, body and soul. Clients are encouraged to focus on their breath, the inhaling of positive and exhaling of negative energies, during the massage. Anybody is able to receive a Ka Huna massage therapy, which is also commonly called Ka Huna bodywork. It is excellent for those suffering from stress, depression, fatigue, grief, or any physical discomfort or injury.

Lomi Lomi massage therapy

A Hawaiian form of massage therapy, Lomi Lomi is traditionally known as “loving hands”. It is a unique style of massage theapy that sees the practitioner using their hands, forearms, elbows, fingers, feet, knees, and even sticks and stones to massage their client. The natural flow of energy within the body is stimulated to induce altered physical, mental, and spiritual states of consciousness. Lomi Lomi massage therapy aims to release stress and tension and thus restore optimal energy flow. It promotes detoxification and waste removal, stimulates the immune, lymphatic, circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems and releases muscle tension.

Neuromuscular massage therapy

Also referred to as ‘trigger point therapy’, neuromuscular massage therapy focuses on trigger points, or sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers created by injury or exhaustion, to restore the balance of the nervous system. Through the softening of trigger points, by the application of sustained pressure, neuromuscular massage therapy aims to reduce chronic pain, increase range of motion, and correct postural distortions. Other benefits can include increased flexibility, wider range of motion, more balanced posture and increased energy. Neuromuscular massage therapy is used primarily to treat the lower back, the neck and arms, repetitive motion injuries, headaches and reported numbness and tingling in the limbs.


Pregnancy massage therapy

Massage therapy is an increasingly popular method of naturally easing the physical discomforts associated with pregnancy. Also referred to as pre-natal massage therapy, pregnancy massage therapy is specifically tailored to address the expectant mother’s needs. The tranquility of the experience is significantly stress-reducing and can assist in the mental preparation for giving birth, potentially improving the outcome of labor and easing labor pain. It may also provide relief from muscle cramps and spasms and myofascial pain, especially in the lower back, neck, hips, and legs. Remember to check with your doctor beforehand and also ensure that your therapist be properly trained and qualified to perform pregnancy massage therapy. It is also comforting to know that massage therapy has never been associated with increased risk of miscarriage.

Postpartum massage therapy

Postpartum massage therapy is a new mum’s best friend, specifically designed to help restore the body to its pre-pregnant condition. It also alleviates some of the physical and mental stress of carrying and caring for a newborn. Providing relief for sore muscles and thus inducing relaxation promotes a speedy recovery while a focus on the abdominal area helps shrink the uterus and relieve scar tissue. With written permission from your doctor or midwife, postpartum massage therapy may be given as little as 24 hours after childbirth. Once again, ensure that your practitioner is properly trained to be treating your body in this delicate state.

Remedial massage therapy

Remedial Massage therapy provides specific healing treatments for damaged or impaired, knotted, tense or immobile muscles or tendons. Discomfort is traced as far as possible back to the original cause with specialised techniques that locate and repair damage while supporting the body’s own repair mechanisms. Light stretching moves and oil are used for deep tissue pressure penetration. Remedial massage therapy facilitates muscular detoxification, the calming of nerves, the toning and relaxing of muscles, and also addresses symptoms of arthiritis, fibrositis, muscular atrophy and sports injuries.

Shiatsu massage therapy

The essence of Shiatsu massage therapy is a combination of diagnosis and therapy, where practitioners detect disharmonies in the energetic components of the body, and perform specific routines to correct these imbalances. Massage therapy techniques such as tapping, squeezing, rubbing, and applied pressure are performed along the meridians to free energy blockages and restore the optimal flow of qi. Practitioners can also promote the prevention and recovery of illnesses by stimulating the immune system and natural bodily healing powers. Shiatsu massage therapy is believed to reduce blood pressure, decrease mental anxieties and stress, increase flexibility, increase mental and spiritual awareness and release bodily toxins.


Sports massage therapy

Sports massage therapy relieves and reduces the stress and tension that can build up within the body’s soft tissues while exercising. Essentially designed to prevent and relieve injuries and conditions that are associated with exercise, it can be carried out before, during, or after exercising and is for everyone, not just athletes. Specific techniques are applied to increase endurance and performance, to minimise the chances of injury and reduce injury recovery time. It may also help to drain away fatigue, reduce swelling and tension, and improve blood pressure and lymph flow.

Thai massage therapy

Believed to have been developed by Buddha’s personal physician more than 2,500 years ago in India, the Ayurvedic techniques and principles of Thai massage therapy gradually became influenced by traditional Chinese medicine. Thai massage therapy is also commonly referred to as Thai yoga massage, because of the series of yoga-like stretches the practitioner assists you into. Muscle compression, joint mobilization, and acupressure are also used during treatment, which is often described as being simultaneously relaxing and invigorating. Thai massage therapy can help ease back pain, stiffness and indigestion, reduce stress, improve circulation and energy levels and center the mind and body.

Before getting massage therapy

Unfortunately, massage therapy is not recommended for everybody. It’s probably best to steer clear of the table if any of the below conditions apply to you.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to consult your doctor if you are concerned that you may be prone to any health risks during a massage.




Give yourself the health check-in you deserve - visit our Wellbeing Directory

Like what you read? Sign up for a weekly dose of wellness

massage pain relief bodywork


The WellBeing Team