It’s a universal fact – there is no better way to relax than with a massage. Whether you are treating yourself to a luxurious hour of deep-tissue escapism on a holiday abroad, have booked yourself a quick sports massage before your next 5k, or will chance asking your partner for a cheeky foot rub after dinner, massage therapy is globally known as a prime way to relax and feel good. The practise is as old as civilization itself, and is something we will continue to crave for centuries to come.



Massage therapy is defined as “the manipulation of the muscles and other soft tissues of the body by stroking, kneading, or rubbing with one or both hands or an instrument, for therapeutic purposes, as to relieve pain, promote healing, or improve physical functioning”.


Many people seek massage therapy to help reduce stress, promote relaxation, reduce pain, or for rehabilitation from an injury. It can simply promote better health and wellness. Have you tried a massage for any of these reasons? If not, and you are curious to experience massage for the first time, have a read of the different types available…

What type of massage are there for me to consider?

There’s a surprisingly large range of massage types available, with some associated specifically with certain benefits. One thing that is common to all types of massage, however, is how important it is to seek your doctor’s approval before booking an appointment, as contraindications do exist!

  • Swedish

Swedish massage is a gentle full-body massage that’s great for people who are new to massage or those who prefer a softer touch. The repetitive kneading and gliding strokes of Swedish massage can help to softly release muscle knots. It’s also a good choice for a soothing and relaxing massage, which isn’t the case for all types!

  • Thai

Thai massage is best for people who want a more intensive form of massage, as the entire body is worked with a sequence of movements that are more similar to yogic stretches. Your therapist will apply firm pressure using palms, fingers, (and even elbows with certain therapists!) to relieve physical pain and mental stress.


They will also manoeuvre your limbs into stretches you might not otherwise be able to perform by yourself, thus increasing flexibility, circulation, and energy levels at the same time. You’ll be left feeling fabulous and as though you’ve just hit the gym at the same time!

  • Deep tissue

Deep tissue massage is similar to a Swedish massage in that it is meant mainly for relaxation. However, it differs in that deep tissue therapists usually apply more pressure to relieve tension from the deepest layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This makes it a good option if you have muscle problems such as soreness, tightness, or chronic pain.

  • Lymphatic drainage massage

This type of massage is also known as “manual lymphatic drainage” (MLD). It involves gently releasing lymphatic fluid in your tissues, before guiding it back to your lymph nodes for reabsorption.


Lymphatic drainage massage can help those suffering from lymphedema, fibromyalgia, edema, among many other conditions. A 2021 review of 17 studies found some evidence that MLD in early stages following breast cancer surgery may help prevent progression to clinical lymphedema.

  • Reflexology

Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. It’s best for people who are looking for a soothing therapy, and to restore their natural energy levels at the same time. It’s also a good option for those who aren’t comfortable being touched on the entire body. It may be especially helpful for relaxation, pain relief, improved sleep, and reduced anxiety.


Studies in 2018 and 2019, found that reflexology significantly decreases anxiety experienced by patients undergoing cardiovascular procedures and could reduce fatigue and pain and improve the quality of sleep in patients with lymphoma, respectively.


Because reflexology is not a full-body massage, you can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.



Prenatal or pregnancy massage

Prenatal massage is typically more gentle than other types of massages. Sessions are tailored to the needs of the pregnant woman, namely their rapidly changing body. As your baby bump grows, it can put pressure on certain joints and ligaments that have never experienced this kind of tension before. Women are also required to carry the extra weight of the pregnancy, which may cause extra tension in the lower back and sciatica, swelling of the ankles and feet, varicose veins, headaches, and acid reflux.


Under these circumstances, a regular Swedish massage wouldn’t necessarily be as effective, so a prenatal therapist may likely use slower strokes that run from head to toe, and that target specific areas where you’re experiencing pain. 


Therapists should also take extra time before beginning a session to chat to you about your pregnancy and how they can make you most comfortable. Not only can massage help alleviate these symptoms, it will also provide you with some much-needed relaxation during your pregnancy!


Important contraindications:

Women who have recently experienced bleeding, preterm contractions, or have any of the following conditions should speak with a health care provider prior to receiving a massage:

  • High-risk pregnancy

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)

  • Preeclampsia

  • Previous preterm labour

  • Experience of severe swelling, high blood pressure, or sudden, severe headaches

  • Recently given birth


A healthy diet can help mitigate or buffer one from these types of effects as it sets the stage for a beneficial gut microbiome and less inflammation, both of which are tied to mood, anxiety, depression and even sleep.

Why does it feel so good?

From my research, I’ve learned that there are a couple of reasons…

  1. Interrupting pain with pleasure.

When we experience ache in a part of our body, nerve fibres (specifically those called C-fibres) in that area send messages of pain to our brain once a certain threshold has been reached. C-fibres are considered high-threshold fibres, meaning a lot of stimulus, or a very painful stimulus, is needed before they release their pain signal. Gentle massage and touch, on the other hand, activates A-beta fibres, which are low-threshold and travel up to the brain to be registered far more quickly than pain messages (think about when you stub your toe – it takes an odd millisecond or so before you actually feel the pain, when you will feel a gentle tap on your shoulder almost instantly). The pleasant messages coming from these A-beta fibre basically prevent the not-so-pleasant messages from the C-fibres reaching the brain, thus inhibiting the pain. Essentially, during massage, we feel only the slow and soft touches rather than the sharp, aching pains.


  1. Increased blood flow.

According to the Australian Institute of Fitness, massaging an area “will also increase local blood flow, which can have a flushing effect on the tissue, neutralising pH.” The local dilation of blood vessels can increase oxygen and nutrients to the tissue and restore homeostatic balance, aid in healing, and boost energy. Increased blood flow may also reduce swelling in certain areas, which can provide both physical and emotional relief as swelling tends to be uncomfortable and also can affect self-esteem, especially in those who feel self-conscious about facial puffiness.

  1. Feel-good endorphins

According to research, massage can alleviate stress by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good hormones) and decreasing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). The former two, also known as “endogenous opioids”, inhibit painful messages from travelling to the brain. These ‘painkiller’ opioids are the same type of drugs as morphine, but they are made within our own bodies. It’s pure magic!


  1. Human touch

Human beings are highly social creatures, and we often rely heavily on touch to convey emotion during social interactions. Our earliest ancestors routinely engaged in grooming behaviour as a way to build trust and strengthen social bonds between individuals. This instinctive technique for dealing with aches and for relieving stress would have been part of everyday life long before language was invented. Oxytocin is a hormone known to facilitate love and social bonding, and research shows that massage can increase oxytocin levels. This may be why we feel so relaxed, at peace, and docile after a good massage!

Contraindications to be aware of… Massage isn’t for everyone, however. In general, there are 3 types of contraindication – total, local, and medical – that we need to bear in mind before we book any massages or other holistic therapies! Total Contraindications When you have any of the following conditions, please do not book a massage therapy/reflexology session. Massage therapy/reflexology should not be performed at all.
  • Fever
  • Pregnancy in the 1st Trimester (up to 13 weeks’ duration)
  • Contagious diseases, including any cold or flu, no matter how mild it may seem
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol-including prescription pain medication
  • Recent operations or acute injuries
  • Neuritis (inflammation of a peripheral nerve or nerves, usually causing pain and loss of function)
  • Skin diseases
  • Cancer
Local Contraindications Massage therapy/reflexology can be performed, but not over the contraindicated areas such as:
  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • Bruising
  • Cuts
  • Abrasions
  • Sunburn
  • Undiagnosed pain
  • Inflammation, including arthritis
Medical Contraindications If you suffer from any of the following conditions, massage therapy/ reflexology can only take place once it has been approved before your session in writing by your physician:
  • Cardio-vascular conditions (thrombosis, phlebitis, hypertension, heart conditions)
  • Any condition already being treated by a medical practitioner
  • Oedema
  • Psoriasis or eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nervous or psychotic conditions
  • Heart problems, angina, those with pacemakers
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Bell’s palsy, trapped or pinched nerves
  • Gynaecological infections

Your comfort is key

Some massage treatments use more pressure than others, and while the majority of people experience sensations of peace and relaxation from the onset of their session, it is quite normal to also feel ticklish, sensitive, or uncomfortable if it is your first time. The most important thing is to communicate with your massage therapist and tell them what feels good and what doesn’t. Massage is meant to reduce tension and encourage tranquillity, not stress you out! 

Make sure to ask any questions you may have before you book your appointment and during the appointment itself. And please get in touch with your physician if you are contraindicated for massage.

So, what are you waiting for? The magic of massage is out there waiting for you to discover if you haven’t already. I promise you, it will change your life!

With love,