Therapeutic Techniques Glossary

Several of these techniques may be combined to create the best, customized massage for your personal areas of need. Different techniques are appropriate for different people, and not everyone should receive all types of massage. Your therapist is well-trained in the indications and contra-indications for each technique and will only provide therapies appropriate for you after a thorough medical intake is completed. Be sure to disclose all medical conditions, health concerns, medications, and limitations to your therapist to allow safe and effective treatment recommendations.

  • Relaxation (aka: Swedish, Classic Massage): Most people think of this when they think about massage. This gentle technique applies light to moderate pressure, combining a variety of movements to lengthen and broaden the muscle and connective tissue fibers, restoring full range of motion (ROM) and eliminate adhesions. The five basic strokes are effleurage (sliding or gliding), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (cross fiber) and vibration/shaking.
  • Trigger Point Therapy (aka: Medical Massage, Deep Tissue): This branch of neuromuscular therapy consists of applying focused, gentle, deep pressure to areas of muscle tension called “trigger points”. These areas are small and are the cause of many types of chronic and acute pain including headaches/ migraines, carpal tunnel symptoms, tendonitis, muscle spasm, and radiating aches. Trigger points have been photomicrographed and measured electrically, and a paper was presented in 2007 showing images of trigger points using MRI. These points relate to dysfunction in the myoneural junction (also called neuromuscular junction) in muscle, and therefore this modality is different from reflexology, acupressure and pressure point massage. They may be active and cause radiating symptoms without stimulation or latent and cause sensation only when stimulated. As trigger points are released the body is healing its self, allowing an end to pain and discomfort.
  • Strain-Counterstrain: Alleviates muscle and connective tissue tightness by the use of very specific treatment positions held for 90 seconds. During the procedure, the involved tissue is slackened causing a relaxation of the spasm which, in turn, allows local areas of inflammation, trapped within the painful tissue to dissipate. Following this release there is an immediate reduction of pain and tension in the involved tissue. This relaxation helps restore normal joint mobility and is also beneficial to other structures in the region that may have been compressed. This gentle and painless technique is a very effective treatment for a wide variety of orthopedic conditions such as headaches, fibromyalgia, sciatica,tendonitis, chronic neck pain, and post-surgical conditions.
  • Myofascial Restructuring: Myofascial massage is a technique used to treat injuries and discomfort, reducing pain and increasing range of motion. Myofascial massage differs from other types of massage in that it targets the fascia – the membrane surrounding muscles – rather than the muscle itself. Since fascia completely encases every muscle in the body, imbalances in the fascia can have serious effects on your range of motion and comfort level. While other forms of massage can overlook the fascia, myofascial massage focuses specifically on releasing tension in this important membrane.
  • Bodywork for the Childbearing Year® (aka: Pregnancy, Maternity, Prenatal, Labor Support, Perinatal, Post-Partum): Approaches the concerns of the pregnant, laboring, and postpartum woman with a comprehensive program of advanced massage techniques and specific pregnancy, labor, and postpartum support measures. This therapy includes use of the “Alexander Technique” to evaluate pregnancy and postpartum clients and client education for efficient pain-free body mechanics. In addition to prenatal massage, this branch includes labor massage and support, postpartum therapy, cesarean recovery, and post-surgical scar massage. The benefits are numerous and BCY is both evidence-based and viewed positively by the medical community, with many doctors, midwives, and doulas encouraging or even prescribing massage to their patients and clients.
  • Infant: Meaningful Communication Through Loving Touch! Baby massage can be quite different from adult massage, both in terms of strokes and techniques, not to mention the size of the bodies involved! Learning these techniques will bring you closer to your infant and teach you valuable communication skills long before your baby can talk. Used throughout our entire human history in nearly every society and culture, infant massage calms, nurtures, and improves the health of infants and parents alike. As an added benefit, it has even been shown to reduce post-partum depression in new mothers!
  • Swe-Thai: Thai massage is a unique form of Buddhist physiotherapy that blends yoga, acupressure and reflexology. This is combined with classic Swedish techniques to create refreshing and calming of the body and mind, giving deep relaxation to all of the body’s soft tissues. Swe-Thai is unlike other therapies in that the therapist is often on the massage table with the client to provide specialized stretches and techniques, and similar in that the client is modestly draped (or clothed) at all times. Deep stretches in harmony with classic massage techniques provide an experience unlike any other with undeniable results.
  • Geriatric: This specialization within therapeutic massage is customized for the aging and ailing body. Older clients have special needs and often have complications with their health. Compassion and knowledge are vital components in geriatric massage. Considerations when planning and giving a geriatric massage include; medication effects/side effects, degenerative diseases, hearing loss, loss of sight, mental decline, memory loss, osteo (bone) conditions, skin conditions, and emotional health. It is helpful in creating physical and emotional relaxation, easing loneliness, and stimulating the mind. Geriatric massage is generally given fully or mostly clothed. Common areas for massage include the hands, feet, and shoulders/back. This therapy can be provided on-site in assisted-living and nursing homes, in hospitals, and in client homes or hospice.
  • Sport (aka: Performance Massage): More vigorous than other forms of massage therapy, sport massage is often provided on-site at marathons, triathlons, extreme sporting events, and is a vital part of athlete care at the summer and winter Olympics. However, it isn’t reserved for the most elite athletes. Sport massage is for anyone who engages in moderate to intense activity, from firemen and ballet dancers to yoga enthusiasts and gardeners. Gentle rocking of the body and other massage techniques encourage muscle tissues to release spasms, ease cramps, flush toxins, increase blood flow, and reduce fatigue. Research has shown that sport massage drastically reduced recovery time following intense exertion, assists in the prevention of injuries, and aids the healing of microscopic tears in tissues, all of which allows you to reach new heights of athletic performance.
  • Hot Stone: A hot stone massage uses water-heated basalt (volcanic) stones to apply pressure and temperature-controlled heat to the body. The optimum treatment temperature is between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but will never exceed what is easily held by the therapist and comfortable for the client. The hot stones are extremely polished and smooth and lightly coated in oil, providing superior glide across the skin through a variety of massage strokes and a very comfortable and soothing experience for the client. As the stones are placed they radiate heat which then deeply penetrates into the muscles, releasing acute and chronic tension.
  • Qi Gong: “Qigong” is literally “Life Energy Cultivation”. Traditionally, the central focus of qigong practice is to cultivate and balance qi as it affects mind (心), body (身), and spirit (靈). It is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. When used as a modality in massage, the therapist focuses on moving energy into healing the client. This method has not been independently verified by scientific research but some clients report that they can “feel the energy” and that it is beneficial.
  • Visualization and Guided Imagery: “Clear your mind. Picture a long hallway with doors on each side. With each step down this hallway you become more relaxed. Now picture yourself choosing a door. It is the correct door to choose. Take a deep breath and open the door. Exhale and step through into the calmest place you can imagine. Hear the sounds. Inhale the scents. Now breathe the air and allow your body to relax and your mind to empty of all its stress.” This type of meditation is useful for a mind that is bogged down in worries and a body that seems reluctant to embrace relaxation. It can reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and increase oxygen to the body. Visualization and guided imagery are complementary to massage therapy and they can be used simultaneously.
  • Breath/Body Awareness: It isn’t always obvious how our breath can be related to our stress, life, and health. We know how we hold our breath when scared or excited and even tense. We also sigh or yawn when our body needs to release tension. Sometimes it helps to bring awareness to areas of tension that prevent us from breathing naturally and deeply, or to examine how different types of breathing ease or increase anxiety and tension. Adjusting breathing can allow healing as the body’s habitual stress is release. Air flows freely into and out of the lungs, coursing oxygen and vital nutrients to the farthest reaches of the tissues. Once learned, this awareness can continue well beyond the massage session and create wellness any time and anywhere.


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