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.
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Why You Need a Prenatal Massage

Being pregnant is not easy. Talk to anyone who has been through the process and they’ll fill you in that along with the joy of coaxing a new life into the world, you will likely experience backaches, stiff neck, headaches, swelling, and cramps–and all this leads to increases stress. Increased stress means you can be irritable and have trouble sleeping.  So, along with the healthy glow, you’re secretly dealing with a lot of physical and emotional issues.  That’s why prenatal massage is so important.

A skilled prenatal massage therapist knows how to help.  From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel better.  Your therapist will conduct an interview to find out how things are going and how you’re feeling, and chat about your goals for the session.  Then, he or she will take extra care to ensure your safety and comfort.  They’ll help you onto the table if you need help, adjust your position (frequently on your side) and then carefully place pillows and cushions to reduce strain on lower back and pelvic areas and help you relax.

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The Power of Touch

Touch is the very first sense humans acquire. It develops in simple form in the womb, well before birth. Newborns are born with sight, but initially focus at 8-12 inches from their face. Newborns can hear, even in the womb, and initially respond mostly to high-pitched exaggerated sounds and voices. Newborns can taste and smell at birth, with a preference toward sweetness and pleasant smells.

Newborns love skin-to-skin contact. Newborns who share bare-chested snuggles with their moms (sometimes called “kangaroo care”) may breathe better, cry less, and breastfeed longer.
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, 2012

As it is with newborns, our sense of touch remains very important as we grow. We learn about our surroundings and learn to associate touch with sense memory–things like the warmth of a blanket, a cool breeze, comforting hugs, and loving caresses. With almost every touch you learn more about life.

Western cultures, sadly, are pretty touch-deprived and this is especially true of the US. Psychologist Sidney Jourard (1960s) studied conversations between friends in a cafe in different parts of the world. He watched conversations for an hour and noted touch interactions. In England, the two friends touched zero times.  In the US, twice–mostly associated with an emphatic or enthusiastic moment in the conversation. But in France, the number dramatically increased to 110 times per hour. In Puerto Rico, friends touched each other 180 times. Cultural norms dictate public touch behavior along with each individual’s sense of personal space. In general, though, people feel more connected (“closer”) when nonverbal communication, like touch, is involved in a conversation.

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