Photographs by Brian Finke at Bliss Spa

Getting a massage may be relaxing, but booking one can be stressful. Do you need Thai or Swedish? Relaxation or rejuvenation? A lot of pressure or a little? Here's a guide to picking the kind that will give you the best fix. Kayleen Schaefer

Massagesports_2 SPORTS

What It Is: The rub is similar to a deep-tissue massage, but the kneading and pressure are concentrated on one sore or stressed area of the body—whichever part you say is ailing you.
Who Should Get It: Anyone with an injury, such as a hurt knee or shoulder
The Tip: To make sure the therapist knows what he⿿s doing, ask if he offers therapeutic massages.

Massagedeeptissue DEEP TISSUE

What It Is: This massage—focused on the neck, shoulders, and back—works out kinks and knots deep in the connective tissue of your muscles.
Who Should Get It: Guys who spend all day in one pose: hunched over a computer screen
The Tip: Flush out the toxins released during the massage by drinking at least 12 ounces of water afterward.

Massageswedish_2 SWEDISH

What It Is: In this head-to-toe, low-pressure massage, the muscles are stroked in the direction the blood flows to your heart, which improves circulation and relieves aches and pains.
Who Should Get It: Any first-timer—but women are usually bigger fans than men, because it's full-body
The Tip: Ask the therapist to use lotion instead of oil so you won't need a post-massage shower.

Massagehotstone HOT STONE

What It Is: Warm rocks are placed on your back, hands, and feet to relax your muscles and allow the therapist to apply deeper pressure.
Who Should Get It: Anyone with chronic back pain or arthritis
The Tip: Don't worry about getting burned: The stones aren't hot enough to leave any red marks.

Massagethai THAI

What It Is: This massage is designed to stretch your muscles. The therapist places your body in various yogalike positions and even cracks your knuckles and walks on your back.
Who Should Get It: Those stiff from a red-eye flight or a strenuous tennis game
The Tip: This massage will keep you at the spa longer than most. It usually takes about two hours.

Photograph by John Francis Bourke/Corbis

Q: Should you request a male or a female massage therapist?

A: "Eighty percent of our clients ask for a female," says Pirooz Sarshar of the Grooming Lounge, in Washington, D.C. While most guys don't like being touched by another man, Sarshar prefers men, because of their strength: They can get deeper into the muscle than women can. And silence is key. "As long as they don't talk," he says, "I don't care what sex they are."

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