Skip to main content
symmetrical pattern mandala - green yellow

What is massage?

Have you ever wanted to try a massage but not sure if it's right for you? Read through this section to better understand what massage therapy is.

massage in white room

A general description

Massage therapy is the physical manipulation of soft tissue, which includes muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, and skin. Massage therapy is incredibly modifiable, and therapists can offer a variety of degrees of pressure, depth, and movement.

Massage can vary

There are different styles

There are different types of massage therapy. The most common types referred to in Western countries are Swedish or classical.

Other styles include sports massage, clinical massage, and massage styles coming from Eastern traditions such as Shiatsu (Japan) and Tuina (China).  

It can differ in a clinic setting

If you receive massage in the hospital or clinic setting, it will often be a targeted clinical massage, which focuses on a specific area of the body, rather than full-body massage.

Targeted clinical massage is typically much shorter in duration than full-body massage for relaxation or general preventative wellbeing. 

It can adapt to the individual

Massage therapy is easily adaptable to accommodate the needs and preferences of the recipient. You can receive a massage when seated, lying face up or face down.  It can be done over clothing or directly on the skin.

The most important factors are your safety and comfort.  

How massage can help 

You might explore massage therapy for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, people get massage therapy for musculoskeletal pain, jaw pain, edema, constipation, headache, and emotional and mental wellbeing.

Where to get a massage

A variety of clinical settings offer massage, including inpatient hospital units, clinics,  integrative practitioner offices (chiropractic, TCM, osteopathic), and rehabilitation clinics. Massage is widely available, but the massage therapist’s level of training and experience can vary, so it is important to know and understand what they can offer, and if it meets your needs.

Are there safety concerns?

While massage is typically safe, there are times when it can be risky and precaution should be taken. Go to the Safety Precautions section to learn about when massage should be modified or avoided.

© 2024 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement