How to get the most from your massage

With more than 200 different types of massages out there, how do you decide what you need or want? Here’s how to tell your Swedish from your sports, your Thai from your reflexology, and when to book which.

Massage is the practice of working on the body with soft, medium or deep pressure. Techniques are commonly applied using hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm, feet, or a device. The different types of massages can be categorised into medium/oil-based, non-oil based and aqua/water-based massages.


When do you get which type of massage?
Massage styles tend to go in and out of fashion, but you can decide which one is best for you by asking two simple questions:

  • Do you want a massage for relaxation or stress control?
  • Do you need symptom relief and/or help with a specific health condition?


Once you know what you want, let the therapist know. So, when you book your massage, be clear about what you are looking for and ask which style the therapist uses. Many therapists have been trained in more than one style and can therefore customise your massage according to your needs. Don’t be shy either; the more information you give the better your massage will be.

For what reasons should you get a massage?
We have come to associate massages with indulgence and pampering, but there are some very good health and wellbeing reasons for them.

  • Massage reduces anxiety and stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body. It simultaneously increases levels of serotonin and dopamine (happy hormones), promoting perspective and clarity.
  • Pain caused by musculoskeletal issues can be addressed through regular massaging, and it doesn’t even have to be a deep-tissue treatment. Any form of touch is healing.
  • Massage promotes the movement of lymph, the body’s natural defence system that enhances immunity.
  • Athletes benefit from regular massages in preparation for and recovery from events.
  • Coupled with regular exercise routines, massage reduces the effects of long hours of sitting at a desk or driving, and keeps postural deviations in check.


Frequency is the to getting the most therapeutic value from massage. Once you have had three or four massages with the same therapist, the dynamics change from pure relaxation to therapeutic input. The more the client trusts and appreciates the therapist, and the therapist understands and feels committed to the client, the more benefit both parties derive from the massage experience.

What information should you give your therapist?
A massage therapist worth his or her salt should ask you these five questions, so have your answers ready:

  1. What do you want out of the massage? We all look for something different from a massage. It’s important to be clear about what your specific goals are.
  2. What are your preferences? This relates to the pressure you prefer, ie, soft to medium, or medium to deep. Armed with this information, the therapist can adjust movements and pressure during the treatment.
  3. Have you had a professional massage before? This answer helps to determine what the client expects from the therapist and to manage expectations as it sets the massage etiquette.
  4. Are you taking any medications (such as anticoagulants or blood thinners) that may be a contraindication to massage? Be honest about your health history. We are not just being nosy. Medication information allows the therapist to adapt the type of massage and/or select essential oils that are appropriate to your condition.
  5. What is your job and/or daily activities? Based on this answer, the therapist could advise on activities or habits that should either be changed, stopped or started to help heal an injury or prevent it from happening again.

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