Massage modalities ( massage technique ) used by Massage Therapists

Swedish   Esalen   Shiatsu    Tui na    Tandem    Sensual   Reflexology    Tantric    Thai    Feldenkrais    Full body    Oriental    Deep tissue    Sports    Aromatherapy    Neuromuscular    Acupressure    Pregnancy    Myofascial release    Lomi Lomi    Trigger point     Lymph    Chair    Reiki    Therapeutic touch    Hot stone    Craniosacral    Polarity   Orthobionomy   Muscle energy   Energy Work

Swedish - There are four strokes in Swedish massage: effleurage, petrissage, friction and tapotement. Effleurage is the long flowing strokes, petrissage is the kneading strokes, friction is used to generate heat and bring blood to the surface, and tapotement is the hitting type strokes. The aim of a Swedish massage is to relax the tissues of the body, relieve stress and improve circulation. Most all Massage Therapists incorporate deep tissue work where needed, with their Swedish massage.

Esalen - This modality involves long, nurturing strokes along the entire length of the body.  At the Esalen institute, where this modality was initially developed, both the student receiving the massage and the student giving the massage were naked.

Sensual - A sensual massage is a massage that is pleasing to the senses.  Since people who offer sexual services can't legally advertise sexual massage, they often use the word sensual. 

Reflexology ( foot massage ) - A reflexology massage involves the therapist massaging various areas of the feet to promote health in various areas of the body. In general, the big toe represents the top part of the body (the head), the bottom of the heal represents the lower part of the body and the middle part of the foot represents the middle parts of the body.

Tantric - A Tantric massage usually involves sacred sexuality and was brought to the United States from India.  Tantra doesn't always involve the expression of sexuality (sexual activity), but usually involves sexuality indirectly.

Thai - A Thai massage involves a lot of stretching of muscles and balancing the positive and negative energies in the body (Yin & Yang).

Feldenkrais - Exercises that encourage awareness of movement and how that movement makes the body feel.

Full body - A full body massage is nothing more than massaging the entire body.  Many therapists leave parts of the body out, such as the buttocks, face, scalp, chest or abdomen.  The effects of a full body massage will last much longer than a partial massage. This is because, in a partial massage, the tension in the part of the body that wasn't massaged will work it's way into the parts of the body that were massaged.  A full body massage does not include massage of the genitals and usually not the breasts.

Oriental - An oriental massage isn't a specific modality, but rather a philosophy of massage.  Therapists who do an oriental massage work at balancing the meridians of the body and use eastern philosophy in their body work.

Deep tissue - A deep tissue massage simply means the therapist is massaging deeply into the tissues of the body.

Sports - A sports massage isn't very strictly defined.  Any modality that works well for an athlete will work well for someone who's not an athlete.  The techniques used in sports massage are the techniques that work well on someone who has just performed an athletic event.  Also, it can be techniques used to prepare a person for activity before an event.  One example of a sports massage technique is a boxer getting his arm shaken by his trainer in between rounds.  A sports massage uses many of the same techniques as Swedish massage, except that the person is dressed and no oil or lotion is used.  Many people request a sports massage, because they think it will help them become athletic.  This is false. Most modalities of massage help with fitness as much or more than sports massage, especially Swedish.

Tandem - A tandem massage is two Massage Therapists massaging one client at the same time.

Shiatsu - Shiatsu means finger pressure and is a Japanese form of acupressure.  A Shiatsu treatment involves balancing the meridians of the body by pressing and holding certain points for 2 to 3 minutes each.  Meridians are energy channels through which chi (energy) flows through the body.

Aromatherapy - An aromatherapy massage involves incorporating scents from plants (essential oils) into the massage.  Different scents are supposed to trigger different areas of the brain to allow healing of various conditions.  Most of these conditions are psychological.  Certain scents relieve anxiety, some relieve depression, others have a calming effect.  So basically, they all are supposed to elevate mood (just different kinds of mood).  Some people have claimed that certain essential oils will help with certain medical conditions.  For example, rosemary oil is supposed to help with rheumatoid arthritis.  I believe in the elevation effect, but I'm not so sure about the rest. Since stress either causes or aggravates nearly all medical conditions, I think it's great to use essential oils.  

Neuromuscular - A neuromuscular massage involves the therapist using postural assessment, muscle testing, exercise and stretching to balance the nervous system.  This system is widely accepted by western medical doctors.

Tui na - A tui na massage stimulates points on the body that correspond to acupuncture points.  The therapist primarily uses the back of the hand to quickly roll back and forth over these points. Other techniques are very similar to western massage, see Swedish massage.

Acupressure - Acupressure uses pressure in points of energy flow.  Pressure at these points is supposed to balance energy in the body (Chi).  The points are very close to acupuncture points and in reality probably are the same points.

Pregnancy - A pregnancy massage is performed with consideration for the special needs of a pregnant woman.  Some therapists believe that if you press certain points during pregnancy, it will cause premature labor.  This is totally false.  It doesn't make sense that balancing the meridians would cause premature labor or be detrimental in any way to the mother or unborn child.  A fellow Massage Therapist pressed all these points on his wife during pregnancy, labor and delivery and they had a healthy baby.  If anything, pressing these points would improve the flow of energy through this meridian to improve the health of the mother and child.

Myofascial release - This modality involves the therapist turning or pressing the fascia (connective tissue that covers muscle) in a direction that causes the therapist to feel either increases or decreases resistance.  Ironically, either direction may work. If the direction that increases resistance doesn't work, the therapists will try the other direction and vice versa.

Lomi Lomi - Lomi Lomi means rub rub and originated in Hawaii.  The therapists use their forearms to glide over the body with long flowing, quick strokes.

Trigger point - A Trigger point is an area of muscle tissue that is hypercontracted (a knot).  The therapist pushes on this point to relax the entire muscle. Trigger point therapy is never done without massage, or shouldn't be.

Lymph - Lymphatic drainage is used to decrease edema (Tissue fluid) and has the side effect of improving the immune system. The therapist glides along path of the lymphatic vessels to return tissue fluid to the heart.  Excess tissue fluid accumulates with various conditions, such as congestive heart failure (CHF) 

Chair - This form of massage is performed with the client sitting in a massage chair.  The client is fully clothed and massage techniques that don't require massage oil or lotion are used. This type of massage is less effective than a traditional massage, but is very convenient in the workplace to relieve stress and increase the productivity of employees, as well as their health.

Reiki - Reiki is an energy modality that doesn't involve touch. The Reiki practitioner summons energy from the universe to heal or improve the health of their client. Reiki practitioners improve their ability to heal by receiving Reiki treatments from a Reiki practitioner who is at a higher level. Once they have received enough Reiki treatment by higher level practitioner they become a Reiki master.

Therapeutic touch - Therapeutic touch, ironically, doesn't involve touch.  Practitioners place their hands over the clients body, just above the skin. They then feel for areas of warmth and cold, pushing the areas of warmth into the areas of cold.

Hot stone - The stones are placed on the clients body at critical energetic points.  Some practitioners also use the stones to massage the client with, others simply place the stones and massage with their hands.

Craniosacral - Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) bathes the brain and spinal cord, much the same way that blood bathes the other tissues of the body. Craniosacral practitioners believe that the CSF creates a "pulse" like blood does in the arteries. This pulse can be felt by placing the hands on the head.  Disease can be diagnosed through the quality of the pulse and the dysfunction can be corrected by manipulating the plates of the skull. I was a skeptic when I first learned this technique. This really works, but it takes a long time to perfect.

Polarity - Polarity involves balancing the positive and negative forces in the body (yin and yang) by holding various points on the body and passing energy through these points.

Orthobionomy - This modality uses positioning of the body in the position of ease to release trigger points. This can be thought of as the opposite of stretching the affected muscle.

Muscle energy - In this modality, the client uses a percent of his/her strength to resist the actions of the therapist. He or She then relaxes the muscle to allow the therapist to stretch the muscle.  This is usually done three consecutive times, followed by the client contracting the antagonist (opposite muscle).

Energy Work - The therapist passes spiritual or psychic energy, usually from the universe, into the client. Alternatively, energy in the client is balanced by the therapist.