The A to Z of massage

Whether you consider massage therapy an integral part of self-care, or an occasional luxury, there are lots of reasons to factor it into your lifestyle. 

Massage not only releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in your body, it can help to improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance overall wellbeing. In some cases, it can even help to relieve pain.

A – Aromatherapy

Combines gentle massage with essential oils for healing, soothing and relaxing effects. Good for: Stress reduction and pain relief.

Danielle Dryburgh at Détente Therapies in Kirkcaldy is an expert in an aromatherapy.

Specialising in aromatherapy massage and essential oil education, she operates out of Amy Gibbs Therapy Centre.

Danielle is an independent consultant for doTERRA essential oils and offers the brand’s proprietary AromaTouch massage technique.

“Aromatherapy massage is beneficial for many people and many issues,” says Danielle.

“I personally have an interest in women’s health and emotional support. But it can help with digestive problems, respiratory health, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions and much more.

B – Back, Neck & Shoulders

Traditional massage loosely based on Swedish massage and focusing on the upper body. Good for: Easing stress and muscular tension, improved circulation and muscle tone. 

C – Cupping

Although technically not a massage, can have similar effects. Involves applying glass cups (then held by suction force) to the body. Good for: Eliminating toxins, relaxation, pain relief and increased flexibility.

D – Deep Tissue

Applies slow, firm strokes and pressure to ease and relieve deep muscle tension. Good for: Breaking up scar tissue and breaking down muscle knots and adhesions.

Nerys Donaldson at Sheer Therapy is an experienced massage therapist of 15 years who specialises in aromatherapy, deep tissue, pregnancy and post-natal massage and reflexology.

She has her own room at Calm on Canning Street in Edinburgh’s West End, where she focuses on reducing the impact of tension and stress on physical and mental health.

“I work closely with each of my clients to make sure that, together, we find the best combination of therapies and techniques to perfectly suit their needs,” says Nerys, who also offers lymphatic drainage to help cleanse and nourish the body.

E – Essential Oils

Oils are inhaled and absorbed by the skin to help soothe, heal and energise the body. Good for: Relaxation, rejuvenation and invigoration.

F – Full Body

Usually starts with the feet and includes back, arms, legs and neck and shoulders, using press and release techniques, kneading and circular motion. Good for: Relaxation, reducing muscular pain, increasing lymph flow and circulation, relieving headaches and boosting the immune system. 

G – Gua Sha

East Asian technique which involves scraping the skin with a massage tool to boost circulation. Good for: Reducing inflammation, strengthening the immune system and boosting the lymphatic system.

H – Hot Stone

Deep massage using soothing oils and cold and heated marble stones. Good for: Soothing aches and pains, encouraging blood flow and promoting sleep.

“Massage can benefit all sorts of ailments,” says Geraldine Cunningham, who specialises in a wide range of holistic treatments from her base in Kirkcaldy and at Mane Hair & Beauty salon in Crossgates.

“Conditions such as anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, and stress-related insomnia, as well as soft tissue strains, sports injuries and join pain can all be helped by massage,” she says.

Geraldine offers most types of massage, from simple, relaxing treatments, to Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone, lymphatic drainage and sports massage, as well as reflexology.

I – ishga

Treatments available at many Scottish spas using the ishga skincare range, which is made from Hebridean seaweed and spring water. Good for: Anti-ageing, stimulating, revitalising and encouraging self-repair.

J – Jin Shin Do

Combines acupressure, Qi Gong exercises, psychology and therapeutic massage. Good for: Balancing energy and relaxation.

K – Kahuna/Lomi Lomi 

Traditional Hawaiian massage using nut oils and, sometimes, elements of prayer, breath work and dance. Good for: Restoring energy and soothing the body.

L – Lava Shells

Tiger-striped clam shells are used as massage tools based on therapy originating in the Philippines. Good for: Relaxation, rejuvenation, stimulating lymph activity and reducing swelling and inflammation.

M – Mindful

Where the therapist carries out the massage mindfully, allowing and observing phenomenon which arise in the mind. Good for: Increasing energy and reducing anxiety in the therapist, and a more receptive approach.

N – Neuromuscular

Applies concentrated thumb and finger pressure to trigger certain points on the body. Good for: Relieving pain and balancing the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.

O – Oncology

Designed for people living with, or recovering from, cancer. Good for: Lifting mood, improving sleep, relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, relieving headaches and overall wellbeing.

Simply Scentered Holistic Therapies in Leslie offers a variety of massage therapies, such as Indian head massage, aromatherapy, Swedish, hot stone, advanced deep tissue and remedial massage, which can help to treat a wide range of mental, physical and emotional concerns.

Owner Laurie Graham also specialises in oncology massage designed for people with, or recovering from, cancer.

Individual treatments are adapted to suit the needs of each and every client and Laurie goes above and beyond to deliver a full holistic service.

Simply Scentered Holistic Therapies was recently honoured in the Fife Retail Business Awards by being named Best Health & Wellbeing Business 2019. 

P – Pre-Natal

Tailored for pregnant women and related health concerns. Good for: Relaxation, promoting sleep and reducing fluid build-up.

For professional pregnancy massage, try Wee Sally’s in Bathgate, where owner Sally Chamness also teaches Baby’s First Massage to new and expectant parents.

In 2018, Wee Sally’s was crowned Massage Clinic of the Year in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Awards and is listed as one of the top three massage clinics in West Lothian.

Sally is passionate about sharing the benefits of massage and teaches qualified therapists, alongside developing a curriculum of advanced techniques to address specific conditions and demographics.

Her overall goal is to make sure massage therapy is available to and affordable for everyone, regardless of their background.

Q – Qigong

Sometimes uses a pointed object, acupuncture needle, precious metals or stones to manipulate areas of the body. Can also be done as self-massage. Good for: Re-balancing and reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Kitty Turner

R – Reflexology

Based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower legs, hands, face and ears correspond with different areas of the body. Good for: Restoring balance, eliminating toxins, relaxation, and increasing energy.

Kitty Turner, who is based at The Therapy Centre in Dunfermline, has had a lifelong interest in massage, stemming from her own problems with neck and back tension.

After graduating in Swedish Massage in 2009, she has since added reflexology and deep tissue massage to her repertoire.

Honing her skills is one of her favourite things to do. Kitty also admits to being obsessed with good posture and helping people to achieve this.

She views stress knots and muscular tension as little bumps in the road to achieving relaxation and, of course, great posture.

S – Swedish

Classic massage designed to relax the entire body, using long, gliding strokes in the direction of the heart. Good for: Reducing stress and boosting the immune system.


Manipulates the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body to improve the performance of the musculoskeletal system and enhance the recovery process. Good for: Improving flexibility, reducing the risk of injury and boosting the circulatory system. 

Celeste Conroy and Sithbhan MacNeil at Hands on Therapies in Barrhead are both award-winning therapists passionate about relieving their clients’ aches and pains and reducing stress and tension.

Working together, they offer a range of bespoke treatments, such as sports, Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue, aromatherapy, hot bamboo, pregnancy and remedial massage.

Other therapies include reflexology, holistic facials, Hopi ear candling and Indian head massage.

One of their other specialities is Kinetic Chain Release (KCR), a revolutionary therapy developed by Scottish physiotherapist Hugh Gilbert which is thought to help bring the body back into balance quickly and easily.

T – Trigger Point

Designed to alleviate specific pain through cycles of pressure and release and deep breathing. Good for: Reducing muscle tension and pain.


Combines acupressure, Ayurvedic principles and assisted yoga postures while you are fully clothed. Good for: Relaxation, energising, and improving flexibility.

U – Usui Reiki

Although not technically massage, hands can be placed on the body to transfer positive energy from the practitioner to client. Good for: Balancing the emotions and increasing positive energy.

The Lavender Room in Troon offers a wealth of massage therapies, including aromatherapy, full body, pregnancy, candle and Indian head massage.

The therapy clinic is run by Maxine Togneri, who’s credentials include numerous qualifications in traditional treatments, flower remedies, facial and aroma ritual, phytotherapy and hands-free massage.

As well as massage, Maxine specialises in treatments such as reflexology, reiki, Thai herbal compress, ear candling, holistic facials, and crystal therapy.

The Lavender Room is also a stockist of Weleda natural skincare, baby and medicinal products.

V – Voya

Voya is a natural skincare range formulated using seaweed and essential oils used in lots of clinics and spas throughout the UK. Look for specific Voya treatments. Good for: Nourishing and protecting the skin.

W – Warm Bamboo Massage

Incorporates warm bamboo canes and rattan or rosewood tools to knead and massage the muscles. Good for: Deep relaxation, easing muscle tension and overall wellbeing.

Aster Mindful Massage

Lynsey Chambers of Aster Mindful Massage specialises in Warm Bamboo Massage and other treatments from her purpose-built therapy room in the Southside of Glasgow.

Located on Aster Drive, Lynsey offers a true holistic approach thanks to her combination of massage and counselling expertise, which can help with stress and anxiety.

Passionate about mindful meditation, Lynsey is also a specialist in Swedish, Hot Stone, Deep Tissue and group massage.

She can provide myofascial release therapy, pamper parties and often visits clients in their own homes.

“I get just as much out of the massage as the person on the bed,” says Lynsey, who credits her mindful approach. “It’s a real tonic.”

Y – Yoni

Vaginal massage practised for thousands of years in India and China to empower and heal women. Good for: Releasing trauma and emotions.

Z – Zen Shiatsu

A Japanese form of physiotherapy using finger pressure which is often just called shiatsu. Good for: Correcting imbalances and helping to heal common ailments.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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