Types of
Massage and Bodywork

This page is here to give you an overview of some of the types of massage and bodywork available today. The terms massage and bodywork are often used interchangeably. However, bodywork is an 'umbrella' term which includes many techniques/styles including massage. Bodywork includes just about any form of touch/healing therapy aimed at improving one's energy, physical structure or mind-body connection.

There are many, many types of massage and bodywork being practiced all over the world. Here's a look at some of the more common types of massage and bodywork, starting with massage.

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Swedish Massage - Probably the most common type of massage, a Swedish Massage uses five basic strokes to increase circulation, decrease muscle tension and increase relaxation. An oil, lotion, or cream is applied to the skin to reduce friction.

Deep Tissue Massage - This form of massage uses techniques to reach deeper layers of muscle and fascia. Sometimes called deep pressure massage, deep muscle massage, or even deep tissue sculpting, these techniques require that the therapist have a good understanding of anatomy, physiology, and myology. Superficial muscles need to be relaxed to reach the deeper layers, so other bodywork techniques are often mixed in throughout the session. Deep tissue massage can help relieve chronic muscular pain and help achieve better postural alignment.

Pregnancy Massage (or Prenatal Massage) - Perfect for the mother-to-be, pregnancy massage helps to decrease stress and swelling, reduce aches and pains and relieve muscle cramps/spasms all while helping prepare your body for labor. Your therapist should have additional training in this area to better understand the changes your body is going through and what techniques are safe to apply and how to properly position you throughout the nine months.

Sports Massage - Specific techniques are applied to enhance performance and speed recovery. Pre-event sports massage will focus on increasing circulation to warm up muscles (gentle stretching may be included as well). Post-event sports massage focuses more on calming and helping flush metabolic waste from muscle tissues to reduce recovery time. Sports massage can help to not only prevent sports related injuries (cramps, spasms, pulls) but can help reduce recovery time if any injury does occur.

Chair Massage - Often called seated massage or on-site massage. Performed fully clothed, you sit comfortably in a massage chair designed for this type of work. The therapist will uses a variety of techniques, similar to those found in other types of bodywork, to work your back, neck, shoulders, arms, and hips.

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Acupressure - A traditional Chinese medicine technique that uses the same points throughout the body as acupuncture. However, acupressure accesses these points by applying pressure with fingers, hands, elbows, or sometimes feet. When points are pressed, the body's natural healing abilities are enhanced, releasing muscle tension and increasing circulation.

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) - With its roots in Cranial Osteopathy, CranioSacral Therapy focuses on the evaluation and enhancement of the craniosacral system. Developed by John E. Upledger, DO, OMM, this gentle form of manual therapy works with the body's natural healing ability and has proven effective in treating a wide range of pain and illness.

Lomilomi - (Hawaiian for rubrub) A traditional Hawaiian massage which combines the power of prayer (pule), breath (ha), and energy (mana) with large, broad, Swedish-like massage strokes.

Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) - A very gentle hands-on method of lymphatic drainage developed by Bruno Chikly, MD, of France. The therapist is trained to evaluate lymph flow anywhere in the body and determine the best way to move fluid through the body to help drainage. Usinghis/her whole hand, the therapist makes specific, subtle, wave-like motions to activate fluid circulation. This therapy is great for reducing swelling, detoxifying the body, and promoting deep relaxation.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) - The most common form of manual lymph drainage is the Dr. Vodder method. Through the pumping and stretching effect on the lymph vessels, the Dr. Vodder method of Manual Lymph Drainage stimulates the contraction of lymph vessels, helping to move the lymph forward and drain the connective tissue.

Myofascial Release (MFR) - This technique involves the application of sustained pressure and movement of the connective tissues in the body known as fascia. After an assessment of fascial movement a sustained pressure/traction is applied to the tissue to release areas of restriction and immobility. It is these areas of restriction and immobility of fascia that can cause pain and decreased range of motion in the body.

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) - In this type of therapy the therapist is trained in the physiology of the nervous system in relation to the muscular system of the body. The therapist uses static pressure on specific points in the soft tissues to release spasms and trigger points and to increase circulation to the specific area.

Reflexology - In reflexology, specific points on the feet, hands, and/or ears are massaged, squeezed, or pressed with the intention of stimulating healing in other parts of the body. These points correspond to organs, glands and other tissues in the body. It is believed that working these points stimulates the body's energy flow and natural healing ability.

Reiki - Probably the most known and practiced energy healing art. Reiki means 'universal life energy' or 'universal life force'. The practitioner places his/her hands on the recipient in various positions. The practitioner then offers healing universal energy to flow through him/her and be received by the recipient. The recipient's body may accept this energy and use it to enhance its natural healing abilities.

Rolfing Structural Integration - Usually just called 'Rolfing' this system is designed to address the body's entire myofascial system to improve body awareness, release motion restrictions, improve posture, and re-educate the client on how to properly use his/her body on a daily basis in relation to gravity. Rolfing is usually received in a 10-session series designed to systematically balance the structure and function of the entire body.

Shiatsu - A Japanese form of body work that literally translates to 'finger pressure'. Shiatsu practitioners use their fingers, hands, and thumbs to apply pressure to specific points and sections of the body to correct imbalances and promote health. It can help adjust the body's physical structure as well as its natural inner energies.

SomatoEmotional Release (SER) - SomatoEmotional Release is a therapeutic process that helps rid the mind and body of residual effects of past trauma and associated negative responses. SER is simply an extension of CranioSacral Therapy. In SER, the practitioner may engage the client in therapeutic imagery and dialogue techniques to help bring into the client's conscious awareness the underlying reasons that the body is showing symptoms (chronic pain, headaches/migraines, fatigue, etc). Once the client understands and processes the root of the issue, symptoms often disappear and do not return.

Thai Massage (or Thai Yoga Massage) - This modality is practiced on a mat on the floor and not a massage table. The client wears comfortable clothing and lies relaxed on the mat. The practitioner gently moves the client's body into yoga-like positions to deeply stretch the body and open up energy lines through the body. The practitioner may also use his/her hands, forearms, or feet to apply firm, rhythmic pressure to parts of the receiver's body. Sessions can last up to two hours or more.

Visceral Manipulation - Visceral manipulation enhances the normal mobility and tissue motion of the organs of the visceral system. Hypertonicity, displacement, and adhesions can all cause organs to work against each other, creating chronic irritation and fixed, abnormal points of tension. The visceral organs are dependent on their ability to move freely in the visceral cavity to then work correctly and efficiently. When they are pulled out of their effective positions, they cease to function properly. By freeing each organ to work compatibly with the others, a therapist can potentially alter and improve the structure and functioning of the entire body.

Zero Balancing - By working with bone energy, zero balancing seeks to correct imbalances between energy and structure, providing relief from pain, anxiety, and stress. Zero Balancing was developed by Fritz Smith, MD, and has its roots in osteopathy, acupuncture, Rolfing, and meditation. A Zero Balancing session, which consists of gentle acupressure focusing on joints and bones, generally takes thirty to forty minutes and is done through the client’s clothing while they lie on a massage table.

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