Massage Technique Review
Written by Carolyn Pence with contributions from
Merideth Glass, Laura Landsiedle
Therapists are often questioned as to what styles or techniques are used. There maybe
confusion about what the “best” technique or style of massage is appropriate given the
clients’ specific condition(s). Most sessions are a blend of techniques and styles, as all
have their benefits. However, there are occasions when a treatment plan or sessions will
revolve around one specific style or technique. Hopefully the following will help clarify
some of the confusion, and always feel free to ask your massage or body work therapist if
you have questions!
Techniques and types of massage
Swedish Massage: Swedish massage is the most well known type of massage. Generally
it is for relaxation purposes and is comprised of 5 strokes: sliding/gliding, kneading,
tapotement (tapping), stretching, and light friction. The pressure is generally light, the
focus is on the superficial muscles, and the entire body is treated.
Deep Tissue: Deep tissue massage is like Swedish massage, but the emphasis is on
working the deeper muscle tissues, so most often, the pressure is greater than it is in
Swedish massage. The increased pressure, and the heat generated from the pressure, is
efficient in decreasing muscle tension. This work is often specific and localized to one
Medical Massage: Medical Massage uses a variety of deep tissue, neuromuscular,
myofascial, advanced sports stretching and orthopedic massage techniques in
combination with a treatment plan to adequately treat chronically inflamed soft tissues
that cause problems such as tension headache, low back pain, wrist weakness, and neck
injuries. Neuromuscular therapy tends to be area specific; a 1-hour session may cover
only the neck and shoulders, but not the lower body.
Myo-fascial Release: Myo-fascial release is a soft tissue therapy that focuses on
releasing tension in the fascia. Therapists identify areas of fascial restriction and apply
the appropriate amount of pressure and stretching techniques to release the tension.
Compression, skin rolling, skin/fascia stretching and myo-fascial trigger point therapy are
all common techniques. Progress is measured by increased range of motion and
suppleness of treated area.
Integraded-NeuroMuscular Therapy: Integrated Neuromuscular and Myofascial
Technique (I-NMT) places emphasis on combining neuromuscular technique with myo-
fascial components, piecing together how different body regions and their respective pain
patterns relate to each other.
Hot Stone Massage: Hot stones can be used in combination with deep tissue and
Swedish technique. Hot stones help soften connective tissues, allowing the practitioner
greater ease into trigger points. Hot stone massage can also be used as its own separate
modality as a means to deep relaxation.
Thai Yoga Massage: Usually this type of massage is performed with the client clothed,
positioned on a mat. The therapist combines Swedish and deep tissue massage techniques
while moving the client through simple yoga poses, applying traction and stretching
Cranio-Sacral Therapy: CST is a gentle manipulation of the soft tissues that surround
and affect the central nervous system. Evaluation is completed through cranial, sacral and
feet holds, and treatment applied through soft manipulation of the cranial bones. Gentle,
applied pressure may help facilitate the healing of the body and unwinding of muscular
and fascial restrictions in the body.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage: Lymphatic drainage massage is a very gentle form of
massage where light pressure is applied to the lymph system in small circular pumping
motions. This helps to move lymph through the body, helping to lessen swelling and
detoxify the body.
Reflexology: Reflexology is a gentle foot and hand pressure therapy and its application
produces a physiological effect on the body’s nervous system called the relaxation
response. The relaxation response counteracts the effects of stress produced by activities
of daily living; the response calms the mind, softens the body, and gentles the body-mind
toward a balanced state of homeostasis, the state of optimum physiological function in
Trigger Point Therapy: A trigger point is a knot that has become so tight, that it begins
to send referral pain to other areas of the body. These points can contribute to large pain
patterns and hold patterns in the body. In trigger point therapy, the therapist applies
pressure to the identified trigger point. The client communicates to the therapist about
pain levels and referral areas. The point is held until the referral pain is completely gone
and the applied pressure is no longer painful locally. It is not unusual that when a point
releases there is visible softening or tension release to the affected area.
Prenatal Massage: PreNatal Massage is for an expectant mother usually after the first
trimester and aids in relief of tension caused by her growing and changing body. While
pregnant a hormone called "Relaxin" is released so that the pelvis can spread and prepare
for birth. This can cause a lot of instability in the sacral-iliac joint. Specific massage
techniques, pressure points and positioning can be used to help release this area and any
potential sciatic referral created by the rapid change in a mother's body. A session can
also be coordinated to help a mother start dilation and labor and is a wonderful tool to
ease a mother's stress of the birthing process.