Massage Therapy Modality Definitions
Massage therapists use a variety of modalities to help treat their patients. There are a variety of treatment modalities that can help strengthen, relax, and heal muscles. Below are a few of the treatment modalities massage therapists used daily in their practice.
Acupressure Dating back 5000 years, acupressure is part of traditional Chinese medicine and is often described as “acupuncture without the needles.” As a non-intrusive precursor of acupuncture, acupressure uses deep finger pressure applied at certain points located along an invisible system of energy channels within the body called meridians. Because these points directly relate to organs and glands of the body, constrictions in the flow of energy at these points causes disease and discomfort. Acupressure stimulates these points to remove blockages, to increase the energy flow, to reduce stress, and to promote health and harmony in the body. Rated Medium.
The Alexander Technique The Alexander Technique is an awareness practice for identifying and developing discipline over the negative physical habits of incorrect posture and movement. Developed a century ago by actor F. Matthias Alexander, who used it to cure himself of chronic laryngitis, he believed if the vertebrae were out of alignment it was due to these poor habits. The Alexander Technique is a simple method of reeducating the mind and body to improve ease and freedom of movement, balance, and coordination. The technique teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, giving you more energy for all your activities.
Amma Therapy In Chinese, amma means “push-pull.” Amma therapy is concerned with removing blockages and balancing the body’s flow of energy along its meridians with a combination of many therapeutic massage techniques including shiatsu, reflexology, deep fascial and connective tissue massage, Swedish massage, and skeletal manipulations. Originated in China, interest in Amma Therapy has been regenerated by Korean-born Tina Sohn.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for curative and rejuvenating effects. Dating back to ancient Egypt, India, and the Far East, this simple therapy has been used for centuries to reduce stress and tension, refresh and invigorate the body, soothe emotions, and clear the mind. After an initial discussion with the client, specific essential oils are used in conjunction with other appropriate techniques, such as massage, acupressure, or reflexology. Used in oils, the essential oil is absorbed through the skin and into the body to affect physiological change. When inhaled the aroma directly affects the limbic area of the brain that is related to emotions and memories.
Aston Patterning is a comprehensive integration of massage, deep tissue work, and movement education. It was developed in the mid-1970s by dancer Judith Aston, while searching for an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. She became a top trainee of Ida Rolf and designer of the original exercises for Rolf movement and later tailored a program to facilitate rehabilitation, improve performance, and prevent injury called Aston Patterning. It combines not only massage work but also a reeducation of the body through movement and awareness to maintain change.
Bioenergetics is a combination of physical and psychological techniques used to release constrictions in the energy flow of the body. Because psychological defenses are anchored in the body, special attention is given to the muscular patterns inhibiting self-expression. Developed from the work of Wilheim Reich and refined by his pupil Alexander Lowen, this technique uses physical exercises, deep breathing, and massage to permit the body to give up its need to armor itself.
Bowen Technique This massage technique is named after Australian Tom Bowen who, in the 1950’s, introduced the concept of having rest periods between a series of massage movements within a treatment session to allow the body to absorb the healing process. The massage moves are a gentle but precise soft tissue manipulation made with the intention of creating harmony within the body so that the body makes its own adjustments and achieves its own cure.
Canadian Deep Tissue Massage This technique addresses specific muscles and muscle groups. The practitioners are trained to fix specific problems. It is a fundamental technique that offers fast results for both pain and stress. This form of cross fiber massage was first written about in the late 1800’s in New York City. A medical doctor performing autopsies noticed that diseased areas of the body were surrounded by muscle fibers that were dehydrated and stuck together. He surmised that if one would rub across these fibers, they would release and the healthy state of muscle would be restored. This technique begins gently and progresses deeply as the outer muscle fibers relax, allowing the second and third layer of muscle to be addressed. Chair CC
Chair Massage When a ten or twenty minute relaxation session is needed, this is the technique for you. You are massaged fully clothed in a special chair designed to relax you. Because the chair is completely portable, you may see chair massage at the airport or health club, or you may want a practitioner to come to your office or business to massage the staff or guests at a party. Rated Light. Rated Medium
Chi Nei Tsang In Chinese “chi” means energy and “nei tsang” means internal organs. Chi Nei Tsang was originally developed by Chinese Taoist monks to strengthen their bodies to carry the energy required to perform their spiritual practices. Chi Nei Tsang practitioners work mainly on the abdomen with a deep, soft and gentle touch to train internal organs to work more efficiently and to improve energy flow in the body.
Core Energetics Started by Dr. John Pierralcos in 1971, core energetics adds a more spiritual aspect to bioenergetics. The core is the inner center or higher self. The vision of this psychotherapeutic work is to invite a deeper experience and identification with one’s core energy and feelings, releasing the individual to create his or her life from this deep center. This is achieved gradually by bringing movement and consciousness to the body.
Craniosacral Therapy Within the craniosacral system is the cerebrospinal fluid that moves in a slight but perceptible tide-like manner. Craniosacral therapists assist in facilitating change in areas of restriction where this tide-like motion is limited, confined, and immobilized. By using a gentle light touch, this fluid becomes more rhythmic and balanced, and the central nervous system is restored. Craniosacral therapy is helpful to those with nervous disorders, motor-coordination impairments, attention deficit disorders, insomnia, and other problems. Craniosacral therapy was originally developed in the early 1900’s by an osteopath named William G. Sutherland and later refined and promoted by Dr. John Upledger.
Cross Fiber Massage Refer to “Canadian Deep Muscle Massage” and “Pfrimmer Massage”.
Deep Muscle Massage Refer to “Canadian Deep Muscle Massage”.
Deep Tissue Massage is designed to reach the deep portions of thick muscles, specifically the individual muscle fibers. Using deep muscle compression and friction along the grain of the muscle, its purpose is to unstick the fibers of the muscles and release both toxins and deeply held patterns of tension. Rated Deep.
Esalen Massage Developed at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. A very relaxing full body technique that is taught on a popular video published by the Esalen Institute. Rated Light.
Haelen therapy recognizes that people who are in great pain are often unable to focus on the need to integrate body, mind and spirit. It combines therapeutic touch, psychotherapy, and counseling. Developed by Janet F. Quinn, Ph.D, R.N., a practitioner of therapeutic touch and holotropic breathwork, Haelan work attempts to assist people with physical illness to participate in their healing from a more holistic perspective.
Hakomi therapy is a system of body-centered psychotherapy that is based on the principles of mindfulness, nonviolence, and the unity of mind and body. Developed by therapist Ron Kurtz in the mid-1970s, Hakomi uses the tools of touch, massage, energy work, movement education, and body-mind awareness. By helping the client follow bodily tensions, feelings, and sensations, it leads to an awareness of the unconscious beliefs and attitudes that drive behavior and limit responses.
Hellerwork was developed by Joseph Heller, the first president of the Rolf Institute. Hellerwork follows up on the principles of Rolfing, with more emphasis on client/practitioner dialogue. He believed that in order to maintain alignment and mobility, clients need not only bodywork to release patterns of stress, but movement exercises designed to eliminate their bad habits and to learn how to stand, walk, sit and move with greater flexibility and ease. The goal is not only to produce physical results but also to empower clients to grow and experience more freedom and energy in their lives. Rated Deep. Approach Return to Top
Hemme Approach Developed in 1986 by Dave Leflet, Hemme stands for history, evaluation, modalities, manipulation, and exercise. The principles in the Hemme Approach are taken from physical medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, and physical therapy.
Holographic Technique Repatterning, a 6-step process of body/mind healing, acknowledges that our body’s typical flight-or-fight response to stress creates non-coherent frequencies in our energy field. When the field is non-coherent, we unconsciously relate to what is life-depleting. Developed by Chloe Faith Wordsworth, Holographic Repatterning identifies these patterns through kinesiology and transforms them into life-enhancing patterns by means of a variety of modalities based on movement, energy balancing, sound, light, breathing, and many more.
Hoshino Therapy Developed by Tomezo Hoshino in 1952, Hoshino Therapy is an official medical therapy in Argentina. It is a particular form of acupressure recognizing 250 acupuncture pressure points corresponding to the bio-mechanical functioning of the body. In this system, full hand contact is applied as well as the traditional pressure of the first joint of the thumb.
Hot Stone Massage Developed in the Midweast for use in health spas, this technique uses stones that have been heated. These stones are positioned on the body and some are gently moved about with light pressure being exerted on the warm stones.
Infant Massage Becoming increasingly popular, infant massage is usually taught to new mothers as a way of bonding with their newborn and of encouraging infant health. Promoted by Vimala McClure, it incorporates nurturing touch, massage, and reflexology in a loving, fun, one-on-one interaction. A study at the University of Miami showed that infants who received 15 minutes of massage a day gained weight 47% faster and demonstrated other physical and neurological benefits.
Integrative Massage Originally based on the work of Wilhelm Reich, this style of bodywork was developed at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy over 20 years ago. To assist in the release of emotional issues trapped in the body, long fluid strokes are used to move energy from the head down and out through the hands and feet. This is combined with the use of deep breath-work to aid the process.
Jin Shin Jitsu Designed to heal the body by harmonizing its flow of energy, Jin Shin Jitsu a non-massage form of shiatsu developed by Jiro Murai in Japan. It uses 26 pressure points termed energy locks where fatigue, tension, or illness can trap energy. By applying prolonged, gentle, manual pressing of these points or movements of the practitioner’s hands over such areas without contact, the body and mind are brought into harmony.
Lomi Lomi Hawaiian for “rub rub,” Lomi lomi is a massage technique that’s been handed down from ancient Hawaiian healers. Spiritual in nature, the technique was formalized by Hawaiian-born nurse, Margaret Machado. The strokes used are similar to the shiatsu technique of Japan but are gentler and shorter. Pressure with the fingers at certain points is also part of the technique, but it is of shorter duration than most acupressure. Two identifying techniques of authentic Lomi lomi are the emphasis on spirit/body connection and the use of forearm and elbow as a massage tool.
LooyenWork was developed by Ted Looyen, a Dutch-born counselor and bodyworker from Australia now practicing in California. His system works with the core emotional issue of a client. Though the effect is deep, the massage is gentle in keeping with Looyen’s belief that pain does not heal pain. This is one of many forms of bodywork that promotes emotional well-being through the physical release afforded by massage techniques.
Lymphatic drainage massage In the 1930s, a Danish doctor, Hans Vodder, noticed the connection between swollen and blocked lymph glands and colds, infections and other ailments. Since the lymph system is designed to remove bacteria and toxins from the body, he reasoned that massaging the lymph system would improve the flow of lymph and benefit the patient. Together with his wife, a massage practitioner, they developed a specific technique that massages the lymph nodes and lymph system using light rhythmic strokes. A characteristic of lymph system massage is that the strokes are always with the muscle fiber, rather than cross-fiber, because the lymph system runs in the direction of the muscle fiber. Rated Light
Myofascial Release Therapy MFR Therapy All muscles, arteries, bones, organs, etc. are held together by a Saran wrap kind of tissue called fascia. Developed in the late 1960’s by John Barnes, Myofascial Release works by the manipulation of the fascia that connects and surrounds muscles. Because the fascia is body-wide, a tension or trauma in one part of the body can affect another part. The fascia responds to the trained touch to release the adverse effects of inflammation, tensions and trauma.
Myofascial Developed by Bonnie Prudden in 1976, Myotherapy is a method of relaxing muscle spasm, improving circulation and alleviating pain. It works by defusing “trigger points,” which are intense knots of muscle tension that often refer pain to other areas of the body. When a trigger point is under excess emotional or physical stress it often responds by throwing a muscle into spasm. Spasm, in turn, causes pain. The myotherapist erases the spasm by pressing on the appropriate trigger points for several seconds by means of fingers, knuckles, and elbows and then re-educates the affected muscle to its normal resting relaxed condition with special exercises designed for each individual problem.
Naprapathy Originated by a chiropractor in Chicago in 1907, naprapathy is a gentle massage of connective tissue to restore optimal flow of energy through the body. Naprapathy also is holistic in nature in that it pays attention to nutrition, movement, lifestyle and diet. A prime focus of this technique is the attention to the ligaments that encase the spinal column.
Neuromuscular Therapy is a program of recovery from acute and chronic pain syndromes by utilizing specific massage therapy, including the pressure of trigger points, to eliminate the causes of pain patterns. This approach brings about balance between the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. It enhances the function of joints, muscles, and movement, and it releases endorphins, the body’s own natural pain killers. On-Site Massage Return to Top
On-Site Massage Refer to “Chair Massage”.
Ortho-Bionomy Loosely Translated from Greek as “correct application of the laws of life”, this gentle massage technique is often called the most homeopathic of bodywork. Developed in the 1970’s by Arthur Pauls, a British osteopath, ortho-bionomy uses movements and gentle manipulations to find the position of most comfort in response to a pain. The practitioner then works from there to release the core problem.
Oshiatsu Developed by Oshi in New York. This unique work is the product of years of practice by Oshi who has produced his work in a book. He is a world renown speaker and teacher.
Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy One of the early forms of deep muscle massage, it was developed in the 1940s by Therese Pfrimmer who had studied at the Swedish Institute in New York. Her discovery, which led to the reversal of her own paralysis, uses strong strokes across the muscle fiber rather than along the length of the fibers. This technique frees adhesions, improves circulation, both lymphatic and vascular, and causes corrective changes in the muscle on a cellular level. Working to correct and prevent serious muscular conditions, it also alleviates sports injuries, trauma, tension, and stress.
Polarity Therapy Developed by chiropractor and osteopath Randolph Stone, polarity therapy is a holistic method of treatment. He combined his knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, yoga, acupuncture and shiatsu techniques to outline his system. Stone saw the body as an electromagnetic energy system with each part of the body carrying electrical-like charges. By placing hands on various parts of the body, the practitioner connects the positive and negative poles to improve the flow of energy through the body and assist healing and relaxation. To maintain well-being, diet, yoga, and self-awareness are encouraged.
Postural Integration Dr. Jack Painter developed postural integration after studying various forms of bodywork. His ten-session system consists of deep tissue techniques, movement, and breath-work. Recognizing that the body traps negative emotions, Painter’s technique pays special attention to the fascia and the release of emotional blocks in a psychotherapeutic manner with the aid of intentional deep breathing.
Pregnancy Massage Pregnancy places strong demands on a woman’s body and is a time for the body to be nurtured and pampered. This massage not only relieves the tensions and aches caused by the extra weight and shift in the center of gravity to the body, but it reduces swelling, soothes the nervous system, acts as a tonic, reduces fatigue, and enhances energy.
Rebalancing was developed in the 1970’s by a group of long-time bodywork practitioners working under the guidance of a spiritual teacher named Osho. The idea was to create a new form of bodywork that would take the best of the presently existing modalities and imbue them with a deeper perspective. Done in ten sessions, rebalancing utilizes a combination of deep tissue massage, joint tension release, verbal dialogue, and energy balancing to relieve physical pain, release emotional holding patterns, and enhance relaxation.
Reflexology Popularized in the United States by physiotherapist Eunice Inghram in the 1930s, this is an acupressure type technique performed on the hands and feet and is based on the ancient Oriental theory that meridian lines or pathways carry energy throughout the body. Because each zone or part of the body has a corresponding reflex point on the feet, stimulating that reflex point causes stimulation in the natural energy of the related organ. Crystalline-type deposits and/or tenderness indicate a dysfunction, and pressure is applied to clear out congestion and restore normal functioning and health.
Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) in Japanese means “universal life energy.” It is a healing technique of transmitting life energy by placing the hands gently in specific positions either on or above the body. This laying-on of hands is designed to relieve pain, restore vitality, heal illnesses, and aid spiritual growth. It was developed by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Christian monk in Japan, who came upon ancient manuscripts revealing the healing system in the 19th century. It was introduced to the United States in the 1930’s by Hawayo Takata.
Rolfing Also called structural integration, Rolfing was pioneered by American biochemist Dr. Ida Rolf in the 1930s. She maintained that when one part of the body is out of balance or misaligned, the rest of the body attempts to compensate until the entire structure is weakened. Even from birth, the general pressures of life and gravity push our bodies out of alignment. By manipulating the myofascial tissue in a ten session series, each building on the previous one, Rolfers assist the body to reorganize, lengthen, and integrate itself into wholeness. Rated Deep.
Rosen Method This therapy, using gentle touch, breathing, and verbal interaction was developed by Marion Rosen, a physiotherapist, who noticed that clients who verbalized their sensations and emotions during treatment sessions improved more quickly than those who did not. The method applies gentle touch using hands that “listen” rather than manipulate. As practitioners touch the body where tension is held in and thus where the breath cannot move freely, it reminds the muscle and the unconscious feelings, attitudes, and memories that they can freely release. Rosen Method is used for both physical ailments and personal growth.
Rubenfeld Synergy Method A onetime orchestra conductor, Ilana Rubenfeld developed this technique in the 1960s out of her own frustration at finding a therapy for her arm and back spasms that would integrate all aspects of the body-mind. Starting with the Alexander technique, she studied and added components of Gestalt psychotherapy, Feldenkrais movement, and Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Rubenfeld Method responds to the needs of the client using gentle intentional touch, movement, imagery, active listening, and verbal interaction to facilitate the integration and healing of the body-mind.
Seated Massage Refer to “Chair Massage”.
Shiatsu Shiatsu, the most widely known form of acupressure, literally meaning “finger pressure” in Japanese, and has been practiced for more than a thousand years in Japan. Shiatsu uses rhythmic pressure from 3 to 10 seconds on specific points along the body’s meridians by using the fingers, hands, elbows, knees, and sometimes feet to unblock and stimulate the flow of energy. A session my also include gentle stretching and range-of-motions manipulations. Shiatsu is used to treat pain and illness, to relax the body, and to maintain general health.
Soma Neuromuscular Integration Developed in 1978 by Bill Williams, Ph.D, one of the first students of Ida Rolf, this therapy refined Rolf’s work by creating easier, less intrusive ways of working with the fascia and muscles. This ten-session process, which incorporates movement training and awareness tools as well as massage and manipulation, also seeks to promote greater access to the functioning of each hemisphere of the brain.
Sport Massage This special form of massage is typically used before, during, and after athletic events to prepare the athlete for peak performance, to drain away fatigue, to relieve swelling, to reduce muscle tension, to promote flexibility and to prevent injuries. Depending on the needs of the athlete, a variety of techniques are used including classic Swedish strokes, cross-fiber friction, pressure-point work, and joint mobilization.
Structural Integration This term was created by American biochemist Dr. Ida Rolf in the 1930s. She maintained that when one part of the body is out of balance or misaligned, the rest of the body attempts to compensate until the entire structure is weakened. Even from birth, the general pressures of life and gravity push our bodies out of alignment. By manipulating the myofascial tissue in a ten session series, each building on the previous one, practitioners assist the body to reorganize, lengthen, and integrate itself into wholeness. Rated Deep
Swedish massage is now known as “traditional” massage. In the 1820s a Swedish doctor, Dr. Per Henrik Ling, developed the first modern method of massage through his study of physiology, gymnastics, and the massage techniques borrowed from China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Swedish massage includes long gliding strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, and shaking motions. It is effective for most ailments, because massaging the skin, the body’s largest organ, sets up a chain reaction that produces a positive effect on all layers and systems of the body. It affects the nerves, muscles, glands, and circulation, and promotes health and wellbeing. Rated Medium.
Tellington Touch is health and behavioral therapy for pets that includes touch, manipulation, and guiding the animals through movement exercises. Designed to work on emotional and health problems, the touches are not massage or acupressure, nor are they invasive. The techniques are designed to create a calm, attentive, focused state of consciousness. Situations helped by Tellington Touch include barking, biting, jumping up, fear and shyness, inappropriate urination, separation anxiety, and more.
Thai massage is an interactive manipulation of the body using passive stretching and gentle pressure along energy lines. This ancient form of massage dates back to the time of Buddha and looks like a cross between shiastu, acupressure, and yoga. Practitioners apply pressure along meridian lines with their thumbs, hands, and feet to stimulate the movement of energy in the body, and in addition, move and stretch their clients in Yoga-like poses to free muscular and joint tension. Designed to be both relaxing and stimulating, Thai massage improves flexibility, reduces tension, stimulates internal organs, and balances the body’s energy system.
Therapeutic Touch Therapeutic Touch is a laying-on-of-hands technique that doesn’t actually touch the body but touches the energy field around it. It was developed in the 1970s by Dolores Krieger, a nurse and professor at New York University. Is based on the theory that the human energy field extends beyond the skin and is abundant and flows in balanced patterns in health but is depleted and/or unbalanced in illness or injury. Practitioners restore health by sensing and adjusting such fields to restore health and promote well-being.
Touch for Health is a system of energy balancing using muscle testing, touch and acupressure massage to correct various physical and emotional imbalances, stresses, and tension. Based on the applied kinesiology principles of chiropractor George Goodheart, Touch for Health was popularized by John Thie, D.C. in his book by the same name written in 1973. He showed how muscle testing can reveal weaknesses even before symptoms manifest and how by pressing reflex points, it is possible to rebalance the body and the affected organs.
Trager was developed over the past 55years by Milton Trager, M.D It is a combination of hands-on work, relaxation, and movement education. Theorizing that the body learns to be light and effortless by experiencing light and easy sensations, Trager practitioners gently cradle, jiggle, rock, and stretch the body. This is turn helps release deep-seated physical and mental patterns and facilitates deep relaxation, increased physical mobility, and mental clarity.
Trauma Erase was developed by Pauline Carte, PhD. Dr. Carte was a pioneer in the field of kinesiology and started her massage career in the 1950’s. This amazing therapy literally erases trauma from ones body and mind. Rated Light
Trauma touch therapy is a ten-session certified program designed to meet the needs of clients with trauma and abuse histories. In a nurturing and unhurried manner, the therapist and client together create an emotionally safe environment in which healthy boundaries can develop, and respect and trust can unfold. Through focused awareness of sensation, breath, and movement the body is gently reconnected with the emotions, the mind, and the spirit.
Tuina Medical Massage from China Requires six years of university in China to become a practitioner. One of the most remarkable healing techniques on the planet. Works with the pulses of the energy pathways known as meridians in Chinese medicine.
Watsu is a form of water therapy developed by Harold Dull in the early 1980s.While practicing shiatsu, he noticed that he could deepen the effects of his therapy by working with his clients in warm water. Combining floating, cradling, stretching, shiastu techniques, and dance-like movement, Watsu frees the spine, relaxes the muscles, and increases the flow of energy in the body.
Zero Balancing is a non-invasive hands-on treatment developed by osteopath and acupuncturist Dr. Fritz Smith in 1973. It evaluates and balances the relationship between the energy fields of the body and its physical structure. By applying gentle pressure with particular attention paid to foundation joints, zero balancing creates clearer, stronger energy fields in the body-mind and a balanced energy in the bone and skeletal system, enabling the client to function with a deeper personal strength and harmony.