Massage Therapy: The Ultimate List
Definitions of massage therapy modalities and techniques including swedish, sports, and therapeutic massage therapy.
Combination of massage, yoga, and acrobatics was developed by Benjamin Marantz. The client is placed in an inverted pose atop the acrosager’s feet, their head hanging freely. With no pressure on the neck or spine, the client’s more difficult points can be easily massaged.
An ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. When these points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body’s life force (sometimes known as qi or chi) to aid healing. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses the gentle, but firm pressure of hands (and even feet). There is a large amount of scientific data demonstrating why and how acupuncture is effective. But acupressure, the older of the two traditions, was neglected after the Chinese developed more technical methods for stimulating points with needles and electricity. Acupressure, however, continues to be the most effective method for self-treatment of tension-related ailments by using the power and sensitivity of the human hand. Foremost among the advantages of acupressure’s healing touch is that it is safe to do on yourself and others — even if you’ve never done it before — so long as you follow the instructions and pay attention to the cautions. The only pieces of equipment needed are your own two hands. You can practice acupressure therapy anytime, anywhere. Acupressure can be effective in helping relieve headaches, eye strain, sinus problems, neck pain, backaches, arthritis, muscle aches, tension due to stress, ulcer pain, menstrual cramps, lower backaches, constipation, and indigestion. Self-acupressure can also be used to relieve anxiety and get better sleep at night. There are also great advantages to using acupressure as a way to balance the body and maintain good health. The healing touch of acupressure reduces tension, increases circulation, and enables the body to relax deeply. By relieving stress, acupressure strengthens resistance to disease and promotes wellness. In acupressure, local symptoms are considered an expression of the condition of the body as a whole. A tension headache, for instance, may be rooted in the shoulder and neck area. Thus, acupressure focuses on relieving pain and discomfort, as well as responding to tension, before it develops into a disease — before the constrictions and imbalances can do further damage. The origins of acupressure are as ancient as the instinctive impulse to hold your forehead or temples when you have a headache. Everyone at one time or another has used their hands spontaneously to hold tense or painful places on the body. More than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing certain points on the body relieved pain where it occurred and also benefited other parts of the body more remote from the pain and the pressure point. Gradually, they found other locations that not only alleviated pain, but also influenced the functioning of certain internal organs. (Definition in part from the book Acupressure’s Potent Points, by Michael Reed Gach, director of the Acupressure Institute.)
A water exercise and relaxation program, created by Jun Konno, to help aquatic practitioners and students enjoy the water in a flowing, yet powerful progression. Ai chi, created by combining t’ai chi concepts with shiatsu and Watsu techniques, is performed standing in shoulder-depth water using a combination of deep breathing and slow, broad movements of the arms, legs, and torso. The ai chi progression moves from simple breathing to upper extremity movement to movement of the trunk, and finally to lower extremity movement. Ai chi promotes relaxation, stability, and coordinated breathing. It improves flexibility, mobility, and strength, and it will animate the mind as well as the body.
Developed by Kamala Renner, Alchemical Synergy is a process of evolving universal energy patterns and is used as a holistic counseling system that focuses on achieving transformation by utilizing the universal four forces of centripetal, centrifugal, gravity, and electromagnetics — the consciousness portion of the Big Bang theory relative to the beginning of the universe. Centripetal controls all inward movement, allowing us to go inside to observe and reconnect with our inner world which contains knowledge of all that is natural for us as an individual. Centrifugal controls all outward movement, allowing interaction of the consciousness with the surroundings and other people. Centripetal and centrifugal are duality and control all activity that depends on yin/yang, negative/positive balance for its existence. Gravity regulates the action of centripetal and centrifugal to ensure universal balance and stimulates the ability to step out of duality to observe the effect of its interaction from a neutral space. Electromagnetics is the life force that is a catalyst for reproduction to occur, allowing the evolution of consciousness to continue. Synergy training defines every experience in categories relative to the force from which it originates. When we are aware of the influence of the four forces, we can begin to alter structures and patterns that cause stagnation in personal growth. Adapted from Holistic Health Directory.)
Amma (sometimes spelled anma) is the traditional word for massage in the Japanese language. It comes from the Chinese tradition of massage, anmo. This form of bodywork is based on the principles of Chinese medicine and is more than 5,000 years old. When anmo was brought to Japan, the technique was further refined into its own therapeutic art form, amma. The amma techniques encompass a myriad of pressing, stroking, stretching, and percussive manipulations with the thumbs, fingers, arms, elbows, knees, and feet on acupressure points along the body’s 14 major meridians. Amma brings to Western culture the ancient art and wisdom of traditional Japanese massage. Through the structure of kata (choreographed movement), amma teaches the importance of rhythm, pacing, precision, and form in massage. Shiatsu — a style of bodywork popularized after World War II — was developed from the amma tradition. Unlike Western massage, amma utilizes no oils and can be done through clothing with the client either sitting or lying. This makes amma an extremely flexible style of massage suitable to a wide variety of client needs and environments.
The use of essential oils (which are extracted from herbs, flowers, resin, woods, and roots) in body and skin care treatments is known as aromatherapy. Used as a healing technique for thousands of years by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, essential oils aid in relaxation, improve circulation, and help the healing of wounds. Aromatherapy diffusers are utilized to fill the massage room with the scent of the oils. Specific essential oils are blended by the aromatherapist and added to a carrier oil, such as almond oil, to be used during the massage. Each of the oils has its own unique characteristics and benefits. Use of this technique declined as the modern pharmaceutical industry developed. However, the French chemist Gattefossé revived the art by coining the term aromatherapy and by publishing a book on the subject in 1928.
Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy:
Developed by Ruthie Hardee in 1995, Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy combines elements of traditional Thai massage, Barefoot shiatsu and Keralite foot massage (Chavutti Thirummal). Incorporating overhead wooden bar supports, the therapist uses body weight and gliding foot compression on strategic points along the muscles. When performed near the spine, this form of effleurage creates a “push, pull, pumping” effect on the intervertebral disc space and relieves irritations on the spinal nerve caused by inflammation and swelling. Note: The application of this technique is not to be done on a floor mat or through clothing. This technique was designed for smaller, petite therapists who wish to specialize in deep work.
One part of the traditional detoxification and rejuvenation program of India called panchakarma, in which the entire body is vigorously massaged with large amounts of warm oil and herbs to remove toxins from the system. With the client’s permission, oil is also poured into the ears, between the eyebrows and at specific chakras, or energy points, during techniques known respectively as karna purana, shirodhara, and marma chikitsa. These treatments have been modified to meet the needs of the West and have been powerful in their effects upon the mind and nervous system — calming, balancing, and bringing both a heightened sense of awareness and deep inner peace. The techniques can be done either as stand-alone treatments or in conjunction with the ayurvedic body massage. The basis for effectively performing all of the various ayurvedic massage techniques is a thorough understanding of the primordial energies of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) and of vata, pitta, and kapha — the three basic constitutional types (similar to the ancient Greek method of mind/body classification). This knowledge allows the therapist to determine not only which ayurvedic massage techniques to use, but also how to customize treatments by selecting the proper oils and herbs and the rate and pressure of massage strokes to maximize the benefits for each client.
Positioned above the client, the Balinese massage therapist performs a combination of kneading strokes, skin rolling, and foot massage. Treatment is followed by an application of coconut oil infused with spices.
A series of massage techniques using acupressure points, lymphatic drainage strokes, and facial massage strokes, Belavi’ Facial Massage is designed to firm sagging skin, stimulate blood and oxygen, release toxins, and soften lines. The treatment also consists of cleansing, exfoliating, hot towel wraps, and a honeylift massage treatment.
Developed and taught by Polish healer Mietek Wirkus, bioenergy is a form of energy healing. The therapist uses a combination of noninvasive, light physical touch with manipulation and repatterning of the higher energy bodies and chakras using only the hands. The objectives are release of physical symptoms associated with disease and stimulation of the relaxation response to relieve stress and tension.
Nerve impingement in cross-linked connective tissue is a major cause of chronic and sports-associated pain. Through trauma (injury), compression, tension, free-radical damage, pollution, and more, cross-linking of connective tissue is formed. These threads of connective tissue adhere to adjacent strands, thereby decreasing range of motion, reducing joint space, impinging nerves, and generally shortening the body. The BioSync method releases collagen cross-linking by unwinding these locked and hardened strands, thereby restoring the body’s length, flexibility, and function, and allowing regeneration and revitalization of the whole system. The BioSync method, developed by Mark Lamm, NMT, is a sophisticated system of neuromuscular rehabilitation and re-education and has been successful with a wide range of muscular and trauma-related challenges. It is complementary with existing medical and rehabilitative procedures.
A short (15–20 minute) massage of a client sitting in a special, portable massage chair. The client remains fully clothed and no oils are used while their shoulders, neck, upper back, head and arms are massaged. On-Site is popular at some offices as an employee benefit and for some conferences, workshops and certain social events. Craniosacral Therapy Via a gentle, non-invasive manipulative technique, this encourages your own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your brain and spinal cord to dissipate the negative effects of stress, promote good health, and enhance resistance to disease. Reiki During Reiki, which means “universal life-force energy,” the “healer” becomes a channeler of universal energy. The treatment follows a traditional pattern of hand positions resting on the body without pressure. Reiki is pure energy, and brings about deep relaxation and healing.
A special arrangement that allows a couple to receive their massages at the same time, in the same room with two massage therapists. The massage may be any type of massage such as Swedish, deep tissue, etc. Couple’s massage is a wonderful way to share the power and benefits of massage.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, noninvasive method of evaluating and enhancing the function of a physiological body arrangement called the craniosacral system. Developed by John E. Upledger, D.O., O.M.M., this manual therapy enhances the body’s natural healing processes and has proven effective in treating a wide range of medical problems associated with pain and dysfunction. The craniosacral system consists of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It extends from the bones of the skull, face, and mouth — which make up the cranium — down to the sacrum or tailbone. Since this system influences the development and function of the brain and spinal cord, any imbalance or dysfunction in the craniosacral system could cause sensory, motor, or neurological disabilities. These problems may include chronic pain, eye difficulties, scoliosis, motor-coordination impairments, learning disabilities, and other dysfunctions of the central nervous system. Craniosacral therapy encourages the body’s natural healing mechanisms to improve the functioning of the central nervous system, dissipate the negative effects of stress, and enhance health and resistance to disease. The craniosacral therapy practitioner uses a light touch to assist the natural movement of fluid within the craniosacral system. Therapists generally use only 5 grams of pressure, roughly the weight of a nickel, to test for restrictions in various parts of the craniosacral system. It’s often possible for the evaluation alone to remove the restriction and allow the system to correct itself.
Techniques which utilize deep tissue/deep muscle massage are administered to affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia. These techniques require more advanced training and a more thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology. The muscles must be relaxed in order to effectively perform deep tissue massage, otherwise tight surface muscles prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper musculature. It helps with chronic muscular pain and injury rehabilitation, and reduces inflammation-related pain caused by arthritis and tendonitis. It is generally integrated with other massage techniques.
Developed in the 1960s, this style originated at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif., and is based on a combination of Oriental and Swedish massage techniques. Esalen is light and gentle in nature, emphasizing nurturing and empathy. The strokes are soft, easy, and slow, prompting deep relaxation. It is used to reduce stress, relieve pain, improve sleep, aid digestion, and promote healing.
Developed by Russian-born Israeli educator Moshe Feldenkrais, this method establishes new connections between the brain and body through movement re-education. One of two formats of instruction is used: Awareness through movement and functional integration. In the one-on-one functional integration session, a teacher uses hands-on manipulation to guide the student toward new movement patterns. Awareness through movement classes are group sessions in which the teacher verbally guides students through repatterning. Feldenkrais proposed that nearly our entire spectrum of movement is learned during our first few years of life, but that these movements represent a mere 5 percent of all possibilities available to us. Habituated responses to problem areas in our lives are ingrained in our movement patterns. By retraining the central nervous system through the skeletal system, old patterns are eliminated and replaced with new skills that improve the physical, mental, and emotional functioning of the body. In this way, unconscious movement is brought into conscious awareness where it may be used as a tool for opening the human potential.
Massage for the elderly. Addresses the psychological and physiological aspects of aging and its associated diseases. Bodywork, often limited to a shorter time span, is performed in residential care facilities.
A unique connection with nature. Stone massage involves the application of water-heated basalt stones of varying sizes to key points on the body, giving a deep massage and creating sensations of comfort and warmth. The direct heat relaxes muscles, allowing manipulation of a greater intensity than with regular massage.
Although ancient Greece and Rome had both adopted the beliefs that water had healing properties, it was the Romans to first integrate hydrotherapy into their social life, building temples and baths near natural springs. Father Sebastian Kneipp from Worshofen, Bavaria, however, was the true father of modern-day hydrotherapy in Germany. Various hydrotherapy massage techniques exist and are generally utilized by massage/bodywork practitioners, physical therapists, physicians, and spa technicians. These include underwater massage, herbal baths, thalassotherapy, Kneipp therapy, vichy treatments, scotch hoses, and Swiss showers.
A system of energy healing, developed by Jason Shulman, based on the traditional Judaic metaphysical path (Kabbalah), object-relations, and advaitic (non-dualistic) perspectives with the understandings of psychology and the power of healing touch. A session is approximately one hour in length and consists of discussion, followed by a hands-on healing based on what has been discussed. The goal is personal transformation by changing the fundamental patterns that are keeping the client from living the life she wants, ultimately affecting change on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
The study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy related to human body movement, specifically the action of individual muscles or groups of muscles that perform specific movements. Applied kinesiology involves muscle testing to assess a client’s condition.
A system of massage that utilizes very large, broad movements. Two-handed, forearm, and elbow application of strokes, which cover a broad area, is characteristic of lomilomi. Similar to Swedish massage in many aspects, this system uses prayer and the acknowledgment of the existence of a higher power as an integral part of the technique. Lomilomi — Hawaiian for rub rub — is described by teacher Aunty Margaret Machado as “the loving touch — a connection between heart, hand, and soul with the source of all life.” Aunty Margaret was the first to teach lomilomi in a formal, classroom situation; previously the training was passed on within the family by Kahunas or shamans. Oils are used in the application of cross-fiber friction techniques. The practitioner often uses the forearm and elbow in the application of pressure.
This healing technique has become a popular massage choice. It blends soothing, gentle, rhythmical, precise massage-like movements to accelerate the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body. Deep Tissue Massage Deep Tissue Massage is used to release chronic muscle tension through slower strokes and more direct pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles. This invigorating experience is a process of detection of stiff or painful areas by determining the quality and texture of the deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working into the deep layers of muscle tissue. Specific hand positions and strokes are then used to respond to various tissue qualities. Techniques employing breath and movement are also used for releasing muscular congestion. Rolfing by Dr. Ida Rolf, aligns the major body segments through deep manipulation of the fascia or connective tissue.
Developed by Charles W. Wiltsie III, lypossage is a combination of manual deep-tissue massage, lymphatic drainage, and the principles of structural integration used to combat cellulite. An alternative to liposuction and body contouring machines, lypossage enhances firmness and tone and increases skin resilience and smoothness. The treatment requires a series of sessions because the reduction of cellulite is only temporary unless treatment is continued. When combined with diet and exercise, lypossage produces a lifting effect in areas prone to sagging.
A three-dimensional application of sustained pressure and movement into the fascial system in order to eliminate fascial restrictions and facilitate the emergence of emotional patterns and belief systems that are no longer relevant or are impeding progress. First, an assessment is made by visually analyzing the human frame, followed by the palpation of the tissue texture of various fascial layers. Upon locating an area of fascial tension, gentle pressure is applied in the direction of the restriction. Myofascial release is an effective therapeutic approach in the relief of cervical pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, scoliosis, neurological dysfunction, restriction of motion, chronic pain, and headaches.
A hands-on, drugless, noninvasive method of relieving muscle-related pain, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy emphasizes a speedy, cost-effective recovery and active client participation for long-term relief. Myotherapy relaxes muscles, improves circulation, and alleviates pain in all parts of the body while increasing strength, flexibility, coordination, stamina, and energy. It improves posture, gait, sleep patterns, and work and play performance. The first 90-minute session includes an extensive and vital history. Subsequent treatments are 60 minutes and include self-help techniques. Clients are cleared for treatment by a physician, which ensures the pain is not due to anatomical pathology requiring medical attention.
Combining some elements of sports and medical massage, orthopedic massage integrates 10 modalities to treat soft tissue pain and injury. Emphasis is placed on understanding both the injury and its rehabilitation criteria. Three basic elements adhered to, despite the technical diversity in treatment, are assessment, matching the treatment to the injury, and adaptability of treatment.
A series of movements, done from a sitting, reclining, kneeling, or standing position, designed to increase strength and flexibility, release tension, and relieve chronic neck and back pain. Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, this method combines elements of Eastern and Western disciplines, including yoga, tai chi, and ancient Greek and Roman exercise protocols. Specially designed apparatus are used for stretching and strengthening exercises and can be calibrated to the client’s needs. Repatterning movements and proper breathing techniques are important components of the training. The Pilates method is used in physical rehabilitation and is popular with athletes and performance artists, as well as those seeking to improve body conditioning.
Pfrimmer Deep Muscle:
Developed by Therese Pfrimmer. Once partially paralyzed, she overcame her disability through deep muscle manipulation and spent the next 30 years developing this technique. Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy works across the muscles manipulating deep tissues, stimulating circulation and regenerating lymphatic flow, thus promoting detoxification and oxygenation of stagnant tissues.
Performed by a trained perinatal specialist, many methods of massage and somatic therapies are both effective and safe prenatally, and during labor and postpartum periods of women’s pregnancies. Prenatally, specific techniques can reduce pregnancy discomforts and concerns and enhance the physiological and emotional well-being of both mother and fetus. Skilled, appropriate touch facilitates labor, shortening labor times and easing pain and anxiety. In the postpartum period, specialized techniques rebalance structure, physiology, and emotions of the new mother, and may help her to bond with and care for her infant. Specialized, advanced training in the anatomy, physiology, complications, precautions, and contraindications is highly recommended, and many practitioners require referrals from physicians prior to therapy.
This hands-on healing method offers spontaneous adjusting of proper alignment of the body. Principles behind Quantum-Touch involve resonance, intention, attention, breath, and innate body intelligence. Using various breathing techniques and meditations, a light touch is applied to activate the body’s own healing process.
Originated by D. Gary Young, raindrop technique is a noninvasive tool for helping to correct defects in the curvature of the spine caused by viruses and bacteria that lie dormant there. Antimicrobial essential oils are used to reduce inflammation by killing the viral agents, thus bringing the body into structural and electrical alignment. The oils (primarily thyme, oregano, birch, cypress, peppermint, and basil) are dispensed like little drops of rain from a height of about six inches above the back and massaged along the vertebrae. The oils used in this 45-minute treatment continue to work for the next five to seven days.
The application of appropriate pressure to the leg and feet, by the hands of a trained practitioner, to bring about physiological and psychological changes in the body.
Buddhist in nature, reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is the combining of universal energy with individual energy to open pathways of healing. It teaches that disease is not separate from the body; it is the body out of balance. Rediscovered by Japanese Buddhist and Christian scholar of theology Mikao Usui around 1921, this energy healing method involves placing the hands on or just above the body in order to align chakras and bring healing energy to organs and glands. The practitioner, trained to access and serve as a channel for the life energy, uses a passive touch that some clients experience as a warmth or tingling. The hands remain in position for 3 to 5 minutes, alternately covering 10 to 12 positions over the body. Treatments work by dissolving or eliminating toxic energy and substances from many levels of one’s being, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental. This works to strengthen the harmonic flow of energy within the body. The three levels of training in the initiation process of becoming a reiki master are referred to as attunement levels. Through this training, the practitioner reaches a level where she can access energy flow through the hands to heal herself and others.
A holistic treatment; that is, a treatment for the whole of the body, as well as the area being treated. The primary aim of Remedial Massage is to find and treat the cause of the disorder, not only the symptoms. A remedial massage therapist studies anatomy, physiology, related pathology and the techniques of Swedish massage, heat and cold therapies, Kinesthetics and many other related fields. Remedial massage can have short and long term effects on the body, bringing about the process of healing.
A system based on the body’s energy meridians. Shiatsu massages are normally done fully clothed and involve pressing points on the body and stretching and opening of the energy meridians. Shiatsu is somewhat related to acupuncture, which is a form of anesthesia and therapy used in Chinese hospitals for surgery. Its proponents view it as a form of treatment alternative to medicine or surgery.
Soft Tissue Release:
A powerful injury treatment technique developed in Europe with the world’s fastest sprinters. Due to the amazing amounts of prize money and endorsement contracts available to these athletes, faster and more permanent results were warranted. STR was developed to meet this need. Recovery rates once considered impossible by traditional therapists and sports medicine doctors were achieved. These are not new concepts, but are based on European osteopathy techniques, along with insights from quantum physics. In recent years, STR has been given clinical application for chronic low back pain and whiplash injuries. STR deals directly with the reasons for soft tissue dysfunctions and subsequent referred pain and nerve entrapment. In acute conditions, STR affects the insidious way scar tissue is formed, and in chronic conditions STR breaks up the fibrotic and adhered mass of scar tissue to quickly allow the muscle to return to its natural resting length. Once the muscle or muscle group has returned to the original resting length, there is an immediate release from the pain induced by the inflammation response. With STR, the client is placed in a particular position so that the muscle begins to stretch in a very specific direction or plane. The exact location of the injury has been defined and a determined pressure is applied directly into the affected tissue or along a specific line of injury. At the same time, depending whether passive or active techniques are being used, the client is given a set of instructions that now engage the antagonist of the muscles involved. The muscle is extended from a fixed position in a determined direction under a pinpoint of pressure. Decrease in pain and increase in range of motion are often immediate, offsetting any minor discomfort experienced. STR can be modified so there is no client discomfort at all. The flowing motions of STR and total client control afford new levels of deep tissue work and subsequent pain relief.
Soma Neuromuscular Integration:
A 10-session system of bodywork, soma neuromuscular integration works the fascial network to release chronic, stored structural aberrations; to effectively realign the entire body; and to facilitate the change process. The three brain model theory and holographic body reading, as part of the SOMA theoretical framework, assist the practitioner to analyze each individual blueprint, personalize needs, and design the session for each structure. SOMA work includes extensive guidance tools (movement, journaling, drawing interpretation, and other mind/body integrating tools) for training bodywork practitioners and for educating clients.
Using the media of sound (music, tones, vibrations, etc.) as a tool for healing, sound therapy enables the realignment of natural body rhythms. Therapy may include, but is not limited to, the use of Tibetan singing bowls, chimes, acutonic tuning forks, rattles, and drums.
Spiritual Massage Healing:
A form of divinely inspired and divinely guided religious healing. It consists of prayer, love, anointing with oil, and movements derived from the laying-on of hands. It is the practice of one’s religious faith and conscience, and it is a mode of worship. Without prayer, there is no spiritual massage healing. However, each practitioner does spiritual massage healing their own way, which may vary from one client to another.
Used primarily for the serious athlete who trains continuously. It focuses on the muscles relevant to the particular athletic activity. It also an include pre-event, post-event and maintenance techniques that promote greater athletic endurance and performance, lessen chances of injury and reduce recovery time.
St. John’s neuromuscular therapy seeks out the cause of pain, focusing on creating a balance between the muscular and nervous systems. This bodywork focuses on five basic principles — biomechanics, ischemis, trigger points, postural distortion, and nerve entrapment and compression — that are important factors in the body’s physical homeostasis. Also, attention is given to hormonal balance, nutrition, and elimination of toxins. This therapy is used to treat soft-tissue pain throughout most of the body.
Based on the work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, structural integration is based on the idea the entire structural order of the body needs to be realigned and balanced with the gravitational forces around a “central vertical line” representing gravity’s influence. Therapeutic intervention is directed toward the myofascial system — the ligaments, muscles, tendons, and surrounding connective tissues. A practitioner of structural integration has a 10-session cycle of work — they use different angles and degrees of physical pressure to stretch and guide fascia to a place of easier movement. The process is not intended to “cure” symptoms; its goal is to create a more resilient, higher-energy system free of inhibitions due to past trauma.
(a proper name, not a reference to Sweden) refers to a collection of techniques designed primarily to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. The lymph system and veins (which carry blood back to the heart) both rely on muscle action, rather than heart pump pressure, to operate. Many believe it is safe to apply light pressure in the opposite direction. Friction is reduced by oil, or lacking that baby powder. Some practitioners claim benefits from vegetable rather than mineral oil while others disagree. Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, help the recipient obtain a feeling of connectedness, a better awareness of their body and the way they use and position it. The strokes and manipulations of Swedish Massage are each conceived as having a specific therapeutic benefit. One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return from the extremities. Swedish Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue of lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic wastes. It improves circulation without increasing heart load. It stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage also stimulates the skin and nervous system while at the same time relaxing the nerves themselves. As it can help reduce emotional and physical stress it is often recommended as part of a regular program for stress management. It also has specific clinical uses in a medical or remedial therapy.
A massage performed by two therapists on one client. Can be profoundly relaxing and deeply nurturing. Performed by two massage therapists working rhythmically together.
The traditional massage of Thailand, has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. It came to Thailand along with Buddhism and was originally practiced by Buddhist monks in their temples. The work consists primarily of pressure on energy lines and points, and a large variety of stretching movements. The stretching movements of Thai massage often resemble passive yoga asanas. One receives all the benefits of Yoga without having to perform any of the work! These stretches affect the entire body by increasing flexibility, releasing both deep and superficial tension, and helping the body’s natural energy to flow more freely.
Developed through the collaboration of a nursing professor and a spiritual healer, Therapeutic Touch is based on ancient energy healing methods. Practitioners, primarily nurses, are trained to feel or sense energy imbalances in the client and to use “laying on” of hands to disperse blocks and channel healing forces to the client’s body. The therapist uses a light touch or holds the hand above the body, with the client generally seated. Meditation is used by the therapist to center herself and strengthen her connection to the client’s energy system. Therapeutic Touch has been applied in an assortment of medical situations, including the care of premature infants and emergency room patients. It is known to induce a state of relaxation within minutes. Therapeutic Touch is considered safe because of its gentle, noninvasive approach. Developers of this technique affirm that everyone has the potential to heal with Therapeutic Touch and may be taught the methodology in one day.
Uses light, gentle, non-intrusive movements to facilitate the release of deep-seated physical and mental patterns. Each part of the client’s body is moved rhythmically so that the recipient experiences the possibility of moving lightly, effortlessly, and freely on their own. A Trager session should help reduce stress from chronic tension, teach more effective ways to recover from stressful situations, enhance conscious awareness and flexibility, improve self-image, expand energy, restore free flowing movement and full self-expression by reducing constriction and rigidity. A Trager session can bring about the experience of peace and serenity — a high-energy state of well-being beyond relaxation. Myofascial release is used to evaluate and treat restrictions in the body’s contractile connective tissues (muscles) and non-contractile supportive connective tissues (fascia) by the application of gentle traction, pressures and positioning. Fascia is a complex supportive web throughout the body affecting all components of the musculoskeletal, nervous and visceral (organ) systems. It surrounds groups of muscle fibers, and entire muscle groups and organs. While it is not contractile, it can be passively elastically deformed. That is how it retains tensions from physical and emotional traumas. It is also involved when a person suffers chronic pain or physical dysfunction. Chronically tense muscles restrict blood flow and fatigue the body. Both fascia and muscle tissues can become shortened if they are improperly used. As well, layers of fascia can stick together. Myofascial release techniques are used to coax muscles in spasm to relax, and break adhesions in the fascia. Bodies respond to these therapies by releasing tension that has been stored in the fascia, thus allowing more functional flexibility and mobility of the muscles, fascia and associated structures.
Pain-relief techniques to alleviate muscle spasms and cramping. The therapist locates and deactivates ‘trigger points’, which are often tender areas where muscles have been damaged or acquired a re-occurring spasm or ‘kink’ that worsens painfully when aggravated. The major goals are to reduce spasm inducing new blood flow into the affected area. The spasms are partly maintained by nervous system feedback (pain-spasm-pain) cycle. Spasms also physically reduce blood flow to the trigger point area (ischemia), reducing oxygen supplied to the tissues and increasing the spasm. Pressure is applied to trigger points, for a short time (between about 7 to 10 seconds per point), which can be momentarily painful but is greatly relieving. It is common to hit the same trigger points several times during a session, but you won’t be leaning into a sore spot for several minutes. Often ice or another cooling agent is used to reduce nervous system response, making the area easier and more comfortable to work. Then the muscles are gently stretched to complete the relaxation process, hence the name ‘spray and stretch’. Myotherapy aims to erase pain and soothe tightened muscles. People with acute or chronic muscle tension and the associated pain are likely to benefit greatly from this type of treatment. Polarity therapy is a holistic approach to natural health care. It asserts that energy fields exist everywhere in nature, and that the flow and balance of this energy in the human body is the underlying foundation of health. Stress, tension, pain, inflexible thinking, and environmental stimuli are among many factors that can contribute to the restriction of this energy flow in the human body. According to Polarity therapists, such energy blocks can be released by the use of four therapeutic methods: bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. The founder of Polarity Therapy, Dr. Randolph Stone DO, DC, ND, emphasized the interdependence of body, emotions, mind and spirit. Polarity therapy includes gentle body manipulation and holding pressure points (poles) as well as counseling on developing positive thoughts and attitudes, understanding the principles of food combining and easy exercises to increase energy flow. Polarity is often used by care givers in conjunction with many other therapies.
An ancient Chinese system of manual therapeutics with a wide range of techniques and indications. While Traditional Chinese Medical precepts form its theoretical basis, clinical experience governs its application. Tui na techniques are applied by various parts of the practitioner to the client and range from those that are light and soothing to those that are strong and invigorating. Refined over the centuries, tui na facilitates healing by regulating the circulation of Blood and Qi (vital energy), which controls body function and enhances resistance to disease. The term tui na (pronounced t-weigh na) combines the names of two of the hand techniques, tui meaning to push and na meaning to lift and squeeze, which are used to represent the system. Practitioners of tui na claim there are more than 365 hand techniques, although they can be generally placed in the category of pressing, rubbing, waving, shaking, percussion, or manipulating. The term tui na first appeared in the Ming Dynasty text Pediatric Tui Na Classic in 1601.
Aquatic shiatsu. Began at Harbin Hot Springs where Harold Dull brought his knowledge of Zen shiatsu into a warm pool. Zen shiatsu incorporates stretches that release blockages along the meridians — the channels through which chi or life force flows. Dull found the effects of Zen shiatsu could be amplified and made more profound by stretching someone while having them float in warm water. By supporting, rocking, and moving the whole body while stretching a leg or arm, Watsu lessens the resistance there is when a limb is worked in isolation. When the whole body is in continual movement, each move flowing gracefully into the next, there is no way to resistantly anticipate what’s coming next. Warm water and the continuous support it provides are ideal for freeing the spine.
Developed by Fritz Smith, M.D., and has its roots in osteopathy, acupuncture, Rolfing, and meditation. Relaxing, yet energizing, zero balancing integrates fundamental principles of Western medicine with Eastern concepts of energy. This technique provides clients the possibility of healing by addressing the energy flow of the skeletal system. By working with bone energy, zero balancing seeks to correct imbalances between energy and structure, providing relief from pain, anxiety, and stress. A zero balancing session, which consists of gentle acupressure focusing on joints and bones, generally takes 30 to 40 minutes and is done through the client’s clothing while they lie on a massage table. For the massage therapist or bodyworker, zero balancing may enhance other modalities and open new avenues of energetic and structural balancing through touch.