Types of Massage Therapy

Students of therapeutic massage can specialize in a variety of modalities, or different types of massage, in order to increase their skill range. This allows them to enhance their employability, and to earn income from a greater range of clients, as different types of massage therapy can serve different purposes, or be used to treat different ailments.

Here’s a partial list of the 160-plus types of massage in which a massage therapist can specialize. Many of these are taught in basic programs at massage schools nationwide. You can also view a list of massage schools to see which styles are offered through which programs.

Aromatherapy massage: Swedish massage with scented oils.

Ashiatsu: Japanese foot pressure massage.

Bowen technique: Involves gentle rolling movements.

Breema: Meditative pulling and pushing of limbs.

Deep tissue massage: Targets deeper layers of connective tissue.

Hilot: Filipino method of healing involving massage and holistic energy treatments.

Hot stone massage: Hot stones are used to loosen muscles and expand blood vessels to allow blood to flow more freely.

Infant massage: Targeted to infants to alleviate pain, ease sleep or strengthen the parental bond.

Lomilomi: A traditional Hawaiian massage using knuckles, thumbs, elbows and forearms.

Myoskeletal Alignment Technique: Combines massage, stretching and spinal alignment to ease and prevent neck and back pain.

Neuromuscular therapy: Uses pressure from fingers, knuckles or elbows to target specific points to release pain.

Prenatal massage: Designed for pregnant women’s needs; also known as pregnancy massage.

Reflexology: Foot massage focusing on specific pressure points.

Rolfing: A popular variation of deep tissue massage.

Scalp massage: Massaging the top of the head.

Shiatsu: Applies pressure to specific acupuncture areas and regions of stiffness; also known as acupressure.

Sports massage: Designed for athletes and people involved in physical activity.

Swedish massage: Uses long strokes, kneading and circular movements with lotion or oil.

Thai massage: Similar to shiatsu; focuses on specific pressure points.

Trager work: Uses gentle rocking motions.

Trigger point therapy: Applies pressure to areas of tightness and pain.

Watsu: Performed in water, combining hydrotherapy with shiatsu.

Tui Na: A Chinese massage that is similar to Zhi Ya, but focusing more on pushing, pulling and kneading the muscle.

Zhi Ya: A Chinese massage based on acupressure. It is similar to Tui Na massage except it focuses more on pinching and pressing at acupressure points.