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Massage is the practice of applying structured or unstructured pressure, tension, motion, or vibration — manually or with mechanical aids — to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints, lymphatic vessels, organs of the gastrointestinal system to achieve a beneficial response. Massage Therapy is performed primarily by a professional Massage Therapist but is often used as a form of therapy by other Healthcare practitioners such as Chiropractors, Osteopaths and Physical Therapists.

Massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to aid the process of injury healing, relieve psychological stress, manage pain, and improve circulation. Where massage is used for its physiological, mental, and mechanical benefits, it may be termed "therapeutic massage" or manipulative therapy.

Massage can also be a part of lovemaking (see erotic massage) and often takes place in the context of sex work.

In professional settings, massage involves the client being treated while lying on a massage table, sitting upright in a massage chair, or lying on a pad on the floor. Except for modalities such as Acupressure, Shiatsu, Tui Na, Thai Massage, or Barefoot Deep Tissue, the massage subject is generally unclothed or partially unclothed, also referred to as disrobed, and their body would be "draped" with towels or sheets. The practice of covering the parts of the body that are not being massaged is referred to as draping and its practice varies from one part of the world to another. In addition to making a professional statement and providing a boundary, draping helps keep the client warm which aids in the relaxation response. In some countries it is required that certain areas such as the genitals on both genders and the breast/nipple area on women be draped at all times. In the United States draping is a standard of the profession, while in other parts of the world, such as some parts of Europe, it is not practiced at all. In most forms of massage, the session begins with the client face up, referred to as supine, or face down, referred to as prone, for the first part of the session and then the client rolls over for the second half. Relaxation is necessary for benefits to be achieved.[citation needed]


Massage Basics


Good communication is essential to effective massage. The client and therapist should discuss the type of treatment expected: intention of the massage, areas to be massaged and to be avoided in full body massage, the amount of pressure that is comfortable, preferred techniques and how they affect the body. The client's medical history and current physical condition should also be discussed. This is called informed consent.

Types of massage

Anma - Traditional Japanese Massage

For more details on this topic, see Nihon Kaifuku Anma.

Introduced to Japan about 1300 years ago. Shiatsu massage grew out of this rich tradition. Anma is deep tissue work using no oils and is based on kneading movements.

Ayurvedic Abhyanga Massage

Ayurveda is a natural health care system originating in ancient India over 5000 years ago. It incorporates massage therapies, yoga, meditation and natural herbal remedies. Ayurvedic Massage, also known as Abhyanga is usually performed by two therapists working in harmony, using a heated blend of specially selected herbal oils. Ayurveda aims to help healing by re-establishing balance between mind, body and sprit.

Barefoot Deep Tissue

Barefoot Deep Tissue is a blend of Eastern barefoot techniques with Western manual medicine. Clients are typically loosely clothed and lain on floor mat in supine, prone and side-lying positions with pillows or bolsters. No oil is used. Sessions may last 2 minutes or well over an hour. Because the therapist can apply a broad range of pressure with ease and does not have to strain, more effort and concentration can be used to sense and manipulate tissue, release fascia, as well as search for and attack trigger points and other problems, regardless of client's size or build. John Harris, the proceleusmatic mentor who worked in the 1984 Olympics and developed this modality, states that the combination offers a potent new tool for powerfully satisfying, effective deep tissue massage and Trigger point work regardless of client's size or build. Mr. Harris and Fred Kenyon wrote Fix Pain in 2002, and have been hired by Human Kinetics to write a trade publication with DVD for elite athletes.

Bowen therapy

For more details on this topic, see Bowen Technique.

Bowen Technique involves a rolling type movement over fascia, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints.

Chair massage

Chair massage, also known as corporate massage, can be a convenient method of massage therapy. A chair massage session typically lasts 10-25 minutes, and is performed while fully clothed. Chair massage promotes better circulation, muscle stimulation and stress relief. This form of massage reduces tension in the back, neck, shoulders, head, arms, hands, legs or feet, providing a deep relaxation effect.

Chair massages are also advantageous because chair massage practitioners will frequently make work- or housecalls. Chair massage can also be done in hotels, airports and convention centers. Certain chairs, invented for this specific purpose, massage the seated person robotically by means of motors which have been inserted within the body of the chair.

Chinese Tui Na massage (??)

For more details on this topic, see Tui Na.

Tui Na is a form of Chinese massage (??) that is similar to Zhi Ya, but focusing more on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle.

Chinese Zhi Ya massage (??)

For more details on this topic, see Zhi Ya.

Zhi Ya is a form of Chinese massage based on acupressure. It is similar to Tui Na massage except it focuses more on pinching and pressing at acupressure points.

CranioSacral therapy (??)

For more details on this topic, see Craniosacral therapy.

CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system—comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. CranioSacral therapy is most often utilized to treat neurological disorders including ADHD, autism, and acute stress disorders.

Deep muscle therapy

Deep muscle therapy (created by Therese Pfrimmer), is a massage technique that focuses on using a very specific set of movements applied to all muscles and concentrating on all layers of the muscle that have become depleted of their regular blood and lymphatic flow. This technique aims to restore the circulation with its healing properties to the cellular level. Deep muscle therapy is widely used to treat the following ailments: carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain, headaches, poor circulation, whiplash, and more.

Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue techniques are generally designed for more focused massage work. Working a specific joint, muscle or muscle group, the practitioner can access deeper layers of the soft tissue. Starting superficially and easing into the depth of the muscle slowly often allows more movement. This is the recommended approach in this modality since each person experiences pressure differently. If the pressure is applied too deeply or too quickly, the muscle may tighten to protect that area, and unnecessary damage or inflammation can be induced. Very little lubricant is used as the pressure doesn't travel much over the skin.

The most commonly used 'tools' during deep tissue massage may include, 3 and 6 fingers, reinforced fingers, a flat elbow, opposing thumbs, the heel of the hand or foot, and the forearm. See also: Myofascial Release


Effleurage (from the French effleurer, 'to skim over') consists of long, flowing or gliding strokes, performed with open hands. In many massage sessions, effleurage is used as the initial type of stroking, as it has a calming effect when performed slowly. Effleurage is usually performed in the direction of the heart to promote circulation and lymphatic drainage.

Erotic massage

For more details on this topic, see Erotic massage.

Erotic massage is a form of massage that includes the genitals and leads to sexual arousal and (sometimes) orgasm. Widely practiced by couples as part of lovemaking. Also sometimes practiced commercially, which may be illegal in some jurisdictions.

Esalen Massage

For more details on this topic, see Esalen Massage.

The basis of Esalen Massage is traditional massage, which works in a very precise manner on the muscle and circulation systems. This is combined with the bodywork approach developed by Charlotte Selver, which emphasizes the deeply relaxing and emotional responses of the body when a conscious, structured and pleasant touch is applied. In addition, gentle rocking of the body, passive joint exercises and deep structural work on the muscles and joints, together with an energetic balancing of the body, “experience”. See also Esalen Massage.

Foot or sole massage

For more details on this topic, see Reflexology.

Foot massage, as practiced by the Chinese is performed in the context of chi, in that each spot on the sole of the foot corresponds to an internal organ, and the applied therapy is healing to one's overall well being. The theory supposes that an ailment of an internal organ will be associated with the nerve ending on the sole of the foot.

Before the massage, the patient's feet are bared and then soaked for about ten minutes in a foot bath, typically a dark colored solution of hot water and Chinese herbs. The massage therapist uses liberal amounts of medicated cream, to moisturize the foot and to provide lubrication. The knuckles on the therapist's hand are usually used to provide a hard and smooth implement for the massage. As pressure is applied to the sole, theory holds that a healthy patient should not feel any strong pain. Painful spots, reflexologists believe, reflect illnesses of other parts of the body. The practitioner rubs and massages the painful spots to break down rough spots and accumulated crystals and increase circulation.

The ailments are healed when the sore spots of the sole are treated and removed by massage. Based on this theory, some shoe liners are made with pressure points to stimulate the soles of the feet to promote better health of the overall body. The nature of these "crystals" has yet to be elucidated or demonstrated scientifically. Regardless of the actual correlation of reflexology to internal organs, many enjoy it for the mix of stimulation and relaxation.

Fur massage

For more details on this topic, see Fur massage.

Hot Stone Massage

The use of heated stones upon the human body as a tool for healing has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. The application of heat to the body and the relaxing effects this has on muscles and the nervous system has been recognized by numerous ancient civilizations. Heated stones were used by Egyptians in their ceremonies, and heated stones have also been used by Native American Indians and in Lomi Lomi massage in Hawaii.

However, it was 1994 that the use of heated stones as part of a full body massage began. Mary Nelson, a massage therapist from of Tucson, Arizona spent 3 years researching and developing the LaStone massage method. She then began sharing her knowledge and began training the massage staff at numerous resorts and spas throughout the southwest states of America. As more and more tourists experienced the LaStone Massage, word spread throughout the spa and healing arts industry and today hot stone massage can be found on the menu of spas and resorts in all corners of the globe. Mary's staff of professional instructors have trained thousands of massage therapists in 3 to 5 day long classes, worldwide.

During an authentic hot stone massage, stones are heated in hot water and then used in two ways. Some stones will be laid under a towel or pillowcase placed under the back along both sides of the spine and ontop of the torso (on a towel) to heat the chakra centers. Heated stones coated in oil are then used directly in the hands of the therapist delivering various massaging strokes of the muscle tissues. The heat from the stones helps to relax the muscles which then permits greater overall results for the massage experience.

Indian Head Massage

The art of Indian Head Massage is an Ayurvedic form of healing and relaxation which is used widely in Asia, mainly by masseurs and hairdressers to combat tensions and stress. The technique has been passed down through families for generations. The Indian Head Massage soothes and harmonises the body's natural balance, helping to promote physical and psychological wellbeing.

Lomilomi — Traditional Hawaiian Massage

For more details on this topic, see Lomilomi massage.

Lomilomi massage is an ancient art from the Hawaiian healing specialists. They were taught their art over 20 years and received their last instructions from their master on his death bed. There are hundreds of styles of Lomilomi, the main ones being the style of Big Island which was passed on by Aunty Margaret Machado, and Maui style from Uncle Kalua Kaiahua. On the island of Kaua'i, Kahu Abraham passed on what is today called Kahuna Bodywork. It is not clear if other current practices—temple style, lomi lomi nui and others—are from Native Hawaiian practitioners or are modern adaptations.

MA-URI massage

MA-URI is a new form of massage introduced by Hemi Hoani Fox in 1990, who cites as its roots Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi Nui dance, claiming increased so-called energy flow within the body and mind. Focus is internal, upon breathing, intent, and concentration. Claimed benefits include mental and physical health. Study and advocation is primarily carried out at the MA-URI Institute, headed by Hemi and Katja Fox. It is currently difficult to find practitioners, though this may change as it grows more popular.

Mayan abdominal massage

A traditional massage in the abdomen region practiced in many countries in Latin America. It helps to improve digestion, correct digestion related problems, and to help the reproductive organs.

Muscle Energy Technique (MET)

Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) is when the therapist uses a client’s muscle to stretch the opposing muscle. The therapist takes the muscle that they are wishing to stretch to its point of bind. The therapist then gets the client to use the opposing muscle by moving away from the therapist. When the client relaxes the therapist then moves the muscle to realign the muscle fibres therefore stretching the muscle.

As an example, Muscle Energy Technique (MET) Reciprocal Inhibition (RI) can be applied to the calf when the client is lying supine on the treatment couch. The therapist can place one hand on the tibia just below the knee to isolate the knee preventing it from moving. The other hand is placed around the heel so that the therapist's forearm can be used to dorsiflex the foot. This is one of the techniques used by sports massage therapists.

Myofascial Release

For more details on this topic, see Myofascial Release.

Myofascial Release refers to the manual massage technique for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia and integument, muscles, and bones, with the goal of eliminating pain, increasing range of motion and balancing the body. Injuries, stress, trauma, overuse and poor posture can cause restriction to fascia. Myofascial release frees fascial restrictions, and allow the muscles to move efficiently. This is usually done by applying shear, compression or tension in various directions, or by skin rolling. This is one of the techniques used by sports massage therapists and physical therapists. Myofascial release originators come from Physical Therapy and from Structural Integration (Rolfing); its current developers include John Barnes PT from a Physical Therapy background, and from a Rolfing or Structural Integration background, Art Riggs, Michael Stanborough, Tom Myers, Til Luchau, and others.

Myoskeletal alignment technique

Myoskeletal Alignment Technique (MAT) identifies postural distortions to improve and prevent pain conditions. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and myofacial techniques are used to lengthen tight/facilitated muscles while fiber activation techniques tone weak/inhibited muscles. MAT was developed by Erik Dalton.

Neuromuscular therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is used for pain relief and specific problems. Structural and postural imbalances are identified through an initial postural assessment. These are then addressed through systematic and site specific massage. NMT reduces pain, tension, postural imbalance, and lengthens and strengthens tissues. NMT was developed in the 1930's by Dr. Stanley Leif


Petrissage (from the French pétrir, 'to knead') is one of the five basic strokes of a Swedish massage. It is performed with kneading movement with the whole palm or finger tips, wringing, skin rolling, compress and lifting. Petrissage is usually applied vertically to the muscle tissue.

The benefits include the warming of tissue for deeper work, increase circulation, increase the supply of nutrients and oxygen to muscle, softens superficial fascia, decreases muscle tension, and restoring mobility by decreasing adhesion.

Roman Massage

At the Roman Baths, bathers would be rubbed with oil(s) and then massaged by a specialised slave. Afterwards the bather would have been toweled down with strips of linen or a woollen towel to remove the excess oil.

Reiki Massage

Reiki Massage is a Japanese healing practice that helps people feel more connected to life. It is an ancient healing technique involving the placement of hands onto the body in order to channel energy. Reiki supposedly allows the massage therapist to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve health and enhance the quality of your life.


For more details on this topic, see Rolfing.

Rolfing®, a method of Structural Integration, is a codified series of soft tissue manipulation, which purports to organize soft tissue relationships, with the objectives of realigning the body structurally and harmonizing its fundamental movement patterns. This is said to enhance vitality and well-being.

Scalp massage

In some barber shops in Hong Kong, scalp massage often lasts 30 minutes to 45 minutes during shampooing of the hair. It is also very common in India, after oil on the hair.

Shantala massage

Shantala massage is an ancient Indian massage technique with a rhythmic character, given to massage babies and children. It was introduced into Western society by Dr. Frederique Leboyer, the renowned French obstetrician, in a book "Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage".


For more details on this topic, see Shiatsu.

Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage that uses thumb pressure and works along the energy meridians in the body also with a lot of stretches the same meridians as acupressure. You are fully clothed while being worked while on a mat on the floor. It is uncertain whether it originated from Chinese Zhi Ya.

Soft Tissue Therapy

For more details on this topic, see Soft Tissue Therapy.

The Assessment, Treatment and Management of Soft Tissue Injury, Pain and Dysfunction. Treatment techniques include:

  • Trigger point therapy for the alleviation of trigger points.
  • Myofascial (muscle and fascia) therapy for flexibility/mobility of the connective tissues of our body, or for alleviating fibrous adhesions and decreasing the severity of scars.
  • Broad handed techniques for reducing swelling or inflammation
  • Frictions for the ridding of adhesions between fascial layers, muscles, compartments and the like. Frictions also promote healing in tendon pathologies as well as decreasing pain perception.
  • Sustained pressure (digital pressures) to alleviate hypertonic (tight)areas within muscle and fascia
  • Other techniques such as Active Release Therapies, Myofascial Release and deep tissue massage are all derivatives of the techniques above. They are NOT unique techniques with unique results.
  • Stretching - static, dynamic, and/or PNF stretches (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)
  • Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
  • Exercise Prescription
  • Advice

This is one of the techniques used by sports massage therapists.

Sports Massage and Sports Therapy

One of the fastest growing forms of treatment for athletes for the prevention of injuries, enhancing performance and in rehabilitation. The sports therapist applies a range of techniques including therapeutic soft tissue massage, gentle mobilization, and stretching techniques to restore function to muscles and joints before, during and following sporting participation. Sports Therapy is founded upon an intimate understanding of the structure and biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. Sports Therapists work in collaboration with other members of the Sports Medicine Team. For more information go to: [1]

Stone massage

Massage in which smooth hot or cold stones, usually basalt or marble, are used to massage the body. When heated stones are used muscles relax allowing the massage therapist to work deeper into the muscle without the discomfort of regular deep tissue massage. Sufferers of sinus congestion usually find relief when cold stones are placed on the sinuses. Energy work is sometimes incorporated into Stone Massage. Stones may be placed on key energy points, such as Chakras or meridians, in order to improve energy flow and healing.

Structural muscular balancing

A gentle and effective technique that releases chronic contraction in the muscles. The nervous system is triggered to release contractions through compression applied to muscles placed in a shortened position.

Swedish massage

This style utilizes long, flowing strokes, often but not necessarily in the direction of the heart. Swedish massage is designed to increase circulation and blood flow. There are six basic strokes: effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement, compression and vibration. Talcum powder, oil, cream, or lotion is applied on the skin to reduce friction and allow smooth strokes. This style of massage is generally attributed to the Swedish fencing master and gymnastics teacher Pehr Henrik Ling (1776-1839). However, it was in fact the Dutch practitioner Johann Georg Mezger (1838-1909) who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes under which he systemized massage as it is known today, as Swedish or classic massage. Ling’s system was the Swedish Movement System or Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. This may be how he has become incorrectly associated for so long with Swedish massage. Swedish massage began to be advertised in North America only in the first half of the 20th century, often, but not exclusively, offered by Swedish immigrants. After Ling's death, massage as influenced by Mezger, became a component of the training program at the institution which Ling had founded. A number of British and United States textbook writers teaching massage in the late 1800s and early 1900s cite their training at the Ling institute. In Sweden, the term "Swedish massage" is not used.

Tai Ji Massage (Tai Chi Massage)

For more details on this topic, see Tai Ji Massage.

Tai Ji Massage

Tai Ji / Tai Chi Massage is massage using the natural principles of Tai Ji, Yin and Yang to achieve balance in the energies of the body, leading to a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Tai Ji / Tai Chi The traditional Chinese term refers to the Tao, which is the inexpressible oneness and connectedness of all things. This is inexpressibility of Tao is referred to by Lao Tzu:

Chapter 32
"The Tao is constantly nameless….
As soon as we start to establish a system we have names.
And as soon as there set names,
Then you must also know that it's time to stop"
Te Tao Ching
Translation by Robert G. Hendricks. Ballantine books 1989

Qi/ Chi: This is the linking element material and spiritual (Jing and Shen), or in health terms mind and body.

Chinese medicine is often able to treat sicknesses and problems which are difficult to treat by western medicine by virtue of the fact that they consider the state of the Chi to be an important factor in diagnosis.

Qi Field theory: Qi appears as a field. In order for a sickness to become chronic an integral Qi field establishes itself in the body of the host. The shape and size of this field is variable and can stretch from head to toes in some cases.

Tai Ji Massage Qi Diagnosis: Tai Ji Massage is a Qi treatment and it makes a treatment in terms of Qi. The master practitioner can sense the Qi blockages inside the body and the relationship which they have to each other.

Qi blockages can be a way of getting insight into causes of chronic sicknesses, recurring sicknesses, psychosomatic sicknesses, future sicknesses.

The main use of this technique is relaxation and self-exploration. In a therapeutic way, funtional organ problems, chronic sicknesses, and psychosomatic sicknesses.

Tai Ji Massage was developed by Richard Wickes, Li Cun De.

Thai massage

For more details on this topic, see Nuat phaen boran.

Known in Thailand as ??????????? (Nuat phaen boran, IPA [nu?t p??n bora?n]), which correctly translates only as ancient massage or traditional massage, this form of massage is also known as Thai ancient massage, traditional Thai massage, Thai yoga massage, yoga massage, Thai classical massage, Thai bodywork, passive yoga or assisted yoga. It is usually soothing because of its emphasis on stretching and loosening the body. Its roots go back far into history, originating in India based on the Ayurveda, and then becoming popular in ancient Siam, now known as Thailand.

Originating in India and drawing from Ayurveda, it has inevitably incorporated modalities like yoga. The receiver is put into many yoga like positions during the course of the massage. In the northeren style there are a lot of stretching movements unlike the southern style where pressure is emphasised. It was believed that the massage art was brought over to Thailand by Shivago Komarpaj (Jivaka Kumarabhacca), a contemporary of Lord Buddha over 2500 years ago.

The massage recipient changes into loose, comfortable clothes and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. (It can be done solo or in a group of a dozen or so patients in the same large room). The massage practitioner leans on the recipient's body using hands and forearms to apply firm rhythmic pressure to almost every part of the recipient's body. The massage generally follows the Sen lines on the body-somewhat analogous to Chinese Meridians and Indian nadis. In some gestures, legs and feet of the giver are used to fixate the body or limbs of the recipient. In other gestures, hands fixate the body, while the feet do the massaging action. Oil is not used in traditional Thai Massage. A full Thai massage session typically lasts two hours or more, and includes rhythmic pressing and stretching of the entire body; this may include pulling fingers, toes, ears etc., cracking the knuckles, walking on the recipient's back, arching the recipient's back in a rolling action etc. There is a standard procedure and rhythm to the massage.

Note: The traditional therapeutic practice of Thai massage should not be confused with the sexual service of the same name that is available in some hotels and brothels. Sometimes the traditional therapeutic Thai Massage, or ancient massage, is referred to as "old lady massage," while the sexual practice, which has nothing to do with therapeutic traditional massage is called "young lady massage."

Trigger point therapy

For more details on this topic, see trigger point.

A trigger point is an area of a muscle (about 50 cells) that may refer pain sensations to other parts of the body. Trigger Point Therapy applies manual pressure, or CO2 injections, to these points. With the proper pressure, duration and location, immediate release of tension and improved muscular functioning may occur. This therapy has been known to diminish migraine pain, mock sciatica, mock carpal tunnel syndrome and other pain syndromes, and other symptoms that may have been misdiagnosed. This work is based upon the trigger point research and manuals of Dr. Janet G. Travell, President Kennedy's physician.

Sometimes this work is incorporated into other styles of massage therapy such as neuromuscular therapy (NMT) or even Swedish.


Is the combination of Water and Shiatsu developed by Harold Dull in his time spent at Harbin Hot Springs, California. The work is done in skin temperature water with both the therapist and practitioner in the water, usually a pool which is between 3.5 ft to 4 ft. deep. The work entails much movement in the water and incorporates the activation of the energy lines derived from Shiatsu.

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