If you’re like most people looking at getting a massage for the first time, you may be looking for some direction on which route to take since there are multiple options. The two most common types of massages people end up settling on are relaxation and deep tissue; however, there is often confusion about the difference, so you may not know which one will be more beneficial to you.

Relaxation Massage

Often referred to as a Swedish massage, a relaxation massage is meant to do just that – relax you. Pressure is applied to muscles in the direction of blood flow to the heart, but not as much pressure as in a deep tissue massage. It works by increasing circulation, stretches tendons and ligaments, and energizes the skin and nervous system. This results in whole-body and mind relaxation, stress reduction, improved circulation, and a boost to the immune system.

If you work in a job where you’re sitting for long hours at a time, developing stiffness in your upper back and neck, relaxation massage would be the right choice for you. It also benefits those with increased levels of stress or anxiety, high blood pressure, and difficulty sleeping.

Deep Tissue Massage

While a relaxation massage uses lighter pressure to create repose, deep tissue massage uses much firmer pressure and is not necessarily relaxing. The therapist’s movements are against the grain of the muscle, rather than with it, to loosen muscles and soft tissue, which means there can often be discomfort during and immediately following the session. This deeper pressure relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure, helps break up scar tissue, and helps relieve side effects of chronic stress.

Deep tissue massages are beneficial to those with minor musculature injuries (like those from accidents or sports), with chronic stress, and recovering from surgery.

It’s always best to consult with your massage therapist before scheduling a session to decide which type of massage is going to be more beneficial for you since the needs of some symptoms overlap. They can offer recommendations so you get the most out of your session.