Pressure and release: A guide to massage styles in Shanghai

Feeling tight and twisted and just generally like there’s something sore in your body? Relax. We’re here to help.

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By Coquina Restrepo

Feeling tight and twisted and just generally like there’s something sore in your body? Relax. We’re here to help. Whether you’re a runner trying to release sore joints, a desk worker trying to improve their posture or just health-conscious, there’s a way for you to quickly release all this tension and get back to your healthy self without needing a bunch of medicine or therapy.

Massages in Shanghai are different from your typical massage anywhere else. Massage specialists here are trained in a mixture of traditional Chinese massage and different western specializations such as Swiss, Deep Tissue and even electrical massage therapy! A massage here doesn’t just focus on relaxing you; it’s a practice that re-adjusts your body to help release pressure from all over. If you’re having trouble sleeping, frequent headaches and even a sore stomach, a massage can help you by releasing inflammation and let your body heal itself. Massage therapists in Shanghai go through strict licensing programs and are given additional training so you’ll know you’re in good hands!

We have picked four tried-and-true massage styles to help you decide what’s best for yourself and your schedule.


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Before we begin, I must be clear: I hate needles.

I’m afraid of every kind of needle imaginable and get tensed up whenever I’m around one. So imagine how much fun it must have been for me to research acupuncture in Shanghai. When I finally found a recommendation for a sports acupuncture therapist after searching through dozens of ads, I had to hype myself up in order not to have a panic attack before I went in.

Oddly enough, it was not that painful. In fact, it was incredibly relaxing!

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What's it good for? Acupuncture focuses on resetting your body back to its best self using the “meridians” of the body, similar to pressure points that stimulate your natural endorphins and blood circulation system. Most people use acupuncture to treat general to chronic pain in their bones and muscles, but it can also be used to treat smaller conditions such as poor sleep quality and even stomach or bladder issues. It’s a non-invasive form of adjustment that requires patience during your session but doesn’t cause any issues after treatment. You can even go workout or go running after your session!

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How's it done? Specialists use stainless steel filiform needles that are sharp enough to poke the skin without any pain! It feels a lot like a light tap, and maybe a bit of a pinch in your really sore areas, but soon it feels like nothing. Then you feel it working deep in your bones, resetting your body back to its best self. You’ll walk out of that office thinking “This is the way I’m SUPPOSED to feel” and set your next appointment right away.

Who's it for? This practice is great for people who are active and need a deep relaxation practice that relieves deep muscle and bone pain. It’s best used as a practice where you come in for biweekly or monthly sessions to readjust your bones and muscles back to where they’re supposed to be. People with chronic headaches can also benefit from using acupuncture to relieve stress without medicine or invasive procedures.

Where to try?

Courtesy the clinic
Photograph: Courtesy the clinic

the clinic, Room A501, Fifth Floor, Building B, 118 Jiashan Road. To make an appointment, visit


cup 1
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If you’ve ever seen a shirtless man walking around the park with big purple spots on his back, don’t worry. He’s extremely healthy. He just went for a cupping session.

What's it good for? Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine/ massage practice that uses cups and heat, usually in the form of a candle or electric pad, to release deep tension and inflammation through pressure release. This practice is good for releasing deep pressure in your muscles and improving circulation, which will help with any stiffness or soreness you get in your joints and large muscle groups.

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How's it done? The pressure and release style is a lot like squeezing a big knot under your skin, with the heat forcing your muscles to let go of tension while the pressure forces it up to the surface where you can easily rub it out. Certain clinics will offer cupping services using candles, matches or electric pads so choose which is best for you and your comfort level. While this style of acupuncture doesn’t seem as glamorous, it’s an effective way to release tension quickly. Although you might not want to leave the house without a shirt on afterwards.

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Who's it for? This practice is good for people who often have lower back pain and often sit at a computer for long hours of the day. It’s best used as a short-term practice for people with random bouts of pain but can be a part of a general wellness/ health care routine for anyone.

Where to try?
Congen Massage (Nanjing Dong Lu Branch), Fourth Floor, 588 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Fujian Zhong Lu. To make an appointment, search 康骏养生 on Dianping.

Hot Stones

Photograph: Engin Akyurt via Unsplash

This is neither a kink nor a punishment.

What's it good for? Hot Stone massage is a type of massage therapy with a focus on pressure points and melting away stress in specific parts of your body. It's similar to deep tissue massage in that it helps adjust your entire body. The hot stones themselves heat up specific points of your body and add an extra heat element while your massage therapist works on all of the knots and wrinkles in your muscles.

Photograph: Karina Zhukovskaya via Pexels

How's it done? Specialists use Basalt stones, which are a type of volcanic rock that gradually emanates stored heat to help you slowly adjust to the heat and fully relax during your session. Once the stones melt away surface level tension, your specialist can go deep into your muscle tissue to help reset your system and fully relax.

Where to try?

Courtesy DVA Boutique Spa
Photograph: courtesy DVA Boutique Spa

DVA Boutique Spa (Xuhui Branch), No. 11, 186 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Xinle Lu. To make an appointment, call (021) 5465 7007.


Photograph: Christin Hume via Unsplash

Sensitive people might find some of these options intimidating, so our best offer for you is to try a light touch version of acupuncture: acupressure.

What's it good for? Acupressure is the practice of adding pressure to specific pressure points to relieve inflammation and soreness from both your muscles and blood vessels.

Photograph: Christin Hume via Unsplash

How's it done? Different from your traditional massage, acupressure focuses on releasing inflammation and tension in specific joints followed by slight adjustments to your muscles or bones. Focusing on the constellations of pressure points in your body, an acupressure specialist can help alleviate regular aches and pains and even help adjust your bones back into place to improve everything from posture to sleeping.

Where to try?

Courtesy LANN
Photograph: courtesy LANN

LANN Thai Massage (Xintiandi Branch), Suite 06, Floor B1, SOHO Fuxing Plaza, 388 Madang Lu. To make an appointment, go to “Lannlife” mini program on WeChat.

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