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Massage Lingo – What to Know Before You Go

Massage Lingo – What to Know Before You Go


Do you know the difference between a shiatsu and a deep tissue massage? 

We all love a good massage, unfortunately we don’t always know what we’re looking for.   Do we want a deep tissue or a shiatsu?  Maybe we really mean a swedish massage.

A massage should be relaxing but can turn frustrating if we schedule the wrong type of massage or aren’t sure how to explain the type we want. We tell the massage therapist, “you know, for sore muscles” or “I like it when it smells good.  It’s relaxing” and hope the massage therapist is also an interpreter.    In massage lingo, however, we likely mean “Deep Tissue Massage” and “Aromatherapy” respectively.

Asking for the correct massage can make all the difference in the world to which masseuse is assigned, the experience you have and how you feel when you leave. Rather than relying on an interpreter, use this guide to help you describe your perfect massage.

Hot Stone Massage – Hot stone massage uses smooth stones, usually basalt, to warm certain points on the back.  The massage therapist will usually also hold one or two stones and use them to provide massaging pressure on the skin.

Shiatsu -  Shiatsu style massage uses pressing, kneading and stretching techniques combined with thumb and finger pressure to work points in the body.   Shiatsu massages are often performed while the client is clothed and without oils or massage lotion.

Swedish –   Similar to Deep Tissue massage but with lighter strokes, the Swedish massage is the most popular.   Characterized by long, slow, rythmic strokes, Swedish (or classic) masssage is used to relax the mind and body.    It can be combined with Aromatherapy for additional restorative effects.

Reflexology – Reflexologists believe that certain points in the body correspond to other points and by applying pressure in one area, relief occurs in the corresponding area of the body.    Accordingly, reflexology consists of applying pressure to specific points – frequently on the bottoms of the feet or in the hands.

Lymphatic Drainage – Lymphatic massage is generally a gentle form of massage that focuses on encouraging the natural drainage of waste and toxins from the lymphatic system and improvement of circulation.  Massage therapists will use sweeping strokes, tapping and light pressure to encourage release of toxins and movement throughout the system to enable the body to complete the cycle of release of toxins naturally.

Deep Tissue –  If your muscles are sore and you want them worked out, this is the massage for you.   Focusing on realignment of the deeper layers of connective tissue and muscles, in deep tissue massage firmer strokes and pressure are used to increase circulation and work soreness out of the muscles.


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