Massage Modalities

An expiration of some types of Massage and Modalities. This is to help you understand each and what each can do for you.

Swedish Massage: this is the only type of “massage” there is, everything else is built upon the Swedish style. The presser can be very light to extremely deep. The term “Swedish Massage” refers to a variety of techniques specifically designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. This form of massage was created at the turn of the 19th century by Henry Peter Ling in Sweden. It involves the use of Effleurage, Petrissage, Friction, Vibration, Percussion, and finally passive and active movements (bending and stretching) and may provide relief from stiffness, numbness, pain, constipation, and other health problems. The main purpose of Swedish massage is to increase blood flow and relax muscles. Other possible benefits include increase in muscle tone, and a balance of the musculo-skeletal systems. Swedish massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissues of uric acid, and other metabolic wastes. It increases circulation without increasing heart load. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 2 hours long.

Deep Tissue: deep tissue work is the specific manipulation of the deeper tissue structures of the muscle and fascia, also called connective tissue. Deep tissue manipulation therapy uses many of the same movements and techniques as Swedish massage as well as cross fiber, pin and stretch, active and passive movements with others, and the depth is more intense. It is also a more focused and slow as deep tissue works to release chronic muscle tension or knots (also known as “adhesions.”) Although it is more uncomfortable then Swedish massage, it shouldn’t hurt. The presser used should not exceed a 4 to 6 (the client’s tolerance) and is only performed on one or two parts of the body. The term “deep tissue” is often misused to identify a massage that is performed with sustained deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is a separate category of massage therapy, used to treat particular muscular-skeletal disorders and complaints and employs a dedicated set of techniques and strokes to achieve a measure of relief.
It should not be confused with “deep pressure” massage, which is one that is performed with sustained strong, occasionally intense pressure throughout an entire full-body session, and that is not performed to address a specific complaint. Deep tissue massage is applied to both the superficial and deep layers of muscles, fascia, and other structures. The sessions are often quite intense as a result of the deliberate, focused work. When a client asks for a massage and uses the term “deep tissue”, more often than not he or she is seeking to receive a full-body session with sustained deep pressure throughout. If a practitioner employs deep tissue techniques on the entire body in one session, it would be next to impossible to perform; and will lead to injury or localized muscle and nerve trauma, thereby rendering the session counterproductive. This type of work is done, in no more then 1/4th of a massage session.

Aromatherapy Massage: is a wonderful stress relief massage. It’s a common way to administer healing therapeutic essential oils. This type of massage therapy relies on smooth, fluid effleurage strokes. Aromatherapy is used to treat the following conditions: digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, congestion, stress, anxiety, menstrual problems, and hormone imbalances sleeping disorders, chronic pain, skin conditions, and slow metabolism. When you get aromatherapy massage the therapist will talk to you about your conditions first. Then the therapist will mix up a special blend of essential oils with massage oil for your massage. The massage is like a standard Swedish massage. At the end of the session the therapist usually gives you the unused massage oil to use at home. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 2 hours long.

Chair/On-Site Massage: is a relaxing type of massage that re-energizes tired muscles and eases aches and pains. When you get an on-site massage in a massage chair you stay fully clothed. The therapist uses no oils or lotions. Most massages last about 15 minutes and use a combination of shiatsu and Swedish style massage techniques. The thing that makes it most convenient is that the therapist can do quick massages at offices, stores, festivals or any place you can imagine. It is especially popular in offices because you can take a 15 minute break from work and get a massage that will help you feel renewed and re-energized enabling you to work more efficiently. This type of massage has the same benefits that most other massage therapies do including increases circulation and the flow of lymph but it’s associated with these specific benefits: tense muscles, back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, tension headaches stress, fatigue It can be a good introduction to massage for people who want to try a massage, but aren’t sure about getting undressed and lying down on a massage table. This type of massage can be10 to 30 minutes long.

Cranio Sacral Therapy: (CST), is one of the gentlest forms of bodywork. This holistic therapy is so gentle that it can be used to treat newborn infants. It is also an ideal alternative medicine treatment for the elderly. The brain and spinal cord are bathed in a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid and the dura mater that contain it form the Craniosacral system. This system has its own rhythm that is a result of the fluid being pumped around the spinal cord and brain. The Craniosacral rhythm is different from your heartbeat or breathing. The therapist is able to feel the rhythm of your craniosacral system by placing her hands lightly on various areas of your body. The feet and ankles, thighs, hips, ribcage, shoulders, and head are all the key areas were your therapist will feel your rhythm. By checking these various points your therapist can determine where your rhythm is irregular or weak. The therapist then uses a light touch, no greater than the weight of a nickel, to release restrictions in the fascia around the craniosacral system. Craniosacral therapy is not just used to treat neurological disorders. It can be used to treat: fibromyalgia, headaches, chronic pain, stress, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), central nervous system disorders, and chronic fatigue During a Craniosacral therapy session you are fully clothed. You lie on your back and don’t really have to do anything but relax. During the session you’ll feel extremely relaxed. After the session you’ll continue to feel relaxed. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 2 hours long.

Geriatric Massage: sometimes referred to as elderly massage, is tailored to meet the needs of the elderly population. This form of massage therapy can be used in an elderly care programs to decrease symptoms of some diseases commonly found in that population. Let’s look at the benefits of massage therapy on the elderly population. Elderly massage uses the same basic strokes used in Swedish massage therapy as its foundation. While there are many healthy seniors, many also suffer from a variety of conditions associated with aging. Geriatric massage can be used to lessen the effects of these conditions increasing the quality of life. The benefits of massage therapy include, increasing the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, relieving stress, improved sleep quality, lowering blood pressure, and calming anxiety. Massage therapy can also help treat conditions associated with aging, such as: arthritis bursitis, headaches, sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Seniors who live in nursing or retirement homes tend to be touch deprived. Massage can help counter the effects of touch deprivation. Seniors who live in institutions also tend to be physically and verbally agitated because they can no longer care for themselves. When institutionalized seniors are given hand massages they show fewer signs of agitation. Back massages increases the calming affects even more. Geriatric massages last no longer than 30 minutes and use slow gentle strokes. Therapists trained in this form of massage know how to tailor a massage for the special needs of elderly clients.

Hot Stone Massage: heated basalt lava massage stones with traditional Swedish massage techniques to relieve muscular tension and melt away stress. It is a popular spa therapy. The stones are sanitized and heated in 120 and 130 degree water before the massage. The therapist places them on areas of your body to open up meridians, loosen muscles and increase circulation. They are usually left on you for about 20 minutes before the massage starts. Loosening the muscles with heat first makes it easier for the therapist to work deep muscle tissue. The therapist then uses the stones to massage you. The stones are never rough and with a bit of oil glide nicely across the skin. Sometimes cool stones are used to treat muscle injuries. This form of massage helps sedate the nervous system, detoxify the body, increases lymph flow, and causes you to relax more deeply. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions: arthritis fibromyalgia, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, back pain, anxiety, stress, circulation problems This type of massage shouldn’t be done on women who are less than 3 months pregnant, people with varicose veins, high blood pressure, ulcers or any kind of skin disease. This type of massage can be 1 to 2 hours long.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage: more commonly called MLD, is a gentle lymphatic massage technique used to clear up blockages in the lymphatic system allowing lymph to flow more freely. The lymphatic system is a series of ducts, nodes and organs that balances the body’s fluid levels. It also supplies the body with important immune cells. When this system becomes blocked, swelling the blocked area occurs. This swelling is called lymphedema. The therapy is used to treat pre and post-operative problems. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Lymphedema, burns, fluid retention, lymph node removal, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic mastitis, headaches, scar tissue, chronic sinusitis During a Manual Lymphatic Drainage session the therapist massages the skin directly with no massage lotion or oil. Very light strokes are used to stretch the walls of the lymphatic ducts. You shouldn’t get this type of massage if you have cellulitis or fever. If you get this type of massage you may experience an increased need to urinate after the massage that could continue for the rest of the day. This happens because fluid has been pushed to your kidneys during the massage and your kidneys turn that fluid into urine. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 11/2 hours long. (There are two “types” of MLD chronic and acute. Chronic is for long term lymphedema and acute is more for after surgery, the therapist should have at least 30hr of training before doing acute MLD).

Myofascial Release Technique (MFR): is one of the gentle types of massage therapy that can provide you with great health benefits. MFR can be integrated with other types of massage or can provide a complete treatment on its own. Myofascial release technique loosens bound areas of fascia by gently stretching them. The therapist does this by applying pressure and traction to the skin. When the releases are performed on you, you’ll usually feel a stretching sensation on your skin like a gentle tug. Sometimes the area will itch. Sometimes it will tingle or even feel like a burn. These sensations all let you know that more blood is getting to the area. MFR can be used to treat these conditions: chronic pain, back pain, neck pain, whiplash fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, vertigo, headaches, TMJ disorders, plantar fasciitis and thoracic outlet syndrome. When you get MFR you’ll lay on a massage table partially clothed. No oil or lotion is used during this type of massage because the therapist needs to be able to get traction on your skin. You’ll be asked to move around for this therapy. You’ll sometimes be asked to sit on the table or stand. This type of massage can be 1to 11/2 hours long.

Neuromuscular Therapy: the utilization of static pressure on specific myofascial points to relieve pain. This technique manipulates the soft tissue of the body (muscles, tendons and connective tissue) to balance the central nervous system. NMT is based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system maintains homeostatic balance. These same laws dictate how the central nervous system initiates pain response. There are five principles to Neuromuscular Therapy: 1. Postural Distortion 2. Biomechanical Dysfunctions 3. Trigger Points 4. Nerve Compression Entrapment 5. Ischemia
Ischemia is a lack of blood supply to the soft tissues, which causes them to be very sensitive touch. Trigger Points occur when nerves fire impulses at a rapid speed into an area of the body other than that which has been traumatized. Because of trigger points, the cause of serious pain may often be far from the actual site of the pain. This, in turn, inhibits proper blood flow, which causes ischemia an often leads to more pain and discomfort.
Nerve Compression and Entrapment is pressure on a nerve by bone, cartilage or soft tissue. The role of the soft tissues in nerve compression is vital. Failure to treat the associated soft tissue often treats the symptom without eliminating the cause of the pain. Nerve entrapment is the most common type of pain and always causes ischemia. Ignored, it can produce associated trigger points.
Postural Distortion or muscular contraction occurs when there is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting from movement of the body off the coronal, midsagital or horizontal planes. When the body tries to compensate in an effort maintain structural balance, muscle contraction, body distortion, and pain result. For example, lower limb-length inequality can cause a tilted pelvis, which usually results in a compensatory scoliosis that is maintained by sustained muscular effort.
Biomechanical Dysfunction is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting in faulty movement patterns. Repetitive strain of certain soft tissue result in adapted movement patterns that become muscular “habits” and must be reeducated. After treatment you may feel some soreness. This soreness should go away within 24 hours. You may not notice much of a difference in the looseness of your muscles until as long as 14 days after treatment. This type of work can be performed as part of a 30 minutes to 2 hours long massage and should be less than 1/5th of a massage. there are multiple levels of training for NMT, for as little as 12hr to over 1000hrs.

Orthopedic Massage: one of the types of massage used for therapeutic purposes. It is sometimes confused with medical massage, but an orthopedic therapist usually has more training than a medical therapist. Therapists trained in this type of massage will work in a clinical setting usually in a doctor’s or physical therapists office. They treat acute and chronic pain conditions. When partnered with other therapies this type of massage speeds healing time. You must get your doctor’s approval before getting any type of massage after surgery. The therapy is used to treat specific musculoskeletal problems. The therapist will take time to assess the situation first by consulting records if they are seeing the client in a medical office where you’ve been seen before or having your fill out a detailed intake fore. The therapist will next assess your injury by moving you through ranges of motion (10 to 15min). The work the therapist does on you on the table will be quite specific to address your pain. Orthopedic massage doesn’t involve the frills and pampering that can be found in other types of massage therapy. It tends to be rather straight forward and direct in its approach and is no more than 15 to 20 minutes long or as a small part of a 1 to 11/2 hours massage. This makes it ideal for a clinical setting. The following conditions are just a few that respond well to this type of therapeutic massage. tendinitis, frozen shoulder, stiff neck, carpal tunnel syndrome, iliopsoas tendinitis, plantar faciitis.

Pregnancy Massage: also called prenatal massage, is a good way to relieve some of the aches and pains experienced during pregnancy. Pregnancy is hard on a woman’s body. The added weight and relaxing of the ligaments that occur during pregnancy is stressful on the joints, especially the pelvis. Carrying the baby causes the pelvis to tilt. This puts pressure on the lower back. There is also a lot of stress put on the neck, shoulders and upper back. Getting massaged during pregnancy can: decrease symptoms of depression, reduce anxiety relieve muscle aches, lessen joint pains, regulate hormones, reduce swelling, improve labor outcomes, and improve newborn health. Pregnancy massage can also relieve nerve pain. Sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome sometimes occur during pregnancy. When you see a massage therapist make sure you see someone who is certified in prenatal massage. That means that the therapist will have taken special classes about massaging pregnant women. This is necessary because there are areas of the body that should be avoided during a prenatal massage. Pillows and cushions are used during the massage to make you comfortable on the massage table. The safest position for you to be worked on is lying on your side. If you have any of the following conditions you shouldn’t receive prenatal massage: high risk pregnancy, pregnancy induced high blood pressure, severe swelling, severe and sudden headaches, and preeclampsia Deep tissue massage is not appropriate to use on pregnant women. Massage should usually be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy without a doctor’s ok. Pregnancy massage should be no more than 1 to 11/2 hours.

Reiki: a gentle form of energy work that was developed in Japan by Mikao Usui in 1922. Usui fasted and meditated on a mountain top for three weeks. During that time he discovered a way to heal by channeling energy from the universe. The word reiki is actually the combination of two Japanese words. Rei means higher power and ki means life energy. Practitioners of reiki believe that low life force energy causes sickness. The practitioner works to balance your levels of energy. This can be done without depleting the practitioner’s own energy. Instead of sending their own energy into a client, the practitioner is channeling energy from the universe. Reiki can be used to treat all kinds of physical and emotional problems. It’s safe and easy to learn.. During a reiki session, you lie on a mat or massage table fully clothed. The practitioner lays his hands on various areas of your body to balance your energy. Some schools of reiki teach that there are specific areas the practitioner must lay hands on and others teach that the practitioner will intuitively know where to place his hands. Because this is a form of energy work, much like therapeutic touch, the practitioner doesn’t even have to touch you to work on you. The therapist can just hold his hands above your body. Sometimes distance sessions are given. During a distance session you are asked to make a comfortable relaxing environment in your home and the therapist will send you energy from another location at an appointed time. Some people say that they can feel the movement of the energy during a session. Others say that they feel very comfortable and at ease during a session. Everyone is different. The only way to know how you’ll feel is to try it and see. There are 3 levels of training in Reiki, Level 1 is for working on the physical body, level 2 is for mental and emotional levels and distant healing and level 3 is the master/teacher. This type of work can be 30 minutes to 1 hour long.

Reflexology: also known as zone therapy, has a long history. Foot therapy has been practiced by the Chinese since 4,000 BC. Barefoot massage was practiced by ancient Egyptians. Most people think of the feet when they think of this therapy, but it can also be done on the hands and ears. Reflexologist believe that all areas of the body have corresponding regions on the hands, feet and ears. By treating these areas, they treat the dysfunction in the corresponding region of the body. The treatment lasted 45 to 50 minutes and was relaxing and enjoyable. You stay completely clothed during a session. You only need to remove your shoes and socks, so make sure your feet are clean before getting this therapy. A Foot Reflexology session should be no longer than 1 hour, if hands are added it can be 11/2 hours.

Relaxation Massage: a wonderful stress relief massage that calms nerves and increases endorphins. This massage is a form of Swedish massage therapy that is practiced in many spas. This type of massage isn’t deep like a deep tissue or neuromuscular therapy. The aim isn’t to treat dysfunction in your body or muscle pain. The aim is to soothe the nerves and calm the mind. The therapist massages your entire body without focusing on one specific spot. Based on Swedish massage techniques, the therapist uses long, gliding strokes. The pressure is light to moderate. There is no deep pressure used in relaxation massage. The aim of this type of massage is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate. If you want a deep massage, you should opt for a therapeutic massage. The therapist uses plenty of massage oil to provide a lot of glide. Essential oils can be used to promote relaxation. Essential oils help calm the mind and engage the sense of smell in the relaxation process. We all experience stress in our busy lives. Getting a soothing massage can help melt that stress away and leave you feeling great. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 2 hours long.

Sports Therapy: ideal when you have a specific injury you’d like to address. It’s based on a combination of massage strokes, shiatsu, and trigger point therapy. It is intended to help reduce the stress intense workouts put on the muscles it is also used to treat injuries once they occur. Sports massage was originally intended to help athletes perform at their best at events. Athletes push their muscles to the max and need to do extra care to avoid and recover from injury. There are several aspects that address all the needs that athletes have.
Pre-event Massage: This massage is usually a short vigorous massage lasting about 20 minutes. The muscles that will be used in the sporting event are usually the only ones massaged.
Inter-competition massage: This massage is given during training periods. It helps prevent injury during training, allowing the athlete to train harder in each session. Post-event Massage: This massage is given right after the event. It’s used to help regulate and normalize the tissue after exertion.
Recovery Massage: This massage is given up to 24hrs after a workout or competition with the intent of reducing soreness, restore blood flow increase ROM etc.
Maintenance Massage: administered in the off season or when an not training heavily. The intent is to address any chronic injuries, stress patterns, flexibility, and neurological pathways.
Injury Management: for treating acute and chronic stages of injury. To decrease swelling, reduce spasms, restore flexibility etc.
Sports Therapy has many and varied benefits depending on what type of Sports therapy is used. Some lower heart rate and blood pressure, others increases it, some increases circulation of blood and lymph others lower it. It improves flexibility and reduces muscle pain and tension. Whether you work on a construction site or in an office, if you have muscle soreness sports massage therapy can help you. This type of massage can be 30 minutes to 11/2 hours long. This important thing is to know which type to use when, so proper training is very important.

Massage Times: 30 min massage: this time is best to focus just on one or two problem spots
60 min (1hour): this is your general massage, were a little of everything is worked on.
90min (11/2hrs): this is the best overall time; you can get a general full body massage and have time to work on a problem.
120min (2 hours): this would be the time for a deep relaxing massage. This type is a little to long for a “therapeutic” massage as the body can easily be overworked. The first or last 30 to 45 min can be deeper focus therapeutic work.


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