Therapeutic Massage: Types and Benefits

December 2, 2019
A therapeutic massage will vary according to the physiotherapy technique used to treat bodily disorders. Today, we'll take a look at the most common types you should know about.
There are different types of therapeutic massage, and they all subdivide into many other categories. However, all of these techniques are great in the treatment of bodily disorders, as they can be quite efficient in reducing pain.
A massage is the manipulation of soft tissues that consists of performing a rhythmic action with adequate intensity on certain body points. The manipulation takes place either on the superficial layers of tissue or on the deep layers. Massages have therapeutic, hygienic and sports purposes. Hygienic massage has a primarily aesthetic objective, while sports massage is good for before and after physical activity.
The etymology of the word “massage” reveals its condition. In Arabic, mass stands for “gently rubbing.” Meanwhile, the Greek word for it is massein, which means “to rub,” and the Hebrew language has mashech, which translates to “groping.”
In this article, we’ll mainly discuss the various types of therapeutic massages. But, before we begin to classify them, let’s see what their effects on the human body are.

The effects of therapeutic massage on the body

Generally, there are no contraindications to massage, except for specific conditions that may prevent certain maneuvers. So, one modality or another may be more indicated because it might be more convenient within the different types of therapeutic massages.
It’s a mistake to think that you can only use massages for treating muscle conditions. The benefits of therapeutic massages are also physical and psychological. In fact, you can even combine two or more types of massages in the same treatment to improve any uneven tissue.
Some of the benefits of therapeutic massage are:
  • Muscle development
  • Distension of contracted muscles
  • Long-term tissue flexibility
  • Pain soothing
  • A feeling of general well-being
  • Improvement of blood and lymphatic circulation

Types of therapeutic massage

A woman massaging another.
The different types of massages vary based on their technique and therapeutic purpose.
Even though the classification of the types of therapeutic massages varies, here’s a general list that describes them according to their mechanics:
  • Rubbing-slip
  • Kneading
  • Friction
  • Compression
  • Percussion
  • Vibrations
Let’s look at each one of them in more detail:

Therapeutic massage: rubbing-slip

This is about uniform and slow rubbing of a body area. Generally, it may be longitudinal or circular. So, it’s very important not to slip any tissue that doesn’t need treatment.
Deep rubbing is a type of massage within this category. Thus, its purpose is to decontract and to work on blood and lymphatic circulation. For a circulatory effect, the massage seeks to promote the venous return that often stops.
In its superficial variant, friction-slip can increase surface circulation in external tissues such as the skin, as well as promote dermal regeneration.


Overall, this is one of the most energetic types of therapeutic massages, along with percussion. Kneading seeks to detach superficial tissue from the deep layer, as well as displace the muscle fibers. Thus, this technique combines deployment, torsion, and stretching movements, all rhythmically performed. You can use kneading to remove toxic substances from tissues, to promote muscle nutrition and promote relaxation. Deep kneading can increase the contractile capacity of your muscles.
A man massaging another's leg.
The movements of this technique are brief. Therapists must use controlled pressure and they usually do so with their fingertips. Its application typically serves joints.


Next, this technique is static, so there’s no tissue displacement. Here, the therapist maintains the compression of the area for half a minute to a minute without moving to the sides.


Within the different types of therapeutic maneuvers that include kneading, percussion is one of the most energetic. So, there are two ways to do it: pounding and hacking. Therapists do pounding with the palms of their hands in a hollowed-out position. Likewise, they do hacking with the ulnar edge of the hands, maintaining constant pressure and high energy. Plus, they do this without losing contact between the therapist and the skin.

Thus, percussion increases the circulation of the treated area, nourishes the muscle, increases muscle contractility and normalizes tone. So, as a result of these effects, many consider it a stimulating massage, as well. This is because it improves the general well-being of the person who receives it.


The movements of this technique are short and rhythmic. Also, the hands are in constant contact with the skin and the therapist’s forearms perform static contractions that create vibrations. However, therapists tire quickly when performing this maneuver. Muscle relaxation, stimulation of circulation and detachment of pulmonary secretions for patients who suffer from respiratory conditions are just some of its effects.

Did you know about therapeutic massages? As you can see, their benefits go beyond muscle rehabilitation. Consult an expert to determine which type of massage is best for you if you’d like to include it in your therapy.

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