Angie's LIST Guide to
Massage therapy

Massage therapy is not only an enjoyable and relaxing experience, it also offers many health benefits. There are many types, and the right massage that suits your specific needs is your primary goal.


Massage therapy can help towards relaxation, but it can also act as an alternative medicine for a variety of illnesses. There are a variety of massage techniques geared toward specific needs.
Massage therapy can help towards relaxation, but it can also act as an alternative medicine for a variety of illnesses. There are a variety of massage techniques geared toward specific needs.

What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy includes a variety of techniques, and every massage therapist uses a different touch. Massage therapists generally use their hands and fingers during the massage, though occasionally they'll also use their forearms and elbows when administering a deep tissue massage. The goal for a satisfying massage is to manipulate the muscles deeply by pressing and rubbing. Some therapists have a gentler touch than others.

Most massages require that you undress and climb under a sheet with blankets. When the therapist massages an area of your body, that area is exposed while the rest of your body remains under the covers. The therapist must be responsible for creating a warm and safe atmosphere for you to enjoy your massage.

A therapist will use a variety of oils during the massage. These oils have soothing aromas such as lavender, rosemary and other herbs and plants. Some therapists use soothing music to send you into a deeper state of relaxation.

Many types of massages are offered today and each has a different purpose. Different types of massage may require separate certification for massage therapists.

  • Swedish. The most common method of massage today, this massage mainly aims to relax your muscles. The therapist applies pressure to your muscles and rubs in the same direct as your blood flows. The therapist may use one following types of methods to stimulate the blood: kneading, stroking, friction, tapping and vibration.
  • Trigger Point. This type of massage pinpoints areas that tend to radiate pain beyond the pain site. The therapist applies pressure to the area where the pain is strong, from a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Deep Tissue. The therapist massages the area with deep pressure to melt knots and tension from stress and discomfort.
  • Shiatsu. This massage originated in Japan. The therapist uses his or her thumbs, fingers and palms on the main acupressure points.

These are just a few of many types of massages for different conditions and personal needs.

What are the benefits of massage therapy?

Massage therapy offers many benefits and can alleviate physical and emotional issues, including the following:

  • Manage anxiety and stress
  • Ease depression
  • Improve circulation
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce backache pains
  • Lessen headaches
  • Reduce arthritis pain
  • Ease sore muscles
  • Reduce spasms and cramps
  • Create a meditative state
  • Increase range of motion

As you age, your muscles often weaken, especially if you lead a sedentary life. Repeated massage helps strengthen these muscles in many cases. The pampering effect of a soothing massage will improve your mood, relax your body and help you cope with the challenges of daily life. In some conditions and situations, massage is not recommended.

What to look for in a massage therapist

Before choosing a massage therapist, consider some factors to find the perfect one for you. Check Angie's List for member reviews and recommendations. Search your particular city and see what other Angie's List members have to share about the massage therapists you find listed. 

Most states require therapists to be licensed with certifications for different types of massages. Many therapists will train in specific types of massages. Check out the spa or private practice you intend to use before you have your massage and make sure it is clean and safe.

Again, therapists have different touches and different attitudes. You want to find one you feel comfortable with and enjoy being with. Some therapists work for doctors, some have a room at a beauty spa and many therapists make house calls. Pick one that fits your lifestyle. Make sure that your therapist questions you thoroughly about your health history, any pain and any other health concerns you may have. The therapist should also ask questions about your mental and emotional state, as stress can lead to pain. The general length of a massage session is anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.

Additionally, know whether you prefer working with a male or a female. Many male massage therapists work on women and vice versa. You may wish to talk to friends and family who receive regular massages, but the decision ultimately comes from your comfort level. The cost of a massage falls in a wide range. Make sure you find a therapist that fits your budget.


Deep tissue or trigger point

Just as you might not realize that your foot is falling asleep while in an awkward position, parts of your body can become desensitized too, leading to stagnant circulation and hypersensitive nerves. Real massage therapy may not be comfortable at all because of the state of your body. No matter where you are starting from, that is where you are. Often times, it can get better. Be active, as your body is meant to be. Seek the help of sports medicine professionals, whether you are an athlete or non-athlete. Please visit for more information.

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