Breaking Down Massage Therapy

Updated: Oct 11

When you go to book a massage, there are often so many different types of massage treatments available: deep tissue, Swedish relaxation, sports massage, myofascial release - what’s the difference between all of these approaches and which one do you need? Well, first of all, don’t be shy to speak with your massage therapist to figure out which type of massage they specialize in and which type is best for you and your areas of concern. That being said, here’s a primer on what some of those different types of massages and treatments mean:


Swedish relaxation massage is sometimes called a ‘classic massage’. It is gentler than deep tissue massage and is intended to promote relaxation, loosen tight muscles, and improve blood flow with gentle kneading and long gliding strokes or circular movements. Swedish relaxation massage is good for people who have areas of tension, like a sore neck, shoulders, or lower back, from daily activities like working at a computer.

Deep tissue massage, on the other hand (and as the name implies), applies significantly more pressure than a Swedish relaxation massage to massage the muscle layer by layer and stimulate deeper tissue in order to relax areas of contracted muscle and promote blood flow. Deep tissue massage is good for athletes or people who engage in more high-intensity activities like running and sports. Sports massages are usually deep tissue massages intended to work on a specific muscle group or area of the body that works particularly hard during your sport of choice.


Myofascial release is a massage technique used to treat chronic pain that arises from the myofascial tissues, which are the tough connective tissues that wrap around and connect your muscles. The massage therapist looks for areas of myofascial tissue that appear to be stiff and, through light pressure, attempts to stretch and loosen the tissue to improve movement and reduce pain.


Trigger point therapy is similar to myofascial release in that the massage therapist searches for sore spots to release, however, these are knots or ‘trigger points’ in the muscle fibers themselves that usually occur due to a repeated movement that causes the muscle to tense up or spasm. Trigger point therapy aims to apply pressure to the knot in order to release the tension and increase blood flow to the area to promote healing.


Dynamic cupping uses suction devices (or ‘cups’) to create negative pressure on the skin and increase blood flow and reduce tension in specific areas. ‘Dynamic’ cupping refers to the cups being moved along the skin to stretch out the muscle fascia and identify areas of stiffness. Traditional massage movements are usually combined with the cupping to further loosen the muscles.


There are even more types of massage therapy (like Thai massage, shiatsu, etc.) and finding the right one for you usually involves a conversation with your massage therapist and trying out a few different treatments to find one that works for you. If you have any questions about massage therapy at South Edmonton Physical Therapy & Sport Rehab, our Registered Massage Therapist, Anthony, is happy to help, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.