Massage Choices

Massage Modalities

Modalities

A massage modality is another name for a massage style. Each modality is characterized by the main techniques and approach utilized in the work. There are many different modalities or massage styles, many of which are common to the regions of the world from which they originated. Many of the different styles of massage are listed below. We have broken down each style into several characteristics in a format which allows you to compare and select the styles appropriate to your needs. First a summary is given for each modality. Then, we list the goal of the work, principle techniques, variability, typical level of pressure, and specific contraindication for the work. The variability denotes how adaptable the massage style is for incorporating different techniques from other styles, as well as the degree of flexibility each therapist has in being able to mold the work to their own personal preference. The contraindications listed for each style are additional contraindications specific to the particular modality. Most styles of massage contain the general contraindications. Exceptions to this include most energy modalities as well as reflexology. For a list of the general contraindications for most massage styles click here. An entry of "General" in this category, indicates that no additional contraindications are known. We also note when a particular style is excluded from the usual contraindications by "None".

Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago from the belief that energy, which flows through the body in channels called meridians, could become blocked forming imbalances which cause disease. Through the use of thin needles placed in key points, of which hundreds have been mapped, an acupuncturist can release the blockage and return balance to the flow of energy. The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes and is generally painless.

Goals:
Acupuncture treatments exists for a variety of reasons and can include: improving general health, relief from pain, healing from sickness, and even breaking a bad habit or addiction. The overall goal is to achieve the target outcome through balancing yin and yang energy flow in the body.
Techniques:
A number of very thin needles are gently placed on key points then tapped into the skin. The needles may be twisted slightly and pushed to varying depths. A substance may be placed on the skin as well and ignited for a brief moment. Most techniques are painless and result only in a slight tingling sensation of pressure.
Variance:
Low. treatments vary mainly according to targeted goal.
Pressure:
None, needles are applied a varying depths but pressure is barely felt.
Contraindications:
In extremely rare cases hemophilia. Most importantly, inform practitioner if you believe that you are pregnant.

Classical Massage

Classical massage was the popular term adopted for the style we know today as Swedish massage. In many parts of Europe Swedish massage is still referred to as classical massage. (See Swedish massage)

Deep Tissue

Deep Tissue has been characterized as its own style of massage, though in reality, it is actually only a descriptor of the level of pressure and the depth of targeted structures in any given bodywork. Most commonly it is used to distinguish between light and deep Swedish massage; however, many styles can be classified as deep tissue work . Neuromuscular, Rolfing, shiatsu, trigger point therapy, and many others are common examples of styles that incorporate the use of deep tissue techniques. Even Trager, which is a generally light and gentle massage, can be classified as deep tissue, do its effect on the joint structures and its deep relaxation of all the muscles in the body. It has mostly been due to spas designating it as a separate massage category, that deep tissue as achieved its own style classification. A common characteristic of deep tissue is its tendency to focus on trouble spots in the body.

Goals:
The goal of deep tissue massage is either to affect some change on the underlying muscular structures of the body or simply to apply more than the usual amount of pressure during the coarse of the massage. Deep tissue is sometimes necessary in order to release tense holding patterns in muscles, whether they are located deeper in the body or on the surface.
Techniques:
Depending on the underlying style being used the techniques can vary greatly. Usually Deep tissue incorporates the use of deep cross friction, static pressure either with the use of the thumb, palm of hand or elbows and some form of Stripping and lengthening of muscle fibers. Trigger point therapy or some variation of it is also a common approach that is used.
Variance:
As with Swedish massage there is a great amount of customization that can be applied. It can be treated as a full body massage or restricted to certain parts of the body which may be needing detailed manipulation.
Pressure:
As the name suggests It is usually very deep work, but this is dependent on the underlying style and intent of the massage. The client's tolerance to pressure is taken into consideration and the massage is modified if the person is unable to comfortably accept the deeper pressure. A quick note: Deep tissue does not necessarily imply deep pressure. As an example, Trager, which is a gentle massage involving a rocking and swaying of the body is considered by many to be deep tissue work, due to its effect on joints which are a deep structures.
Contraindications:
General.

Esalen Massage

This style was developed at the Esalen Institute which is located at Big Sur in California. Very similar to Swedish massage but with a greater emphasis on the quality of contact and care given to the individual. Esalen strives to unite the individual with the body, making a person feel more connected, conscious of and at ease in their body. It understands the importance of the emotional and physiological components of healing. As with Swedish, touch is viewed as a physical need. But in Esalen massage touch is emphasized above all else, and it is the importance on the quality of touch that makes Esalen massage such a great experience.

Goals:
The goal of an Esalen massage is to unite mind and body in a harmonized synchronization where healing becomes effortless. It strives to affect a person's emotional well being as greatly as ones physical health as it brings sense of relaxation throughout the whole body.
Techniques:
Utilizes the Same primary techniques as in Swedish massage, with a greater emphasis on the contact between therapist and client; which incorporates a degree of energy work to enhance the exchange of energy between the two.
Variance:
As in Swedish there is the possibility of varying the techniques and approach used. An Esalen practitioner will monitor the effects that the work is having on the client and make modification if necessary. However, there is a lesser degree of difference in the overall massage between practitioners as that of Swedish massage.
Pressure:
It can be performed light, firm or deep depending on your preference and tolerance. Since the main goal of Esalen massage in on the relaxation of the whole body and mind, it is usually performed with moderate pressure.
Contraindications:
General.

Lomi Lomi

A style of massage native to Hawaii which is very spiritual and wholistic in approach. During the massage, a therapist will maintain a movement in their own body that is similar to a hula dance. With this gyration movement is transferred into the therapists arms and hands which is the guiding force with which the techniques are achieved.

Goals:
.
Techniques:
Variance:
.
Pressure:
.
Contraindications:
.

Pre-natal Massage

During pregnancy a woman's body undergoes many changes both hormonally and structurally which create additional stresses on her muscles and joints. A therapist certified in pre-natal massage, also commonly known as "mommy massage", has had specialized training on how to deal with all the additional discomforts brought upon by pregnancy. Specific techniques are used that alleviate the most common problems that occur during this period. During a pre-natal massage you can expect the therapist to perform several stretches that help to alleviate the tension which builds up in the lower back and other areas. They will know were to best apply pressure and what areas to soothe with gentle effleurage strokes in order to comfort you and relieve most of your tension. It is not recommended to get a massage in the first trimester of pregnancy; but after this, a pre-natal massage is a good way to ease you experience, and ensures a happy relaxed pregnancy.

Goals:
To alleviate the additional discomforts brought upon by pregnancy, and relieve the stresses caused by hormonal changes and the additional challenges women face during this period.
Techniques:
Pre-natal massage is a specialized form of Swedish massage and therefore utilizes a subset of the five main techniques in the work. (see Swedish Massage)
Variance:
Low to moderate. Being primarily a specialized type of Swedish bodywork, the therapist can include techniques from various modalities. However, the additional contraindications and limited mobility of the expectant mother, reduces the amount of variance in the work. You will find that many therapists vary in the positioning used as well as the different types of movements performed.
Pressure:
Usually light to moderate, certain areas will only allow for light and/or gliding strokes.
Contraindications:
Massage is not usually recommended in the first trimester. In addition to the usual contraindications for Swedish massage, you should consult your physician before receiving a massage if you exhibit any of the following conditions: Preeclampsia, recently suffering from severe headaches, nausea or vomiting, hypertension due to the pregnancy, abnormal swelling, or have a high risk pregnancy from conditions such as prior preterm labor, higher probability of miscarriage, or have a placental abruption.

Reflexology

The simplest definition of reflexology is that it is a foot massage. Reflexology however, is much more than a simple foot rub, and aside from the fact that it can also be performed on the hands, this definition does it little justice. Reflexology is a very relaxing form of massage which is based on the ancient Chinese beliefs that the energy lines of the body terminate in reflex points on the feet and hands. Pressing these reflex points can then affect conditions throughout every part of the body. Through years of observation, Asian healers have mapped the feet and hands into zones, corresponding to different organs and parts on the body. A reflexologist knows where to apply pressure in order to affect a change to an organ or area of the body that needs it. A simple way to interpret the theory is to say that you are alerting the brain to of a condition in an area of the body and asking it to trigger a response which will encourage healing on that area. Specific techniques are used to maximize the effect that achieved by the massage. A session is usually half an hour to an hour, with the hour session usually including the hands.

Goals:
The goal of a reflexology session is to alleviate pain in an area while helping to increase the healing process. It also brings about a general balance and wellness throughout the body and a deep sense of relaxation.
Techniques:
It consists primarily of acupressure style techniques applied to the many reflex points along the feet. This however is not the only technique used and in fact most of the Swedish techniques are also applied, but on a smaller scale then that performed on the whole body.
Variance:
Each therapist has their own set of techniques and patterns that they prefer to use, however the degree of variability is limited.
Pressure:
Moderate to deep.
Contraindications:
The general contraindications do not apply. However, there are local contraindications such as swelling on the feet and anckles, as well as certain points that the therapist will need to avoid for certain conditions such as pregnancy. Let your therapist know of any conditions that you may have, especially if you believe yourself to be pregnant.

Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a traditional Japanese form of massage dating back about a thousand years. It is based on the Asian system of energy channels in the body known as meridians. By using downward pressure, a shiatsu practitioner unblocks imbalances in the flow of energy throughout the body.. The style uses a form of acupressure similar in theory to acupuncture. It effects a person's energy patterns and has an overall effect on the nervous system. This is a style of massage that is usually performed without oils and with the client wearing loose comfortable clothes.

Goals:
The Goal of A Shiatsu massage is to maintain the general health of a person while relaxing and correcting issues pertaining to energy imbalances.
Techniques:
The style is characterized by the rhythmic downward pressure applied using fingers (primarily the thumbs), the palms of the hand, elbows, knees and feet; along with occasional stretches.
Variance:
Low.
Pressure:
Moderate to deep, but usually closer to deep.
Contraindications:
General although it can be less restrictive than Swedish.

Swedish Massage

The techniques which comprise Swedish massage were originally developed by a Swedish physical therapist by the name of Pehr Henrik Ling in the early 1800's. A Dutch massage therapist later took five of the main techniques in Ling's system and created what he termed the Swedish massage system. The style which had a great similarity to the classical Chinese massage Tui na, became more popularly known as classical massage.

Swedish massage is undoubtedly the most general and complete form of massage available. It can be adapted to be very gentle and relaxing, or used as a deep modality to target problem areas in any number of muscle groups. In spa settings, Swedish massage is usually light and relaxing, while in private practices it is usually tailored to the individual's needs and comfort level.

Goals:
Swedish massage is a complete system of massage which addresses an entire range of health concerns. Developed by a physical therapist (a common medical discipline for doctors of the time) for the purpose of improving the general health of a person; it specifically targets muscular pain and joint disease.
Techniques:
This style is characterized by its use of five main techniques which can each be implemented in a variety of different ways. The main techniques have become the cornerstone of most western massage styles and include: petrissage ( a lifting and squeezing movement), effleurage ( long gliding strokes), tapotement (rhythmic percussive hacking), vibration (rapid shaking), and friction (deep cross and circular grinding of muscle fibers).
Variance:
This massage style is extremely customizable and usually is customized depending on taste, needs, and the practitioner's knowledge. Many times all five techniques are not utilized. This style is also very adaptable to incorporating techniques from other modalities.
Pressure:
It can be performed light, firm or deep (as in deep tissue) depending on your preference.
Contraindications:
General.

Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic Touch is often misinterpreted as a deep form of massage. It is actually an energy work modality much like Touch for Health, involving very light touch. As in Reiki, Some sessions may involve little or no touching at all. The massage focuses on detecting energy imbalances in the body and it's aura by feeling for hot and cold spots. The practitioner, usually a nurse, is trained to detect theses imbalances and places his/her hands above the body in many key positions in order to bring balance and proper flow to a person's energy.

Goals:
Restore the energy balance throughout the body, assist the in healing while improving the overall health and bringing a sense of peace and well being.
Techniques:
The practitioner places his/her hands on or in most cases near the clients body in order to locate and correct imbalances in the persons energy field.
Variance:
Low.
Pressure:
Light to none.
Contraindications:
None.