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Massage Therapy Business: 20 Popular Massage Types To Try

Updated on
July 20, 2023
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Massage Therapy Business Tips
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Learning new massage modalities can help you grow as a therapist and earn more money. Unfortunately, continuing education isn’t free, and your time is limited. It’s important to invest in the right modality for you. This article will give you an overview of different massage modalities and guide you towards choosing one that aligns with your goals as a massage therapist.

How To Choose A Massage Modality To Specialize In?

When choosing a massage modality, think of your goals, and who you enjoy helping - athletes, seniors, or stressed office workers? Consider the work environment too. Be mindful of your physical strengths and emotional well-being. Don't forget to do a little homework on what’s in demand locally.


When making goals for your career, think about whether you want to be a jack of all trades or a specialist. You can learn a variety of massage modalities with the goal of offering different services. Alternatively, you can choose a massage specialty by mastering a single modality.

20 Massage Modalities To Consider For A More Fulfilling & Lucrative Practice

  1. Swedish Massage
  2. Deep Tissue Massage
  3. Hot Stone Massage
  4. Aromatherapy
  5. Neuromuscular Therapy
  6. Myofascial Release
  7. Trigger Point Therapy
  8. Manual Lymph Drainage
  9. Positional Release
  10. Cupping
  11. Active Release Therapy
  12. Craniosacral Therapy
  13. Medical Massage
  14. Shiatsu
  15. Reiki
  16. Reflexology
  17. Thai Massage
  18. Sports Massage
  19. Prenatal Massage
  20. Chair Massage


Massage Modalities For Stress Relief & Tension Taming

spa modality massage

Swedish Massage 

Even though Swedish massage is the most commonly taught massage modality in massage school, it still qualifies as a speciality. Specializing in Swedish massage can allow you to master the art of a deeply relaxing and therapeutic massage.

What Is Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a popular form of bodywork that involves long, flowing strokes, kneading, and gentle stretching. It aims to relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation and well-being by manipulating soft tissue and enhancing the flow of blood to the heart.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue is practiced in a variety of settings because it’s so versatile. It is extremely useful for relieving muscle tensions, regardless if that tension was caused by mental stress or physical strain. 

What Is Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on realigning deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It involves slow strokes and deep pressure to target chronic muscle tension, knots, and adhesions, and is often used to relieve tension and muscle soreness.

Hot Stone Massage

If you work in a spa setting, hot stone massage should be a service offering. Clients love the warmth of hot stones. The heat from the stones relax stiff muscles, so your hands don’t have to work as hard.

What Is Hot Stone Massage?

Hot stone massage is a therapeutic massage technique that involves the placement of smooth, heated stones on specific points of the body. The warmth from the stones helps to relax muscles, improve circulation, and alleviate pain, providing a deeply soothing and calming experience for the recipient.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is an excellent massage add-on for solo-practitioners and massage therapists working in spa settings. You can couple the use of essential oils with other massage modalities for an upgraded experience.

What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing practice that uses natural plant extracts, primarily in the form of essential oils, to promote physical and emotional well-being. Through inhalation or topical application, the aromatic compounds are believed to have therapeutic effects on the mind and body, including mood enhancement and pain relief.

Craniosacral Therapy

Want to fine tune your sense of touch? Consider craniosacral therapy. It’s a delicate practice that can make a big difference without much physical exertion.

What Is Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive form of bodywork that focuses on the bones of the head, spine, and sacrum. It involves light touch to balance the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and relieve tension in the central nervous system. It’s believed to promote relaxation, reduce pain, and improve overall well-being.

Massage Modalities For Pain Relief & Clinical Settings

massage modalities for clinical settings


Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular therapists don't just rub where it hurts. They are educated in functional anatomy and trained to assess issues to identify the source of pain. Consider this massage modality if you thrive on problem solving.

What Is Neuromuscular Therapy?

Neuromuscular therapy (NMT) is a specialized form of massage that targets trigger points and aims to balance the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Through deep pressure and friction techniques, NMT helps alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and correct postural issues by addressing muscle spasms and nerve compression.

Myofascial Release

Myfoascial release is a good option for patient therapists who want to help correct posture distortions and improve function. This technique often requires holds that last 3-5 minutes that require strength and focus.

What Is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release is a hands-on therapy that focuses on relieving tension in the fascia, the connective tissue surrounding muscles and organs. Through gentle, sustained pressure, myofascial release aims to eliminate pain and restore motion by stretching and loosening the fascia, helping it become more pliable.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy often amazes massage clients. “When you press here, I feel it there” is a common phenomenon. Learning the referral patterns of common trigger points allows therapists to identify the source of pain and treat it quickly.

What Is Trigger Point Therapy?

Trigger point therapy is a massage technique that focuses on alleviating pain and tension in hyperirritable spots in muscles known as trigger points. By applying pressure to these points, the therapy aims to release the tight muscle areas, reduce pain, and promote relaxation and improved range of motion.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Specializing in Manual Lymphatic Drainage can put you in high demand in medical settings. Whether you’re looking for a job in a hospital or want more referrals from physicians, this is a good massage modality to consider.

What Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a gentle massage technique that promotes the natural drainage of lymph fluid through the body. By using light, rhythmic movements, MLD aims to reduce swelling, improve the immune system, and detoxify the body, making it beneficial for post-operative recovery and managing lymphedema.

Positional Release

Instead of working with the muscles to relieve body aches, therapists work with the body to relieve muscle aches. Posital release restoring pain-free range of motion. This massage modality requires strength, good body mechanics and coordination.

What Is Positional Release?

Positional Release therapy is a manual therapy technique that focuses on relieving muscle and joint pain by moving the body into positions of comfort. Through gentle positioning and holding, it aims to reset the muscle's resting tension, reduce spasm and pain, and improve flexibility and range of motion.

Cupping

Cupping has been practiced for centuries, but it really made a comeback in 2016. When Michal Phelps participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio covered in red cupping marks on his skin. Since then, cupping practitioners have been in high demand.

What Is Cupping?

Cupping is an ancient alternative therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. This practice is believed to increase blood flow, promote healing, and relieve muscle tension. The suction typically leaves circular marks on the skin and is used for pain relief, relaxation, and wellness.


Active Release Therapy

Active release is easily integrated into massage sessions. It will also make you stand out from other massage therapists because clients are active participants in the treatment. That makes them very aware that there’s a method to your magic.

What Is Active Release Therapy?

Active Release Therapy (ART) is a soft tissue treatment technique that targets muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. It involves the therapist applying manual pressure while the patient actively moves the affected body part. This helps to break down scar tissue, relieve pain, and improve mobility and range of motion.

Medical Massage

Medical massage is a highly sought-after type of massage. It often melds together many of the above mentioned massage modalities, and is practiced in a clinical setting. Sometimes medical massage is covered by insurance (if you know your way around massage therapy CPT codes).

What Is Medical Massage?

Medical massage therapy focuses on treating specific health conditions or injuries. It's performed by highly trained therapists who apply specialized techniques to address issues such as chronic pain, muscle injuries, or post-surgical recovery. A healthcare provider typically prescribes this massage as part of a broader treatment plan.


Eastern Massage Modalities & Energy Healing


eastern massage therapy modalities

Shiatsu

If you’re interested in a holistic approach to healing and Chinese medicine, Shiatsu might be a good fit. This modality is a good addition to a medspa or multi-disciplinary practice.

What Is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu is a form of Japanese bodywork that combines pressure, stretching, and joint manipulation to balance the body’s energy flow. It's based on traditional Chinese medicine principles and uses finger and palm pressure to stimulate acupuncture points. Shiatsu aims to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and improve physical and emotional well-being.

Reiki

Reiki masters learn to work with their clients' energy. Clients are fully clothed, and often don’t actually touch people - but the people they help are truly touched.

What Is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese healing technique based on the principle of channeling energy through touch to activate the body's natural healing processes and restore physical and emotional well-being. Practitioners lightly place their hands on or just above the client’s body, aiming to manage stress, promote relaxation, and enhance overall health.

Reflexology

You can build a whole practice around reflexology. If you’re looking to specialize in something a little different than what’s offered at other massage practices, this massage modality might fit the bill.

What Is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a therapeutic practice that involves applying pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, or ears, believed to correspond with various organs and systems in the body. Through this targeted pressure, reflexology aims to promote relaxation, improve circulation, and support the body’s natural healing processes.

Thai Massage

Do you love yoga? Thai massage blends yoga and massage together. Traditional thai massage takes place on mats on the floor, but there are modifications that make it doable on a table.

What Is Thai Massage?

Thai massage is a traditional healing practice that combines acupressure, assisted yoga postures, and Indian Ayurvedic principles. During the session, practitioners use their hands, knees, legs, and feet to move the client into a series of yoga-like stretches. Thai massage helps improve flexibility, energy levels, and overall well-being.

Massage Modalities For Special Populations

massage modalities for special populations

Sports Massage

Want to work with athletes? Then, sports massage is a no-brainer. Learn how to work with athletes pre and post events to avoid injury during and recover after.

What Is Sports Massage?

Sports massage is a specialized form of massage therapy that targets muscle groups relevant to athletic activities. It is designed to enhance performance, prevent injuries, and facilitate recovery. By using a combination of techniques, sports massage helps to improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote circulation in athletes.

Prenatal Massage

Working with expecting mothers can be fulfilling work, but you’ll need a constant flow of new prenatal clients if this is your speciality. Otherwise, it’s a great service to add to the other modalities you offer.

What Is Prenatal Massage?

Prenatal massage is a therapeutic bodywork tailored for the needs of expectant mothers. It aims to alleviate common pregnancy discomforts such as backaches, stiff neck, leg cramps, and swelling. Prenatal massage promotes relaxation, enhances circulation, and provides emotional support by relieving stress on joints and easing muscle tension.

Corporate Chair Massage

If you’re thinking about starting a mobile massage business, corporate chair massage could be a money maker for you. Getting corporate chair massage clients allows you to treat several clients in one place, without renting a space.

What Is Corporate Chair Massage?

Corporate chair massage is a brief, on-site massage therapy session typically offered in workplaces. It focuses on the neck, back, shoulders, and arms while the recipient is seated in a specially designed chair. This service aims to reduce stress, relieve muscle tension, and improve morale and productivity among employees.

What Massage Type Is Best For My Client?

Choosing the right massage type for your client involves a thoughtful assessment of their needs, preferences, and any specific health considerations. Here are some steps to help you pick the most suitable massage type for your client:

  1. Consultation and Assessment: Begin by having a thorough consultation with your client. Ask about their medical history, any existing health conditions, and any areas of concern or discomfort. Understand their goals for the massage, whether it's relaxation, pain relief, stress reduction, or specific therapeutic benefits.
  2. Physical Evaluation: Observe your client's posture, movement patterns, and any visible muscular tension. This will give you valuable insights into areas that may require special attention during the massage.
  3. Client Preferences: Inquire about any previous massage experiences your client may have had and what they liked or disliked about them. Also, consider their comfort level with pressure intensity, as some may prefer gentle touch, while others may prefer deeper pressure.
  4. Special Considerations: Be aware of any contraindications or medical restrictions that might affect your choice of massage type. For example, certain conditions like pregnancy, recent injuries, or skin issues may require specific modifications or exclude certain massage types altogether.
  5. Customization: If your client has multiple concerns or preferences, consider customizing the massage by combining techniques. For instance, you could blend Swedish and deep tissue techniques to offer both relaxation and focused relief for specific problem areas.
  6. Educate Your Client: After considering the factors mentioned above, explain to your client the massage type you recommend and why you believe it suits their needs best. Address any questions or concerns they may have.
  7. Informed Consent: Obtain informed consent from your client, ensuring they understand the chosen massage type and its potential benefits and risks.
  8. Flexibility: Be prepared to adjust your approach during the massage if you sense your client's discomfort or if they express preferences for different techniques.
  9. Follow-Up: After the massage, ask for feedback from your client about their experience. This will help you improve your future sessions and better meet their needs.

By following these steps and maintaining open communication with your client, you can select a massage type that addresses their unique requirements and creates a positive and beneficial experience for them.

Massage Therapy Software For Every Modality

No matter what massage modality you choose, ClinicSense has you covered. You can create custom intake forms to gather client information needed for specific services and modalities. Then, use SOAP notes that are customized to the needs of the therapist. Solo-practitioners and multi-disciplinary practices benefit from features like online scheduling, marketing, reporting, and more. 


Once you pick a massage modality, the next step to leveling up your practice is starting a free trial of ClinicSense.

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