Different Techniques

Canadian Union of Professional Massage Therapists

Massage therapy Techniques





Acupressure (a blend of "acupuncture" and "pressure") is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) technique derived from acupuncture. In acupressure physical pressure is applied to acupuncture points by the hand, elbow, or with various devices.





Anma is a traditional Japanese massage involving kneading and deep tissue work.



Ayurvedic massage


Traction Massage in marma therapy given in Sreepathy cvn kalari for inter vertebral disc prolapse

Ayurveda is a natural health care system originating in India that incorporates massage, yoga, meditation and herbal remedies. Ayurvedic massage, also known as Abhyanga is usually performed by one or two therapists using a heated blend of herbal oils based on the ayurvedic system of humors.



Balinese massage


Balinese massage techniques are gentle which makes the patient feel relax and calm throughout. The techniques include skin rolling, kneading, stroking, etc...The masseuse applies aromatheraphy oil througout the massage. Patient's blood, oxygen and energy flow increases. Balinese hot stones are an option.



Bowen therapy


Bowen technique involves a rolling movement over fascia, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. It is said not to involve deep or prolonged contact with muscle tissues as in most kinds of massage, but claims to relieve muscle tensions and strains and to restore normal lymphatic flow. It is based on practices developed by Australian Tom Bowen.





Breema bodywork is performed on the floor with the recipient fully clothed. It consists of rhythmical and gentle leans and stretches.





Champissage is a massage technique focusing on the head, neck and face that is believed to balance the chakras.



Esalen Massage


Esalen Massage was developed by Charlotte Selver and works with gentle rocking of the body, passive joint exercises and deep structural work on the muscles and joints, together with an energetic balancing of the body.





Hilot is an ancient healing technique from the Philippines that also includes massage techniques.


The massage techniques relax stressed muscles. Hilot also includes joint manipulations to help relax stressed muscles.


Hilot encompasses a wide variety of techniques beyond the treatment of stressed muscles. Hilot is used to reset dislocated and sprained joints, diagnose and treat musculoligamentous and musculoskeletal ailments, and even aid in the giving birth of babies.





Jacuzzi Brothers, Italian immigrants, introduce the invention in California back in 1968. Jacuzzi was used for hydrotheraphy and as a personal high-end relaxation hot tub with jets and pumps for both indoor and outdoor. Physical therapist and masseuse have incorporate the famous jacuzzi to their profession in homes and in clinics. Today, virtually every resort, casino and hotel has a Jacuzzi SPA to relax into and enjoy with pleasure.



Lomi Lomi


Massage in Tarifa, Spain.


Lomilomi is the traditional massage of Hawaii. As an indigenous practice, it varies by island and by family. Lomi Lomi practice by Kahunas (healers) in Polynesia and in Micronesia.



Medical massage


Massage used in the medical field includes decongestive therapy used for lymphedema which can be used in conjunction with the treatment of breast cancer. Carotid sinus massage is used to diagnose carotid sinus syncope and is sometimes useful for differentiating supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from ventricular tachycardia. It, like the valsalva maneuver, is a therapy for SVT. However, it is less effective than management of SVT with medications.





In Meso-America as in other areas of the world an indigenous form of soft tissue and structural work was devised. Today this art survives thanks to the many Sobadoras/es or Hueseros/as that have been handed these techniques via oral tradition. In the book Wind in the Blood there is an instance where a yucatec Maya was treated by an illiterate sobador for a broken arm using the Meso-American techniques and when he was X-rayed months later the arm had only minuscule signs of damage.



Myofascial release


Myofascial release refers to the manual massage technique for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia, integument, and muscles with the goal of eliminating pain, increasing range of motion and equilibrioception. Myofascial release usually involves applying shear compression or tension in various directions, or by skin rolling.



Reflexology massage


Pebble massage sandals from Dalian, China.


Reflexology is the science based on the principal that there are reflexes in the hands and feet that relate to every organ, gland, and system of the body.



Russian Massage


Russian Massage has three phases. The first phase is gentle, slow and mild. The second phase is hard, deep and fast. The third phase is similar to the first phase which is slow and gentle. The massage therapist applies honey.





Shiatsu  ("shi" meaning finger and "atsu" meaning pressure.) is an eastern (oriental) born therapy that uses pressure applied with thumbs, fingers and palms to the same energy meridians as acupressure and incorporates stretching. It also uses techniques such as rolling, brushing, vibrating, grasping and in one particular technique developed by Suzuki Yamamoto, pressure is applied with the feet on the persons back, legs and feet (special set up is required for the "foot" Ashiatsu.)



Stone massage



A hot stone massage.


A stone massage uses cold or water-heated stones to apply pressure and heat to the body. Stones coated in oil can also be used by the therapist delivering various massaging strokes.



Structural Integration


Structural Integration's aim is to unwind the strain patterns residing in your body's myofascial system, restoring it to its natural balance, alignment, length, and ease. This is accomplished by deep, slow, fascial and myofascial manipulation, coupled with movement re-education. Various brands of Structural Integration are Kinesis Myofascial Integration and rolfing



Swedish massage


Swedish massage uses five styles of long, flowing strokes to massage. The five basic strokes are effleurage (light touch), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic tapping), friction (compression), and vibration. Swedish massage has shown to be helpful in reducing pain, joint stiffness, and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee over a period of eight weeks. 


The development of Swedish massage is credited to Per Henrik Ling though the Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes. A Swedish massage is not related to the country of Sweden, where massages are quite uncommon.



Thai massage


Drawings of accupressure points on Sen lines at Wat Pho temple in Thailand.


Known in Thailand as  (Nuat phaen boran, IPA , meaning "ancient/traditional massage", Thai massage originated in India and is based on ayurveda and yoga. The technique combines massage with yoga-like positions during the course of the massage; the northern style emphasizes stretching while the southern style emphasizes acupressure.


Traditional Chinese massage


Two types of traditional Chinese massage exist - Tui na which focusses on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle and Zhi Ya which focuses on pinching and pressing at acupressure points. Both are based on principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine.



Trager Approach


The Trager approach combines movement, massage and education.


Trigger point therapy


Also called a pressure point massage, this involves stimulating hypothetical trigger points that may refer pain sensations to other parts of the body. Manual pressure is applied to these points. Trigger point therapy was founded by Janet G. Travell and David Simons.


Visceral manipulation


One form is Mayan abdominal massage which is practiced in many countries in Latin America. This type of massage was developed by Elijio Panti of Belize and brought to the United States by Rosita Arvigo. Even though Panti was a respected and well known user of Mayan massage, he did not develop this modality. "Mayan Massage" techniques have been used since before the spanish conquest and is still practiced today by many Sobadores or Hueseros.





Massager Jacuzzi in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.


Watsu is the combination of hydrotherapy and shiatsu developed by Harold Dull. The work is done in skin temperature water with both the therapist and practitioner in the water, usually a pool which is between 3.5 ft to 4 ft (100–120 cm) deep. The work entails much movement in the water and practitioners believe that it incorporates the activation of the energy lines derived from shiatsu.



Associated methods


Many types of practices are associated with massage and include Bodywork (alternative medicine), manual therapy, energy medicine, and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to Dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.



Beneficial effects


Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state anxiety. Theories behind what massage might do include blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep but such effects are yet to be supported by well designed clinical studies.


Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.



Single dose effects


Pain relief: Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage. In one study, cancer patients self-reported symptomatic relief of pain. This study, however, did not include a no treatment or placebo control group so these effect may be due to the placebo effect or regression towards the mean. Massage can also relieve tension headaches. Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain. However, a meta-study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign failed to find a statistically significant reduction in pain immediately following treatment.


State anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce state anxiety, a transient measure of anxiety in a given situation.


Blood pressure and heart rate: Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate as temporary effects.


Attention: After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations, with the effects perhaps being mediated by decreased stress hormones.


Other: Massage also stimulates the immune system by increasing peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs). However, this immune system effect is only observed in aromatherapy massage, which includes sweet almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil, and sweet marjoram oil. It is unclear whether this effect persists over the long term.



Multiple dose effects


Pain relief: When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain. Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment.


Trait anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce trait anxiety; a person's general susceptibility to anxiety.


Depression: Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression.


Diseases: Massage, involving stretching, has been shown to help with spastic diplegia resulting from Cerebral palsy in a small pilot study. The researchers warn that these results should "be viewed with caution until a double-blind controlled trial can be conducted".


Massage has been used in an effort to improve symptoms, disease progression, and quality of life in HIV patients, however, this treatment is not scientifically supported.