Glossary of Massage Terms
The following list of definitions are obtained from http://www.massagetherapy.com/glossary/index.php.
TYPES OF MASSAGE & BODYWORK DEFINED
Massage, bodywork, and somatic therapies are often complex mixtures of holistic healing practices involving physical, emotional and spiritual components. The definitions that follow provide only brief explanations of many of the techniques currently in practice.
These definitions have been compiled from a wide variety of sources. While some were supplied by the developer of the technique, others were supplied by associations and educational institutions involved with the individual technique. Still others are a blending of information gleaned from several sources.
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Acupressure is 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 feet. Acupressure, continues to be the most effective method for self-treatment of tension-related ailments by using the power and sensitivity of the human hand. 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 improve sleep. 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 five thousand 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, Bantam, 1990.) Click here to find an Acupressure practitioner.
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 five thousand 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 fourteen 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.
Applied Kinesiology is a healing system that evaluates and treats an individual’s structural, chemical, and mental aspects. It employs muscle testing and other standard methods of diagnosis. Applied Kinesiology therapeutically utilizes nutrition, manipulation, diet, acupressure, exercise, and education to help restore balance and harmony in the body and maintain well-being throughout life. (From Alternative Healing, by Hugh Burroughs and Mark Kastner, Halcyon, 1993.) Dr. George Goodheart, a chiropractor in Detroit, Michigan, discovered the technique in 1964 during a patient treatment. After applying a few seconds of deep pressure on the man’s severe muscular dysfunction, he found the problem was eliminated. Dr. John Thie developed a simplified version of Applied Kinesiology called Touch for Health in 1970.
A muscle monitoring technique, applied physiology allows the body to express what is out of balance and provides information to restore that balance. Muscles are put through a normal range of motion, monitored to determine where the stresses lie. The centerpiece of the technique is using acupoints to ask “questions” about specific physiological and anatomical stresses. The goal of treatment is to let go of the stress within the body by integrating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of an individual.
The use of essential oils (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 oil 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. Click here to find an Aromatherapy practitioner.
This technique is based on the theory that any disruption or imbalance in any portion of the body affects the entire system, specifically the autonomic, central nervous, and hormonal systems. Any disruption in any of the body systems will affect the entire organism, both physiologically and psychologically. Bindegewebsmassage is a specific, advanced technique intended to assist in the rehabilitation of pathologic conditions. The theory of this technique extends to the belief that certain areas on the body’s surface correlate to specific internal organs manifesting the disruptions with an increased sensitivity of certain skin areas called points. See also connective tissue massage.
Developed 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.
Biofeedback utilizes a system of sensitive instruments that relay information about the physical condition of the body. Used as a primary therapy, or in conjunction with other methods, biofeedback provides deep relaxation and stress management skills to prevent stress-related disorders and illness. These skills, including deep breathing and guided imagery, offer self-regulation and control over mental, emotional, and physical processes. The principles of biofeedback can be traced back to the eighteenth century.
BIOMAGNETIC TOUCH HEALING
Bio-magnetic touch healing is a light touch complementary healing method that employs the index and middle fingers of each hand to lightly touch specific points on the body. The combination of correct points, light, and butterfly-like touch activates the body’s own inherent healing ability and is subtly motivated.
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 reeducation and has been successful with a wide range of muscular and trauma-related challenges. It is complementary with existing medical and rehabilitative procedures.
BODY IMAGING ENHANCEMENT
Based on a balance between body, mind, and feeling, body imaging enhancement proposes that anatomical structural relationships of the body need to be realigned and stabilized from a central line of the body. This line posturally positions the body relationally to the force of gravity. As a result of the correction, the client will experience energy release and perceptible changes in body shape, flexibility, and movement. Working with the neuromuscular and myofascial systems, the therapist uses manual manipulations to stretch and release muscle tissue and fascia to create freedom and flexibility of movement. It was developed by Dr. Mark Hendler and Denise Hendler.
This technique entails specific kneading, rubbing, and/or squeezing strokes applied to the soft tissue of the breast to increase lymph and blood flow. As poor circulation to this area can produce uncomfortable symptoms, and breast scarring caused by surgery and/or trauma can cause painful syndromes and obstruct blood and lymph flow, breast wellness becomes increasingly important. The practice of breast massage should be in conjunction with (and not a substitute for) regular self-breast exams. If a lump is found in the breast, the area should not be massaged until a physician is consulted.
Known as seated massage, chair massage, or on-site massage, this technique involves the use of a specially designed massage chair in which the client sits comfortably. The modern chair massage was originally developed David Palmer, but the technique is centuries-old, with some Japanese block prints illustrating people having just emerged from a nearby bath, receiving massage while seated on a low stool. Seated massage includes bodywork and somatic techniques, such as shiatsu, amma, and Swedish massage, provided to the fully clothed client in a variety of settings, including businesses, airports, and street fairs. Click here to find a Chair Massage practitioner.
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) incorporates a large group of healthcare practices and treatments that are considered outside of or supplemental to the scope of conventional medicine. May involve either mental or physical techniques, and some therapies may include use of herbs, meditation, and/or 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, DO, OMM, 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 roots of this therapy are in cranial osteopathy, developed by Dr. William G. Sutherland. 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 five 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. Click here to find a craniosacral therapy practitioner.
Also known as ice therapy, this modality uses the application of cold hydrotherapy in the form of ice packs and cold water immersions to alleviate blood flow, swelling, and inflammation with the contraction of blood vessels. Used in conjunction with heat, cryotherapy can increase circulation, and, hence, remove wastes and toxins from an injured area.
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
Techniques that utilize deep-tissue/deep-muscle massage are administered to affect the sub-layer of musculature and fascia. These techniques require advanced training and a 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 tendinitis. It is generally integrated with other massage techniques. Click here to find a Deep Tissue Massage practitioner.
Although ancient Greece and Rome 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. Click here to find a Hydrotherapy practitioner.
INTEGRATIVE MANUAL THERAPY
This therapy recognizes that each person is more than the total components of anatomy, physics, and chemistry and is instead affected by emotions, thoughts, social interactions, mind, spirit, consciousness, soul, and more. Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) combines multiple therapies to locate and alleviate health challenges through individual body systems. Utilizing a combination of structural rehabilitation (a manual therapy process of normalization) and functional rehabilitation (a therapy to restore functional outcome according to the optimal potential of the client), IMT utilizes the expertise of professionals in many fields--physical therapy, osteopathic medicine, homeopathy, audiology, massage therapy, etc. Click here to find an Integrative Manual Therapy practitioner.
Kinesiology is 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. Click here to find a kinesiologist.
MANUAL LYMPH DRAINAGE
The strokes applied in manual lymph drainage are intended to stimulate the movement of the lymphatic fluids in order to assist the body in cleansing. This is a gentle, rhythmical technique that cleanses the connective tissue of inflammatory materials and toxins, enhances the activity of the immune system, reduces pain, and lowers the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The most widely taught and generally accepted form of this technique was created by Dr. Vodder of Austria and requires advanced training and precise movements.
MASSAGE & MASSAGE THERAPY
Massage or massage therapy are systems of structured palpation or movement of the soft tissue of the body. The massage system may include, but is not limited to, such techniques as, stroking, kneading, gliding, percussion, friction, vibration, compression, passive or active stretching within the normal anatomical range of movement; effleurage (either firm or light soothing, stroking movement, without dragging the skin, using either padded parts of fingertips or palms); petrissage (lifting or picking up muscles and rolling the folds of skin); or tapotement (striking with the side of the hand, usually with partly flexed fingers, rhythmic movements with fingers or short rapid movements of sides of the hand). These techniques may be applied with or without the aid of lubricants, salt or herbal preparations, hydromassage, thermal massage or a massage device that mimics or enhances the actions possible by human hands. The purpose of the practice of massage is to enhance the general health and well-being of the recipient. Massage does not include the diagnosis of a specific pathology, the prescription of drugs or controlled substances, spinal manipulation or those acts of physical therapy that are outside the scope of massage therapy.
Performing medical massage requires a firm background in pathology and utilizes specific treatments appropriate to working with disease, pain, and recovery from injury. The therapist may work from a physician’s prescription or as an adjunct healer within a hospital or physical therapy setting. Click here to find a medical massage practitioner.
MUSCLE ENERGY TECHNIQUE
Muscle energy is a direct, noninvasive manual therapy used to normalize joint dysfunction and increase range of motion. The practitioner evaluates the primary areas of dysfunction in order to place the affected joints in precise positions that enable the client to perform gentle isometric contractions. These directed movements help correct neuromuscular and joint difficulties.
MUSCLE RELEASE TECHNIQUE
This technique combines compression, extension, movement, and breath to give therapists a tool to provide relief from pain, treating such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic low back pain, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, tennis elbow, knee pain, shin splints, frozen shoulder, hammer toes, piriformis syndrome, tendinitis, trigger finger, and much more.
Muscle testing involves finding a muscle that is unbalanced and then attempting to determine why that muscle is not functioning properly. Treatments may involve specific joint manipulation or mobilization, various myofascial therapies, cranial techniques, meridian and acupuncture skills, clinical nutrition, dietary management, counselling skills, evaluating environmental irritants, and various reflex procedures. The object is to test the function of a single muscle in the best possible manner. (Adapted from www.icak.com.)
Myofascial release is the 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. Click here to find a Myofascial Release practitioner.
MYOFASCIAL TRIGGER POINT THERAPY
Based on the discoveries of Drs. Janet Travell and David Simons in which they found the causal relationship between chronic pain and its source, myofascial trigger point therapy is used to relieve muscular pain and dysfunction through applied pressure to trigger points of referred pain and through stretching exercises. These points are defined as localized areas in which the muscle and connective tissue are highly sensitive to pain when compressed. Pressure on these points can send referred pain to other specific parts of the body.
This comprehensive program of soft-tissue manipulation balances the body’s central nervous system with the musculoskeletal system. Based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system initiates and maintains pain, the goal is to help relieve the pain and dysfunction by understanding and alleviating the underlying cause. Neuromuscular therapy can help individuals who experience distortion and biomechanical dysfunction, which is often a symptom of a deeper problem. It is also used to locate and release spasms and hypercontraction in the tissue, eliminate trigger points that cause referred pain, rebuild the strength of injured tissues, assist venous and lymphatic flow, and restore postural alignment, proper biomechanics, and flexibility to the tissues. Click here to find a neuromuscular practitioner.
Oncology massage refers to massage tailored to the needs of individuals with cancer. This specialized practice requires therapists to be fully educated in and pay close attention to the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of clients in all stages of cancer: diagnosis, treatment, recovery, survivor, or terminal. Training in oncology massage covers appropriate bodywork modalities for cancer clients, includes precautions for radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, and covers physiology and pathology.
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. Click here to find a pregnancy massage practitioner.
SOFT TISSUE RELEASE
Soft-tissue release (STR) is a powerful injury treatment technique developed in Europe with the world’s fastest sprinters. Recovery rates once considered impossible by traditional therapists and sports medicine doctors were achieved, through methods 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. The client is placed in a particular position so that the muscle begins to stretch in a very specific direction or plane. When the exact location of the injury has been defined, a determined pressure is applied directly into the affected tissue or along a specific line of injury. At the same time, 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. Click here to find a Soft Tissue Release practitioner.
Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. Pre-event massage is delivered at the performance site, usually with the athlete fully clothed. Fast-paced and stimulating, it helps to establish blood flow and to warm up muscles. During the massage, the athlete generally focuses on visualizing the upcoming event. Post-event massage is also delivered on site, through the clothes. The intent here is to calm the nervous system and begin the process of flushing toxins and waste products out of the body. Post-event massage can reduce recovery time, enabling an athlete to resume training much sooner than rest alone would allow. When an athlete sustains an injury, skillful massage therapy can often speed and improve the quality of healing. Click here to find a Sports Massage practitioner.
Developed by osteopath Lawrence Jones, this noninvasive treatment helps decrease protective muscle spasms and alleviate somatic dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system. By using palpation and passive positional procedures, the therapist practicing strain/counterstrain therapy can help restore pain-free movement. The position that relieves the referred pain is held for ninety seconds. After resuming the original position and pressing the trigger point, the referred pain is gone. The client is often asked to bend or twist like a contortionist to secure a comfortable position.
One of the most commonly taught and well-known massage techniques, Swedish massage is a vigorous system of treatment designed to energize the body by stimulating circulation. Five basic strokes, all flowing toward the heart, are used to manipulate the soft tissues of the body. The disrobed client is covered by a sheet, with only the area being worked on exposed. Therapists use a combination of kneading, rolling, vibrational, percussive, and tapping movements, with the application of oil, to reduce friction on the skin. The many benefits of Swedish massage may include generalized relaxation, dissolution of scar tissue adhesions, and improved circulation, which may speed healing and reduce swelling from injury. Click here to find a Swedish Massage practitioner.
TRIGGER POINT MYOTHERAPY
Trigger point myotherapy is a noninvasive therapeutic modality for the relief and control of myofascial pain and dysfunction. The goal of treatment is the client’s recovery from or a significant reduction in myofascial pain. The treatment goal is achieved through a systematized approach. Treatment consists of trigger point compression, myomassage, passive stretching, and a regime of corrective exercises. Success may be measured subjectively by the level of pain reduction experienced by the client and objectively through increased range of motion, strength, endurance, and other measures of improved function. Trigger point myotherapy relies heavily on client-therapist interaction, including verbal and nonverbal elements. The myotherapist encourages the client to be personally responsible for their improvement, with attention to such factors as nutritional intake, stress, proper exercises, mechanical abnormalities, and other physical components. These elements protect the client from delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, or contraindicated treatment, which are the concerns of first order. Trigger point myotherapy is an integrating approach to myofascial pain and dysfunction. Click here to find a Trigger Point Myotherapy practitioner.