In this article I will present different massage types and techniques. Although there are many variations of massage types, I will represent just basic ones.
What is massage?
Massage is a bodywork or a practice of applying pressure or vibration to the muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints, lymphatic vessels, organs of the gastrointestinal system and reproductive system in order to achieve a beneficial response. Massage can be applied to particular parts or successively to the body. It can be performed to heal or to relieve pain, to improve circulation or it can have psychological effects, such as stress reduction. It can also represent a part of lovemaking in a form of erotic massage.
Massage can be done manually or with mechanical aids.
It can be performed at home, but professionally it is performed by massage therapist. Often massage is used as a form of therapy by other healthcare practitioners such as chiropractors, osteopaths and physical therapists. In professional settings massage involves the client being treated while lying on a massage table,which is how the most of people imagine massage, but can also involve client sitting upright or in a massage chair, or lying on a pad on the floor, which is very common in shiatsu massage.
There are some exceptions, such acupressure, shiatsu, Thai massage, or barefoot deep tissue where massage subject is clothed or partially unclothed, but in most massage types people are generally unclothed and their body is wrapped in towels and sheets. This helps massage therapists to maintain professional statement and it also keeps the client warm.
Massage TechniquesBefore introducing massage types, I would like to briefly introduce massage techniques, which are most common in Swedish massage. Tapotement is performed by execution with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand with short, alternating taps to the client. Compression or applying compresses is used to create a hyperemia and softening effect on the tissue. It also has healing effect and can be as other massage techniques combined with aromatherapy. Generally it is used as a warming tool. Effleurage technique is a stroke generally used in Swedish massage treatment. It is demonstrated by smooth, gliding strokes, which are used to relax soft tissue. This technique is applied using both hands open. Kneading or also called petrissage involves squeezing, rolling and kneading the muscles and usually follows effleurage during Swedish massage. Friction is the deepest of all Swedish massage strokes: it is demonstrated by applying deep and circular movements to the tissue.
The Bowen Technique addresses key points to stimulate energy flow. It involves gentle, rolling motion, with very light touches. The practitioner stimulates sets of points, often with pauses between sets.
Deep tissue techniques are generally designed for more focused massage work, when working a specific muscle or a joint can help access deeper layers of the soft tissue. With this technique massage starts superficially and then eases into the depth of the muscle. In this technique most commonly 3 or 6 fingers are used, elbows, opposing thumbs, the forearm or the heel of the hand or foot.
Massage typesAnma is traditional Japanese deep tissue massage, based on kneading, applied without the use of oils. Anma was introduced to Japan more than 1300 years ago, but shiatsu, very popular Japanese massage, grew out of this rich tradition.
Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with the addition of one or more scented plant oils called essential oils to address specific needs. Different oils can be applied: one that relax, energize, balance, reduce stress etc.
Barefoot deep tissue massage is a blend of Eastern barefoot techniques with Western manual medicine. This massage can last only 2 minutes, but also more than an hour. In this massage no oil is used, while client lies loosely clothed on floor mat in supine, prone and side-lying positions with pillows or bolsters.
Bowen therapy involves a rolling type movement over fascia, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints.
Chair massage is one of the massages that is performed while fully clothed. Session usually lasts 12-24 minutes and promotes better circulation, muscle stimulation and stress relief.
Chinese Tui Na is a massage that is focused on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle. It is very similar to Chinese Zhi Ya, which is a form of massage based on acupressure, which is pressing and pinching at acupressure points.
Compression massage is applied into muscles to create a deep hyperemia and to achieve softening effect in the tissues.
CranioSacral therapy is a very gentle type of massage, often used to evaluate and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system. It is used to treat neurological disorders including acute stress disorders, ADHD and autism.
Deep muscle therapy is often applied to treat neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, poor circulation and headaches.
Erotic massage is a form of massage that includes the genitals and leads to sexual arousal and sexual act. Erotic massage is practiced by couples as part of lovemaking, but can also be sometimes practiced commercially, which may be illegal in some jurisdictions.
Esalen massage works on muscle and circulation system; it presents combination of pleasant touches and gentle body rocking with some other techniques.
Foot or sole massage (Reflexology) is based on Chinese knowledge that each spot on the sole corresponds to an internal organ, therefore painful spots on the sole reflect illnesses of other parts of the body.
Hot Stone massage is practiced by applying heated stones to the body: they are either put on a towel placed on the back to heat the chakras or are coated in oil and used directly on the skin during the massage.
Lomilomi is traditional hawaiian massage with over hundred variations.
Mayan abdominal massage is practiced in many countries in Latin America and it applied to improve digestion, correct digestion related problems, and to help the reproductive organs.
Myofascial release refers to the manual massage technique for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia and integument, muscles, and bones. The goal is to eliminate pain, increase range of motion and to balance the body.
Myoskeletal alignment technique is applied to improve postural distortions and to prevent pain conditions.
Neuromuscular therapy is applied to reduce pain, postural imbalance and to lengthens and strengthens tissues.
Pregnancy massage is more and more popular with expectant mothers. Massage therapists must be certified in pregnancy massage to know the proper way to position and support the woman's body during the massage, and how to modify techniques. Pregnancy massage helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression, it decreases swelling, relieve aches and pains.
Roman massage is applied in baths with oils.
Scalp massage may be performed during shampooing and in some barber shops in Hong Kong it can last up to 45 minutes.
Shantala massage is an ancient Indian massage technique with a rhythmic character. This massage is given babies and children.
Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage. I've described this massage in one of the previous articles.
Sports massage is a therapy focusing on muscle systems relevant to a particular sport. The focus is not on relaxation but on preventing and treating injury and enhancing athletic performance.
Stone massage is very similar to hot stone massage, except in this case cold stones are applied. People that suffer from sinus congestion usually find relief when cold stones are placed on the sinuses.
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage in the United States. It is also known as simply massage therapy. Swedish massage includes long strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles and is combined with active and passive movement of the joints.
Thai massage is originally from Thailand, but its roots go back far into history, originating in India based on the Ayurveda. Thai massage is soothing massage because of its emphasis on stretching and loosening the body. and then becoming popular in ancient Siam, now known as Thailand. Very similar to shiatsu Thai massage aligns the energies of the body using gentle pressure on specific points. As mentioned already, Thai massage includes compressions and stretches.
Trigger point or tender point massage represents combination of positioning and specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in muscle and connective tissue. This massage is applied to reduce hypersensitivity and muscle spasms.