Common Massage Therapy Terms Demystified

massage therapy termsWhether you’re new to massage or just exploring the benefits, you’ve probably heard lots of terms used by therapists and in advertisements for services. Like any profession, massage therapy has it’s own vocabulary (jargon). Here’s a quick dictionary of ten common terms to help you understand some of them. “

  1. Deep Tissue. Releases the chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure on the contracted areas, either following or going across the grain of muscles, tendons and fascia. It is called deep tissue, because it also focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue, not because the therapist necessarily uses firmer pressure.
  2. Swedish massage. A system of long strokes, kneading and friction techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles, combined with active and passive movements of the joints. Great for relaxation, stress and pain relief.
  3. Myofascial release. A form of bodywork that is manipulative in nature and seeks to rebalance the body by releasing tension in the fascia (the connective tissues surrounding muscles and other structures in the body). Long, stretching strokes are utilized to release muscular tension.
  4. Trigger point therapy. Applies concentrated finger pressure to “trigger points” (painful irritated areas in muscles, also called “knots”) to break cycles of spasm and pain.
  5. Sports massage. Massage therapy focusing on muscle systems relevant to a particular sport or physical activity. Usually more vigorous than relaxing and often involves active and passive stretching and techniques to test and increase range of motion (ROM)
  6. Reflexology. Massage based around a system of points in the hands, feet and ears thought to correspond, or “reflex,” to all areas of the body..
  7. Shiatsu and Accupressure. Traditional Chinese medicine-based systems of finger-pressure which treat special points along acupuncture “meridians” (invisible channels of energy flow in the body).
  8. Cranio-Sacral. Technique for finding and correcting cerebral and spinal imbalances or blockages that may cause sensory, motor or intellectual dysfunction.
  9. Pre-natal massage. A massage where  a trained therapist applies various massage therapies to help relieve the normal discomforts experienced during pregnancy: back pain, leg cramps, swelling, stiff neck and overall stress. The body work is usually side-lying and the outcome is relaxation and less pain, which can aid in better sleep and reduction in anxiety.
  10. Therapeutic massage. A form of therapy usually not performed in a spa setting. Used to help alleviate specific pain and address deeper muscle issues. The therapist has an extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology and uses that knowledge to make a plan that results in a more relaxed, less stressed and pain free client.

Bonus terms:

masseuse/masseur: outdated terms harkening back to the days of old where massage was practiced by not-so-professional people doing not-so-professional things. The accepted term for a person who is a professional is “massage therapist”.

CMT: Certified Massage Therapist. Therapist has completed education requirements to become certified by individual states.

LMT: A nationally licensed massage therapist who has completed all the education and testing requirements and can practice in just about any state.