Generally, massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues of the body which includes muscles, connective tissues, ligaments and tendons.  Massage therapist usually uses their hands or fingers to press, rub or manipulate the tissues, but can also use forearms, elbows or feet.  Massage therapy can be used to relax the muscles, reduce pain, relieve stress or anxiety, and to promote optimum health.

While it has been around for thousands of years, massage gained momentum in the 1970’s  when the limits of human performance were being explored at the Esalen Institute in California.   Athletes were looking for an edge on performance; hence sports massage became popular.   There was an increased interest in massage as a profession and subsequently new schools opened up.  Today registered massage therapists have completed extensive training, about 3000 hours, which includes human anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology, as well as clinical studies, techniques, and practical experience. 

There are two main types of massage therapy:

  • Relaxation Massage: a gentle and smooth style of massage of the outer layers of body tissue.
  • Rehabilitative Massage: a deeper, more therapeutic massage and involves much more verbal exchange between client and massage practitioner to assess the client’s condition.

Prior to a session a therapist will review the client’s medical history and do a thorough examination or consultation of the client’s condition and/or injury.  Typical sessions are 30 minutes to 1 hour.  The number of sessions a client might need is based on the client’s condition and response to the treatments. 

Massage therapy includes a variety of actual techniques that are used.   The following is a partial list of modalities that are practiced by therapists and a short description of each technique:

  • Swedish Massage: deep massage that combines a gentle stroke in one direction with a deep pressure in the other direction to relax the muscles.
  • Myofascial Release: technique applied to the fascia which is the connective tissue that encases and supports the muscles.
  • Trigger Point Release / Myotherapy: application of momentary pressure to a trigger point or “knot” in the muscle or fascia which is causing pain or referred pain.
  • Hydrotherapy: using heat or cold for therapeutic effects.
  • Muscle Energy technique: technique where client’s muscle is in specific starting position then therapist cues movement in a specific direction against the therapist’s counterforce to help with mobility and relief of pain.
  • Contract relax and PNF stretching: specific type  of contraction & stretch technique for flexibility training.


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