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What is Massage Therapy

Types of Massage
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  • Deep Tissue Massage
  • Esalen Massage
  • Erotic massage
  • Shiatsu
  • Swedish
  • Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy
  • Neuromuscular therapy
  • Jin Shin Do
  • Hakomi
  • Trager
  • Myofascial release
  • Trigger point and Myotherapy
  • Polarity therapy
  • On-site or chair
  • Reiki
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Rolfing
  • Sports
  • Watsu
  • Thai
  • Massage Therapy is a hands-on manipulation of the soft tissues of the body including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints.  It is also an alternative health option to help alleviate the soft tissue discomfort associated with everyday and occupational stresses, muscular overuse and many chronic pain syndromes. It can also greatly reduce the development of painful muscular patterning, if employed early enough after accidents involving trauma and injury.

    Massage therapists work to improve the circulation of blood through the body and to speed the removal of metabolic waste products from muscles. Their skilled kneading increases the flexibility of muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues. Some people visit a massage therapist to relieve pain or to warm up before a sporting event. Others want to relax and reduce stress.

    Benefits of Massage

    Enhancing general relaxation
    Reducing muscular tension and associated discomfort
    Reducing anxiety
    Improving sleep
    Increasing feelings of well-being
    Enhancing tissue elasticity and flexibility
    Increasing range of motion in joints
    Relaxing tight muscles
    Relieving muscle aches and stiffness
    Speeding recovery from exercise
    Promoting well nourished - healthy skin
    Improving circulation of blood + lymph
    Improving immune system functioning
    Improving energy flow

    Types of Massage

    Craniosacral Therapy - Via a gentle, noninvasive manipulative technique, this encourages your own natural mechanisms to improve the functioning of your brain and spinal cord to dissipate the negative effects of stress, promote good health, and enhance resistance to disease.

    Deep Tissue Massage - is used to release chronic muscle tension through slower strokes and more direct pressure or friction applied across the grain of the muscles. This invigorating experience is a process of detection of stiff or painful areas by determining the quality and texture of the deeper layers of musculature, and slowly working into the deep layers of muscle tissue. Specific hand positions and strokes are then used to respond to various tissue qualities. Techniques employing breath and movement are also used for releasing muscular congestion.

    Esalen Massage - is Swedish massage combined with the influence of early Esalen leaders, Charlotte Selver and Bernie Gunther who taught sensory reawakening. What sets Esalen Massage apart from other types of massage is the philosophical approach. For the massage therapist, the work is a meditation, a time to quiet the mind, and attend to his or her intuition, and to be fully present in the moment with the client.

    Erotic massage - is really a sexual foreplay technique, rather than a form of massage. Massage focuses on muscles, whereas erotic massage focuses primarily on skin. It's been said that 95% of erotic (or sensual) massage is the same as other massage. This is not an accepted form of bodywork and therefore not something that you should expect from a Registered MT.

    Shiatsu - Shiatsu is a traditional hands-on Japanese healing therapy. It can help in a wide range of conditions - from specific injuries to more general symptoms of poor health. Shiatsu is a deeply relaxing experience and regular Shiatsu sessions help to prevent the build up of stress in our daily lives.

    Common conditions helped by Shiatsu include:

    back pain menstrual problems
    headaches, migraines digestive problems
    whiplash injuries asthmatic symptoms
    neck stiffness sports injuries
    joint pain and reduced mobility depression


    Background to Shiatsu
    The philosophy underlying Shiatsu is that vital energy (known as Ki in Japanese) flows throughout the body in a series of channels called meridians. For many different reasons Ki can stop flowing freely and this then produces symptoms. Your Shiatsu practitioner will consider your state of health, the symptoms you are experiencing and, depending on your constitution and general energy levels, will use a variety of techniques to improve your energy flow. These may include gentle holding, pressing with palms, thumbs, fingers, elbows, knees and feet on the meridians and, when appropriate, more dynamic rotations and stretches. As the quality of Ki changes, the symptoms associated with a lack of flow will gradually improve.

    Shiatsu is a therapy that works on the individual as a complete being - not just the physical body but also on an emotional and/or mental level. For more information read Rediscovering SHIATSU
    by Yehuda J. Lev

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    Swedish massage - (which is a proper name, not a reference to Sweden) refers to a collection of techniques designed primarily to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. The lymph system and veins (which carry blood back to the heart) both rely on muscle action, rather than heart pump pressure, to operate. Many believe it is safe to apply light pressure in the opposite direction. Friction is reduced by oil, or lacking that baby powder. Some practitioners claim benefits from vegetable rather than mineral oil while others disagree. Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, help the recipient obtain a feeling of connectedness, a better awareness of their body and the way they use and position it. The strokes and manipulations of Swedish Massage are each conceived as having a specific therapeutic benefit. One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return from the extremities. Swedish Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue of lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic wastes. It improves circulation without increasing heart load. It stretches the ligaments and tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage also stimulates the skin and nervous system while at the same time relaxing the nerves themselves. As it can help reduce emotional and physical stress it is often recommended as part of a regular program for stress management. It also has specific clinical uses in a medical or remedial therapy. 

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    Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy - was developed by Therese Pfrimmer. Once partially paralyzed, she overcame her disability through deep muscle manipulation and spent the next 30 years developing this technique. Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy works across the muscles manipulating deep tissues, stimulating circulation and regenerating lymphatic flow, thus promoting detoxification and oxygenation of stagnant tissues.

    Neuromuscular therapy - uses advanced concepts in pressure therapy to break the stress-tension-pain cycle. It aims to relax muscle so that circulation can increase and the body will return to normal neuromuscular integrity and balance. The St. John Method is a type of NMT. 

    Jin Shin Do - (transl. The way of the compassionate spirit) is derived from acupressure. The technique involves applying gentle fingertip pressure to thirty specific points along the body to release, smooth and balance vital `chi' energy. Practitioners meditate and try to transfer chi to clients by using knowledge of where energy flows and patterns meet. According to its practitioners, Jin Shin Do pervades all aspects of our being by affecting general muscle tension, improving circulation, balancing emotions and raising the spiritual state of being. 

    Hakomi - is a body-based psychotherapy using special states of consciousness to help clients probe nonverbal levels where core beliefs direct and influence their experiences. Body-mind awareness and touch are used to explore the body as a deep source of information, empowering the client to change their attitudes. 

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    Trager Psychophysical Integration - (usually just called Trager) uses light, gentle, non-intrusive movements to facilitate the release of deep-seated physical and mental patterns. Each part of the client's body is moved rhythmically so that the recipient experiences the possibility of moving lightly, effortlessly, and freely on their own. A Trager session should help reduce stress from chronic tension, teach more effective ways to recover from stressful situations, enhance conscious awareness and flexibility, improve self-image, expand energy, restore free flowing movement and full self-expression by reducing constriction and rigidity. A Trager session can bring about the experience of peace and serenity -- a high-energy state of well-being beyond relaxation.

    Myofascial - release is used to evaluate and treat restrictions in the body's contractile connective tissues (muscles) and non-contractile supportive connective tissues (fascia) by the application of gentle traction, pressures and positioning. Fascia is a complex supportive web throughout the body affecting all components of the musculoskeletal, nervous and visceral (organ) systems. It surrounds groups of muscle fibres, and entire muscle groups and organs. While it is not contractile, it can be passively elastically deformed. That is how it retains tensions from physical and emotional traumas. It is also involved when a person suffers chronic pain or physical dysfunction. Chronically tense muscles restrict blood flow and fatigue the body. Both fascia and muscle tissues can become shortened if they are improperly used. As well, layers of fascia can stick together. Myofascial release techniques are used to coax muscles in spasm to relax, and break adhesions in the fascia. Bodies respond to these therapies by releasing tension that has been stored in the fascia, thus allowing more functional flexibility and mobility of the muscles, fascia and associated structures.

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    Trigger point and Myotherapy - are pain-relief techniques to alleviate muscle spasms and cramping. The therapist locates and deactivates `trigger points', which are often tender areas where muscles have been damaged or acquired a re-occuring spasm or `kink' that worsens painfully when aggravated. The major goals are to reduce spasm inducing new blood flow into the affected area. The spasms are partly maintained by nervous system feedback (pain-spasm-pain) cycle. Spasms also physically reduce blood flow to the trigger point area (ischemia), reducing oxygen supplied to the tissues and increasing the spasm. Pressure is applied to trigger points, for a short time (between about 7 to 10 seconds per point), which can be momentarily painful but is greatly relieving. It is common to hit the same trigger points several times during a session, but you won't be leaning into a sore spot for several minutes. Often ice or another cooling agent is used to reduce nervous system response, making the area easier and more comfortable to work. Then the muscles are gently stretched to complete the relaxation process, hence the name `spray and stretch'. Myotherapy aims to erase pain and soothe tightened muscles. People with acute or chronic muscle tension and the associated pain are likely to benefit greatly from this type of treatment.

    Polarity therapy - is a holistic approach to natural health care. It asserts that energy fields exist everywhere in nature, and that the flow and balance of this energy in the human body is the underlying foundation of health. Stress, tension, pain, inflexible thinking, and environmental stimuli are among many factors that can contribute to the restriction of this energy flow in the human body. According to Polarity therapists, such energy blocks can be released by the use of four therapeutic methods: bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. The founder of Polarity Therapy, Dr. Randolph Stone DO, DC, ND, emphasized the interdependence of body, emotions, mind and spirit. Polarity therapy includes gentle body manipulation and holding pressure points (poles) as well as counseling on developing positive thoughts and attitudes, understanding the principles of food combining and easy exercises to increase energy flow. Polarity is often used by care givers in conjunction with many other therapies. 

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    On-site or chair massage- is one name for a short (15-20 minute) massage of a client sitting in a special, portable massage chair. The client remains fully clothed and no oils are used while their shoulders, neck, upper back, head and arms are massaged. On-Site is popular at some offices as an employee benefit and for some conferences, workshops and certain social events.

    Reiki - During Reiki which means"universal life-force energy," the "healer" becomes a channeler of universal energy. The treatment follows a traditional pattern of hand positions resting on the body without pressure. Reiki is pure energy, and brings about deep relaxation and healing. 

    Manual Lymphatic Drainage - This healing technique has become a popular massage choice. It blends soothing, gentle, rhythmical, precise massage-like movements to accelerate the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body.

    Rolfing - by Dr. Ida Rolf, aligns the major body segments through deep manipulation of the fascia or connective tissue.

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    Sports Massage - is used primarily for the serious athlete who trains continuously. It focuses on the muscles relevant to the particular athletic activity. It also an include pre-event, post-event and maintenance techniques that promote greater athletic endurance and performance, lessen chances of injury and reduce recovery time.

    Watsu - Water Shiatsu is where a therapist floats you in a warm pool, the crook of an elbow under your neck, a hand under your sacrum, a gentle rock, a gradual swaying stretching you from side to side, a rolling of your spine looser and looser...And while one leg is lifted and rotated your other stretches out as you are swirled through the water...moments of activity flow into moments of quiet. The therapist applies the stretches and movements of Zen Shiatsu while your body is floating in water. The water allows for movement that is not possible on a conventional massage table.

    Thai - massage or Nuad Bo-Rarn, the traditional massage of Thailand, has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. It came to Thailand along with Buddhism and was originally practiced by Buddhist monks in their temples. The work consists primarily of pressure on energy lines and points, and a large variety of stretching movements. The stretching movements of Thai massage often resemble passive yoga asanas. One receives all the benefits of Yoga without having to perform any of the work! These stretches affect the entire body by increasing flexibility, releasing both deep and superficial tension, and helping the body's natural energy to flow more freely.

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