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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: 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 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

where necessary.

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

the body.

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.

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