Massage Therapy Definitions and Modalities

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Stretching techniques where the therapist and client work together to produce a desired change. Active stretching differs from passive stretching in that the client is an active participant moving, gently resisting or engaging specific muscles as instructed by the therapist.

Ayurveda is the traditional system of healing in India. It is much more than just a system for the treatment of disease, it is concerned with how to live your life in harmony with Nature, in this sense it looks at our relationship with the external world of people, weather, food and color as well as our relationship with ourselves. Ayurveda is derived from two words in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India,”Ayus” means life and “Veda” means knowledge it is thus the knowledge of life and longevity.

Abnormal or impaired functioning of the mechanics of the body, especially of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on the skeletal structure.

A general term used to describe focused, conscious alteration of breathing and the muscles that coordinate breath.

A condition caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel and characterized especially by weakness, pain, and disturbances of sensation in the hand and fingers.

Craniosacral therapy is a holistic healing practice that uses very light touching to balance the craniosacral system in the body, which includes the bones, nerves, fluids, and connective tissues of the cranium and spinal area.

Friction techniques applied across the “grain” of muscle fibers to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue. Application of deep transverse friction can reduce adhesions and scar tissue during the healing process, and help promote strong, flexible tissue development.

A technique that releases chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure on contracted areas, either following or going across the grains of muscles, tendons and fascia.

Direct holding of a muscle or area to release tight tissue.

Energy medicine is based upon the belief that changes in the “life force” of the body, including the electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields, affect human health and can promote healing.

A layer or sheet of connective tissue that connects the various structures and organs of the body. Some fascias are simple “sheets” of connective tissue. Others are complex and multi-layered. Fascia is usually divided into two types: superficial and deep.

Abnormal or impaired functioning of walking or running.

A system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

Treatment or treatments designed to facilitate the process of recovery from an injury to as normal a condition as possible.

A manual soft tissue manipulation, which includes holding, causing movement, and/or applying pressure to the body. It is the treatment and practice of manipulation of the soft body tissues with physical, functional, mechanical and medical/therapeutic purposes and goals. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints or other connective tissue as well as lymphatic vessels and/or organs of the gastrointestinal system.

A profession in which the practitioner applies manual techniques, and may apply adjunctive therapies, with the intention of positively affecting the health and well being of the client.

Therapeutic massage increasingly is being prescribed by physicians to complement traditional medical treatment for illness, injury rehabilitation and pain reduction.

A combination of active, direct techniques that promote muscle relaxation by activating nerve cells embedded in the muscle belly and/or tendon. There are several distinct techniques, which may be called Muscle Energy Techniques including Reciprocal Inhibition (RI), Post-Isometric Relaxation (PIR) and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). Their purpose is to gain motion that is limited by restrictions of neuromuscular structures.

A lack of balance, as in distribution or functioning, of the neuromuscular system often caused by poor posture, improper gait/movement or incorrect training and strengthening.

A form of bodywork using long stretching strokes that seek to rebalance the body by releasing tension in the fascia/connective tissue. Myofascial Release is a highly specialized stretching technique used by therapists to treat patients with a variety of soft tissue problems. Myofascial release refers to the manual massage technique for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia and muscles with the goal of eliminating pain and increasing range of motion. Myofascial release usually involves applying shear compression or tension in various directions, or by skin rolling.

Massage techniques that work with the nervous system to release muscular holding patterns. Neuromuscular therapy can be a powerful treatment modality.

A massage modality which focuses on a deformity, disorder, or injury of the musculo-skeletal system.

An active stretching technique where the patient is asked to gently resist a stretch position for 10 seconds followed by an exhale upon relaxation. Then the practitioner waits to feel the muscle fully relax before stretching the patient further.

A massage technique, which uses a combination of passive stretching and isometric contractions (gentle resistance). PNF is used to supplement daily stretching and is employed to make quick gains in range of motion to help athletes improve performance. Good range of motion makes better biomechanics, reduces fatigue and helps prevent overuse injuries. PNF is practiced by physical therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers and others.

Uses the body’s antagonist-inhibition reflex to induce relaxation of a “tight” muscle. For example, when the biceps (in this case the agonist) is flexed, a reflexive inhibition of the triceps (here the antagonist) is induced. Thus loss of range of motion in the triceps can be incrementally restored by flexion of the biceps.

System of hands-on touching based on the belief that such touching by an experienced practitioner produces beneficial effects by strengthening and normalizing certain vital energy fields held to exist within the body.

Russian massage is a system of therapeutic and sports massage developed in the former Soviet Union. It uses a variety of manipulations of the body’s soft tissues to achieve benefits, including stress reduction and relief from muscle aches.

A lateral (side-to-side) curvature of the spine.

Shiatsu is a manipulative therapy developed in Japan and incorporating techniques of Japanese traditional massage, acupressure (finger pressure), stretching, and Western massage. Shiatsu involves applying pressure to special points or areas on the body in order to maintain physical and mental well being, treat disease, or alleviate discomfort. This therapy is considered holistic because it attempts to treat the whole person instead of a specific medical complaint.

Sports massage is a type of massage therapy that focuses on muscle systems relevant to a particular sport. It involves different massage approaches while an athlete is in training, during sports activity and after a sport event.

This technique works to rebalance the nervous system with the structure of the musculoskeletal system (skeleton and muscles of the body). Strain Counterstrain works to inhibit hyperactivity of the spasm reflex, allowing the muscle to relax by improving oxygenation and eliminating pain.

A system of long strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles, combined with active and passive movements of the joints. The four strokes of Swedish massage are effleurage, petrissage, friction and tapotement.

A group of symptoms that may include pain or tenderness in the temporomandibular joint or surrounding muscles, headache, earache, neck, back, or shoulder pain, limited jaw movement, or a clicking or popping sound in the jaw and that are caused either by dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (as derangement of the articular disk) or another problem (as spasm or tension of the masticatory muscles) affecting the region of the temporomandibular joint.

The thoracic outlet is an area at the top of the rib cage, between the neck and the chest. Thoracic outlet syndrome is a disorder that causes pain and abnormal nerve sensations in the neck, shoulder, arm, and/or hand.

Irritated area in muscle fibers that when compressed may elicit pain or a twitching response in local or distal regions. As defined by Dr. Janett Travell, a trigger point is a hyperirritable tender spot in an abused muscle that refers pain (“triggers pain”) to other muscles.

A method that applies concentrated finger pressure, and breath work, to trigger points to break cycles of spasm and pain.