Massage therapy techniques provide relief and relaxation throughout the body. Designed to release muscle tension and stress, massage is great for anyone experiencing back pain, muscle strain, tense leg pain, and overall body aches. Considered the oldest form of medical therapy for the body, massage therapy has integrated into every society as a way of living healthy.

The number of massage techniques has grown over the years. The old techniques have influenced newer versions and the newer versions are extensions of the old. Massage therapy categories include:

1. Oriental
2. Relaxation
3. Rehabilitation
4. Therapeutic

All massage techniques provide some type of stress relief and health benefit.

Oriental – Acupressure Massage

The majority of massage techniques require hands on kneading of the muscles. Some techniques require a more delicate touch for releasing muscle tension. Acupressure is one of the vastly used oriental massage techniques that encourages  relaxation and relief through the therapist’s fingertips. Used for over 5000 years, this technique helps in soothing back pain, labor pain, and arthritic pain.

The therapist will place light pressure with fingertips, elbows, and hands on certain parts of the client’s body. Pressure slowly releases with improved circulation.

Benefits include:

• Increased blood circulation
*improved energy flow throughout the body
• Less muscle pain
• Less stress
• Fewer headaches

Traditional Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage

This massage technique  requires the therapist to massage the client using only the feet. With origins starting in the East, this technique requires the therapist to walk on the backs of clients. It has expanded into the West and diversified into many different techniques including the Oriental Bar Therapy method.

Oriental Bar Therapy uses a trapeze-like bar that the therapist holds on to while massaging the clients back. Using both gravity and the bar as support, the therapist’s deeply massages the clients back providing an all over body experience. Although considered highly unconventional, clients immensely enjoy the feeling of euphoria experienced with the technique.

Relaxation – Facial Massage

Muscles in the face, neck, and shoulders often tense up due to every day stress. The face usually acquires lines and wrinkles due to this stress. Facial massage gently massages the face while relaxing tension.

A typical face massage begins with a thorough cleansing to remove makeup and dirt. The therapist applies a lotion or pure vegetable oil to allow easier movement across the skin. Since the face and neck areas are sensitive to damage, the therapist will never place too much pressure in these areas.

The benefits of this technique are less wrinkles, smoother muscle tone, and tighter skin. Facial massage is often incorporated into other spa treatments such as facials.

Swedish Massage

The inspiration for many deep massage techniques,  Swedish massage applies deep tissue kneading to the client. This technique encourages good circulation, range of motion, and removal of waste material.

Swedish massage requires five basic movements:

1. Effleurage: sliding and gliding of the hands over the skin and muscle of the client.
2. Friction: side to side pressure applied across the pattern of underlying fibers to relax them, loosen them, promote circulation and prevent/treat adhesions.
3. Petrisage: kneading and compression of the muscles and skin.
4. Vibrations: accomplished with rapid movement to and fro, shaking of the muscles or with a device or tool.5. Tapping or tapotement: the therapist uses the sides of their hands, often portrayed in a chopping motion.

Rehabilitation – Deep Muscle Therapy

Deep muscle therapy provides relief deep down into the muscle tissue. Knots form within the muscle causing adhesions and damage. The results of this are:

• Muscle pain
• Joint pain
• Poor posture
• Poor coordination

Designed to increase circulation in the blood and lymphatic system, the technique will encourage the body to heal. It even encourages minor muscle sprains and connective tissue damage to repair. Deep muscle therapy used in treating and soothing Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease is quite successful. Patients experience fewer symptoms, better sleep and increased relaxation.

To do this technique properly requires more pressure than with a normal massage. It is uncomfortable to some because of how deep the technique massages the muscles. Sessions can last anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. The therapist will often ask the client if they are experiencing pain and how much. Asking the client to rate the amount of pain they are experiencing on a scale of one to ten helps the therapist identify when they are using the correct amount of pressure. A session will not continue if the client is too uncomfortable and will end if the pain becomes intolerable.

Deep Connective Tissue Massage

Similar to deep muscle therapy, this technique is useful for unleashing underlying muscle pain. Using slow, deep pressure the therapist will attempt to warm up the client’s muscle tissue. This technique utilizes pressure to lengthen and heal damaged myofascial, or connective tissue. In the process, scar tissue is broken up allowing more flexibility and use of the affected tissue.

Benefits of deep connective tissue massage include:

• Chronic tension relief
• Better range of motion
• Improved posture
• Enhanced harmony in mind and body

Joint Mobilization

This is not a traditional massage technique because it involves manipulating the joints instead of massaging them. Considering the dangers of dislocating or damaging joints, a highly trained physical therapist performs the moves.

Joint mobilization releases stress on stiff joints. Clients who experience pain or limited range of motion benefit greatly from this method. The physical therapist will need to assess the client before beginning treatment. This assessment includes checking nerves, bones, and muscles to insure that the technique will not cause harm to the client.

Alternative Massage – Older Adults

Older generations usually experience many complications as they age. Most seniors experience stiff joints and arthritis pain that modern medicine sometimes cannot ease. Massage is great for promoting better mobility and movement. The therapist has to perform range of motion gently and slowly. Massaging must not be too hard on fragile backs and faces to reduce the risk of injury.

Elderly clients also have special needs that must be considered. For example, if a client has had a stroke, manipulation of the neck area is strictly avoided. Some patients may be unable to climb up onto your table, or they may be unable to lie flat on a massage table. Generally, massage approach and technique is guided by the abilities of the client. Despite the special accommodations that must be made, geriatric massage is rewarding and can be very effective.

Geriatric massage is gaining new ground in the massage therapy field. Specialized therapists spend 30 minutes to an hour relieving older clients of pain. However, they need to be extra sensitive of how they move and massage the older client. Problems associated with aging:

• Stiff joints
• Bursitis
• Immobilization
• Arthritis
• Decreased bone density
• Respiratory problems

Benefits of senior massages:

• Better mobility
• Increased bone density
• Less stiff joints
• Increased circulation in the body
-better sleep at night

Massage can have a profound effect on all populations.. With new and improved techniques coming to the forefront every day, massage will continue to grow and prosper as a means of remaining healthy.