How To Choose A Massage Style That Works For You

Whether from arduous hours hunched over your computer, long days spent on-foot or doing one-too-many well-intentioned reps at the gym, there are few things more heavenly than knotting out tight muscles with a massage. However, not all massages are created equal and what might be right for one person could be entirely counterproductive for another. An intense sports massage won’t help when you’re just after a light stress-relieving knead. So, we asked The Darling Spa’s Spa Manager, Catherine Lazarou to help navigate us through what we should be booking the next time we dial M for massage.

Beauticate loves this series of Karlie Kloss by Mario Testino for Vogue China

Beauticate loves this series of Karlie Kloss by Mario Testino for Vogue China

Best for: Energy boost, back pain and neck stiffness.

Thai Massage

Also known as a ‘Thai yoga massage’ the Thai massage uses the combined principles of acupressure, Ayurvedic and yoga postures to increase energy, while also decreasing physical tension. “The therapist uses their body weight and force to manoeuvre the pressure point/nerves and relieve pain,” explains Catherine. “They are either standing on top of the guest or stretching out the clients to help increase flexibility.” Sounds hectic, and it kind of is, but worth it. “You will feel stretched in areas you didn’t know you had,” says Catherine. But, the release and relief you feel afterwards is hard to beat; just ask Madonna, she loves them. 


Best for: Skeletal alignment and soft tissue treatment

Tui Na Massage (Chinese Massage)

Tui (meaning “to push”) Na (meaning “to lift and squeeze”) massage is a technique often used for rehabilitation in sports medicine. “Its main focus is acupressure point work,” says Catherine. “With a firm focus on releasing overall tension through the trigger points, therapists use their elbow and thumbs to knead out muscles and press on those points that almost make you cry.” So, keep this one in the pain for gain category – not for a relaxing spa day with the girls. Expect to be a bit sore for 24-48 hours after this treatment.


Best for: Ultimate zen


Reiki is a whole different ball game, relying very little on physical pressure. And, it’s best to go in with an open mind to reap the full benefits. “Reiki uses a ‘laying on hands’ technique to relieve stress and energy blockage,” says Catherine. “You lay down (clothed) and the practitioner will gently hover their hands over the body to connect beyond the physical body to an energetic level. Working through the magnetic energy field and unblocking or healing the chakras to promote overall energy flow.” Remember, open mind.  This is perfect for stress-induced tightness and those in desperate need of some serious ‘me time’. 


Best for: Stress relief and blood circulation

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is not actually Swedish… Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger is credited as its inventor. But, semantics aside, the benefits are never disputed. “If you are a regular massage goer, then you can’t go wrong with a Swedish massage,” says Catherine. “The technique uses a mixture of long strokes and kneading to breakdown muscular knots and tension. It’s a feel good massage – not painful or too soft.” Studies have also shown that one session drops cortisol (the hormone released in response to stress) levels. BRB, booking. 


Best for: Overall muscle-tension relief and aid in digestion

Hawaiian Lomi Lomi 

Said to be one of the oldest and effective healing massages, the Lomi Lomi (meaning, fittingly, “to rub”) is as much a kneading of the spirit as it is the body, but its modern incarnation has focused more on the latter. “The therapists uses all parts of their body to massage the client without losing connection,” says Catherine. “Extra-long strokes are performed and the therapist uses fingers, hands, elbows, forearms, feet and knees during the massage so it feels like there are three sets of hands working their magic at the same time.”


Best for: Upper body tension and stress relief

Indian Head Massage

Said to have originated over 1000 years ago as a way to maintain the condition of hair, it has since transcended its aesthetic use into something much deeper. “This massage can go for 20 – 45 minutes with lots of deep kneading and compression movements over the neck and shoulders to release build-up of tension,” says Catherine. “Herbal oils are massaged into the scalp, hair and some points on the face for deep and complete relaxation.” Fixing neck pain while also maintaining a great mane? Yes, please.

For more information, read our GO-TOs review on a massage at The Darling Spa