Massage and massage therapy are umbrella terms that encompass a variety of massage therapy techniques and styles used in massage, bodywork, and somatic therapy.

The basic massage therapy techniques that are most commonly used and recognized by massage therapy clients include

• Fixed pressures (concentrating on one location on the body)
• Movable pressures
• Holding
• Vibration
• Friction
• Rubbing
• Rocking
• Kneading
• Compression

Some of the technical terms that reference various applications of massage therapy techniques include acupressure, cranio-facial, Ayurvedic massage, Bowen technique, deep tissue massage, hydrotherapy, reflexology, orthopedic massage, shiatsu, soft tissue massage, Swedish massage, sports massage, Alexander technique, and many, many more; there are more than 80 types of massage which employ various massage techniques. These are techniques that are most often performed by the hands, but some techniques also involve the use of the massage therapist’s elbows, arms, and feet (therefore, if you are uncomfortable with the use of other body parts, you need to let the therapist know ahead of time and talk about what types of techniques will be used).

Massage therapy techniques are focused primarily on the muscles, joints, and soft-tissues of the body; applying the various techniques to these areas has peripheral benefits for many other body systems, though—the circulatory and lymphatic systems in particular.

Different massage therapy techniques are used for different purposes; in addition, techniques used in massage are applied to varying degrees, with and without massage products, and at varying degrees of pressure and friction. The intensity and choice of technique depends of the type of massage being employed (also called the ‘modality’). Delivery of technique also relies on individual client factors, including

• Goals for massage therapy
• Advice of primary care physician
• Presence of injury
• Medical conditions
• Physical/therapeutic needs
• Pain and pressure tolerance
• Aversion to areas of touch
• Success of past massage therapy techniques
• Target body areas
• Target health benefits

The information provided to the massage therapist prior to the first session is what he or she will use to determine the best massage therapy techniques for you. This information is collected in the massage therapy intake form, and also through conversation with the therapist. Being open and communicative with your massage therapist on an ongoing basis will help him or her design and adjust your massage therapy sessions to optimize the results. Communication is equally important as therapy progresses so that results can be maximized and past progress can be maintained.