There are many different types of massage therapy and it seems like there's a new modality every month. Choosing a style of massage that benefits you can be confusing if you're not sure what it involves. Here are some of the most popular types of massage.
Most massage textbooks written in the last 100 years credit Per Henrik Ling, who developed the Swedish Movement Cure, as the founder of Swedish massage. Although Ling deserves a great deal of credit for the techniques he developed, Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) is generally considered the “father” of Swedish Massage. Mezger was the first to adopt the French names for the basic strokes but more importantly he standardized Swedish massage as we know it today. It may seem strange for a man from Holland to choose French words, but the French words massage, masseuse, and masseur were already becoming popular across Europe. The term "Swedish" massage is only recognized in English and Dutch speaking countries and Hungary. Sweden and the rest of Europe call it Classic massage.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue techniques were first developed by Canadian physicians in the mid-1800's. These techniques addressed specific problems like whiplash. In 1949, Canadian doctor Therese Phimmer established guidelines for deep tissue massage in her book "Muscles - Your Invisible Bonds." Phimmer used deep tissue massage to reverse her leg paralysis. These techniques were slowly integrated into sports medicine and physical therapy.
Deep tissue massage uses deeper pressure and slower strokes. Focusing on the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues, a combination of friction and pressure are used to break up scar tissue and adhesions that cause inflammation, pain, and reduced range of motion. The pressure will be more intense but should never exceed your pain tolerance. Deep tissue is generally integrated with other massage techniques and best for chronic pain and injuries.
Trigger Point Therapy
Dr. Janet Travell, an American physician and medical researcher, was a leading pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain and the concept of referred pain and trigger points. She was appointed personal Physician to the President by President Kennedy and also served in that post for President Johnson until 1965. In her autobiography she describes how her interest in myofascial pain started: “the Cardiac Consultation Service at Sea View, the city hospital for tuberculosis on Staten Island to which I was appointed in 1936, supplied the conditions that crystallized my emerging interest in muscular pain. Most patients there had life-threatening pulmonary disease, but some of them complained more about devastating pain in their shoulders and arms than about their major illness. When I examined them by systematic palpation of the scapula and chest muscles, I easily uncovered the presence of trigger areas.”
Dr. Travell co-authored the two volume book "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual" with colleague David Simons, also nicknamed the "red bible."
Trigger points only form in muscles and usually lead to pain, tenderness and stiffness. They can cause pain in other parts of the body, called referral pain. There are varied causes which can include chronic muscle overuse, trauma to the region, or accidents (i.e. car crash, ski accident). Trigger point therapy focuses on compressing the trigger points, releasing the constricted muscle and alleviating pain.
Hot Stone Massage
Stones have been used for thousands of years in many different cultures. The Ancient Chinese medical practitioners used heated stones to improve the function of internal organs. Native Americans placed warmed stones on the lower abdomen of women to relieve cramps. Hawaiians used heated lava stones to increase circulation. Heated stones were used in Ancient Egypt and Ayurvedic medicine. The use of hot stones in massage was reintroduced by Mary Nelson in 1993. She accidently discovered the benefits while using heated stones to massage her niece when they were in a sauna. She created her own massage technique called LaStone Therapy.
Most therapists use smooth basalt stones, the high iron content helps the stones retain their heat. The heat is deeply relaxing ad helps to warm tense and tight muscles allowing for deeper work.
Warm Bamboo Massage
A relatively new massage technique in the Western world, the use of bamboo canes in massage have been in use for many centuries in Southeast Asia. The most common story is that a therapist saw one monkey rubbing another's back with a bamboo stick. Nathalie Cecilia is credited with making bamboo massage popular in the United States. She started to use warm bamboo canes when her hands and wrists started to hurt while performing deep tissue work. She realized that the bamboo canes gave her more stamina and strength to apply deeper pressure. The canes are used in a rolling or kneading motion to release tension and trigger points. Varying lengths and diameters are used, the longer canes are used for sliding or kneading strokes while the shorter canes are used for working on trigger points and muscle adhesions.
Dating back more than 2,500 years, Thai massage is thought to have been developed by Buddhist monks. It combines elements of Chinese acupressure, Ayeurvedic medicine, and Hatha yoga, but has evolved into an entirely unique system. A Thai massage uses gently passive stretching while applying rhythmic pressure along the body's energy lines. Usually performed on a mat, this allows the therapist to get the leverage necessary for the stretches and postures used in Thai massage. There are many benefits to Thai massage including reducing anxiety, boosting energy, strengthening the immune system, and relieving pain.
Referred to as structural integration, Dr. Ida Rolf created this form of deep tissue massage. Dr. Rolf designed a system to relieve patterns of physical misalignment by deeply manipulating and re-organizing connective tissue and fascia. Dr. Rolf received her Ph.D. in biochemistry. She becaug to study systems that focused on the effect of structure on function, including osteopathy, chiropractics and yoga. She combined her extensive research and scientific knowledge to develop the Rolfing system. The goal of the series of sessions is to reset the alignment patterns in the body, improve posture and movement and reduce stress and tension.
"Ashi" means foot and "atsu" means pressure. Dating back over 3,000 years, it has evolved through the cultures of China, India, Tibet, Thailand, and Japan. Ah-Shiatsu focuses on the whole body and balancing the body's vital energy, "Chi". The therapist uses their bare feet to massage the body, using overhead rails to control pressure and depth. Working with gravity, the therapist is able to provide a very deep therapeutic massage without causing pain or discomfort.
Blue Orchid Massage
I've been a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2006. In my free time I enjoy hiking with my husband and dog. I also have a passion for cooking, baking and gardening.