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What’s the difference between Eastern and Western Massage Therapy?

There is no debating that a good massage is great therapy. It helps increase blood flow, relieve stress and heal injuries. These benefits apply to massages of all types, but to get the most out of your next massage, you may want to learn a little more about your options. To start, there are two very different types of massage that follow very different principles. Eastern and Western massage are both effective, but they may have different purposes.

Eastern Massage

The Eastern style of massage is all about balancing energy meridians within the body. Instead of targeting one issue that a person may be facing, such as a sore back, Eastern massage attempts to heal the root cause of the issue and promote overall health and wellness.

The first difference you may notice with Eastern massage if you are accustomed to Western techniques is that there is usually a longer period of discovery. In any massage, the therapist will likely ask where you are experiencing pain or discomfort. But with Eastern massage, the therapist will perform his or her own discovery mission by checking pulse points in your wrist and evaluating your tongue.

The next difference you will notice is that Eastern techniques can be more rigorous than Western. By striking, rolling and applying pressure to various pressure points, the therapist will attempt to address the cause of your pain, discomfort or other issue.

If you seek treatment through Eastern massage, the therapist may suggest adding Yoga or Tai Chi to help relax and invigorate the mind and body. Both are known to help reduce stress and when combined with massage, they may have other benefits. A (2010) Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice study found that yoga and Tai Chi combined with massage may promote relaxation, reduce stress and possibly even increase the speed and accuracy of performing math problems.

Types of Eastern massage include shiatsu, Ayervedic, Thai and Balinese.(I also offer Balinese Massage, which can be found on our website )

Western Massage

Western massage works by targeting various points in the body to address issues, loosen muscles and promote overall relaxation and healing. It is more about treating the muscles and connective tissue than it is about focusing on overall wellness, but it is effective at promoting relaxation, soothing sore muscles and helping to improve circulation. Much like with Eastern massage, there is more than one type of Western massage.

You probably recognize the most popular Swedish massage. The Swedish massage is popular because it appeals to the masses with medium-intensity pressure and positive results,because of this its effects have been studied at great length. For example, a (2010) research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that not only does it promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, it may also be an effective treatment to help manage inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.Other types of Western massage include deep tissue, soft tissue, myofascial release and trigger point therapy.

If you are confused about which type of massage to choose, talk to your massage therapist about your needs and expectations. You may find that a combination of techniques is conducive to your needs


A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals (2010) cited in

Complementary therapies in Clinical Practice. Science direct(2010) cited in

Eastern- vs. Western-Style Massage: Which is Right for You? Vives, M(2016) cited in


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