Angie's LIST Guide to
Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is an enjoyable and relaxing experience, but it also offers health benefits. Your primary goal should be finding a massage type that suits your 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.
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 involves the manual manipulation of muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments to enhance a person's health and well being. Many people get a massage to relax, reduce stress, and relieve muscle soreness.

To achieve the purpose of your visit, massage therapists apply a variety of techniques. Every therapist uses a different touch, but all therapists use their hands and fingers during the massage. They will occasionally use their forearms and elbows to administer a deep tissue massage.

Some types of massages may require the masseuse to get a separate certification because the massage has a specific purpose. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

The type of massage you get should be dictated by your goal. While some massage therapists can offer many types of massages, some states may require certification to peform specific types of massages because the massage has a specific purpose. Below are some of the more common types of massages.

Swedish. The most common method of massage today, this massage aims to relax your muscles. The therapist applies pressure to your muscles and rubs in the same direction as your blood flows. The therapist stimulates the blood in the area by using their hands, fingers, forearms or elbows to knead, stroke, vibrate and tap the area.

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.

WatsuThis massage is administered in a pool and is a variation of a shiatsu massage and uses acupressure and meridian stretching techniques.

What are the benefits of massage therapy?

As you age your muscles often weaken, especially if you lead a sedentary life. Repeated massage helps strengthen muscles in many cases. The pampering effect of a soothing massage can offers many benefits and 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

Although massage therapy has few risk factors, it is not recommended for some conditions and situations. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant, have a bleeding disorder, wounds or weak areas of the skin.

What to expect during massage therapy

Most massages require that you undress and lie 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. They may do this by letting you know in advance what areas they will massage and in what order.

Many therapists play soothing music or nature sounds to help you relax. They also use a variety of oils during the massage. These oils have soothing aromas such as lavender, rosemary and other herbs and plants.

Related: Has a massage therapist rubbed you the wrong way?

Some therapists have a gentler touch than others. To help clients get the most from their massage, the therapist should do the following.

  • Talk with clients before the session begins to review their individual needs and medical history
  • Analyze the client’s sore muscle areas and identify solutions to correct their problems
  • Use their hands, arms and fingers to relieve areas of stress and pain
  • Provide clients with information about how they can care for their muscles on a daily basis

How to choose a massage therapist

massage therapy
Call or visit the spa before your first session if it will make you feel more comfortable. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Decide if you prefer a man or woman. Family and friends who regularly receive massages may help you identify a masseuse and you can read reviews on Angie's List to see what members have to share about the massage therapists you find listed. 

However, before you choose a massage therapist, research your state's requirements for education, licensing and certification . Make sure the therapist you choose meets at least the minimum requirements necessary to perform the type of massage you want. 

Call or visit the spa or private practice you intend to use before you have your massage and make sure it is clean and safe.

Some massage therapists work for doctors, some have a room at a beauty spa and many therapists make house calls. Pick a therapist who fits your lifestyle and is considerate of your current health condition.

Before you begin any massage, share information about your health history, any pain and other health concerns you may have. The therapist should also ask questions about your mental and emotional state, as stress can lead to pain.

A massage session can last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. Costs also vary based on the duration of the massage and type you receive.

The price of a 30 to 45 minutes massage can range from $30 to $50 and exceed more than $200 an hour at some luxury spas. Make sure you find a therapist who prices fit 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.

Some are robots just watching the clock waiting for the hour to finish. I recently discovered African Massage practitioners connect with both body and mind.

This is true of African massage - energy in motion; which is a mindful and meditative massage. The therapist guides the client into a visualization using Colour Mirrors color therapy and can embody the elements of earth, air, fire and water to create a massage unique to each clients's needs, because we are all energy in motion.

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