Although massage has in common the manipulation of tissues, muscles, tendons, joints, skin, lymph systems and organs, the methods used vary considerably.
The purposes are usually to induce relaxation or relieve pain and stiffness. Most frequently oils and lotions are used to lubricate the skin, and the recipient of the massage lies on a table or on a mat on the floor, partially covered by cloths or towels. The hands, fingers and arms of the massage therapist are used, but sometimes also elbows, knees and feet as well as vibrating devices and even heated stones.
Some of the more common ones are the following:
* Acupressure is similar to acupuncture where the pressure points are identified and pins are applied, except that pressure is applied with the elbows or hands instead of pins.
* Balinese massage involves very gentle stroking, folding of the skin or application of hot stones. The object of this massage is to induce comfort and relaxation as well as improved circulation and energy levels. Aromatherapy is also used.
* Barefoot deep pressure massage is the use of the massage therapists feet to produce deep pressure without the sharp pinpoint pressure effect of the fingers. This is believed to work well on the large flat muscles of athletes.
* Deep tissue massage is a very highly skilled massage that reaches down below the surfaces of the muscles. It is used to treat muscular skeletal disorders. Qualification in physiology and some medical knowledge is necessary to use this method effectively and to avoid further harm or damage to the recipient of the massage treatment.
* The Bowen massage method avoids deep pressures and involves a lighter rolling movement that is believed to relieve muscle strain and restore the flow of the lymphatic system.
* In the Breema system, the recipient remains fully clothed on the floor. It is more an exercise of rythmical stretches than the more usual massage.
* Hilot is a Philippino system of massage that is very gentle and involves manipulation of the joints, especially after strains, sprains and dislocation. It is sometimes used to help women after giving birth to help them to a quick recovery. Banana leaves and herbs are sometime used as well.
* Japanese shaihatsu is similar to acupressure, in that the meridians of energy in the body are identified and pressed with the fingers and hands, sometimes the feet and hot stones too, but in addition stretches are used.
* Reflexology massage involves massage of certain reflexes in the hands and feet in order to treat dysfunction in the related organs, glands or other parts of the body. It is believed that every part of the body relates to a particular reflex in the hands or feet.
* Thai massage is related to yoga and the ayurveda religious belief from India. It involves massage while the recipient is in various yoga positions. Stretching and acupressure may also be applied.