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Glossary of Massage and Bodywork Terms

Acupressure: An Asian therapy that involves pressing points along the body’s meridians (energy channels) with fingers, thumbs or palms of the hand, to stimulate ki (also qi or chi) and bring balance and health.

Amma: An Asian therapy that manipulates vital points (tsubos) along the energy meridians with the fingers, elbows, knuckles and feet, to create energetic balance and health.

Aromatherapy: The therapeutic use of aromatic essences and essential oils extracted from plants.

Aston Patterning: Includes gentle massage, which releases daily and accumulated tension; myo-kinetics, which releases structural holding patterns within the soft tissue; and arthro-kinetics to release skeletal holding.

Bach Flower Remedies: Formulas developed by immersing a flower petal in water and exposing it to sunlight to extract its healing essence.

Body Mind Centering: Movement re-education and hands-on re-patterning, utilizing movement, touch, voice and understanding how the mind is expressed through the body.

Body Rolling: Stretching and self-massage on an exercise ball.

Breema Breathwork: This method uses stretching, rhythm and breathwork on a clothed client lying on a padded floor.

Chi Nei Tsang: Tibetan abdominal massage combined with qigong exercises.

Connective Tissue Massage: Believed to be a precursor to other forms of deep-tissue work and some forms of structural integration, such as Rolfing.

CORE Bodywork: A myofascial and structural therapy integrating four phases of treatment, including massage, myofascial therapy, structural balance and integration.

Cranialsacral Therapy: Sometimes referred to as CranioSacral Therapy, it involves manipulation of the cranial bones in conjunction with the sacrum (low back), spinal adjustments, dura mater and cerebral-spinal fluid.

Deep-Tissue Massage: Utilizes various techniques to affect the deeper tissues of the body, such as fascia and other non-superficial tissues.

Esalen Massage: Combines Eastern and long, sweeping Western massage strokes, and places emphasis on empathy, nurturing and the healing relationship.

Feldenkrais Method: Movement education and re-patterning designed to give clients body awareness and to reduce pain and discomfort stemming from poor body mechanics.

Geriatric Massage: Various touch-therapy methods used to alleviate suffering from health problems associated with old age.

Hakomi: Body-centered psychotherapy utilizing physical and psychological probes to evoke emotional and body responses to produce new self-awareness and health.

Hellerwork: Focuses on the structural integration of body alignment with gravity.

Hydrotherapy: The use of water in its many forms (hot, cold, spray, pressure, immersion) for therapeutic purposes.

Infant Massage: Various gentle touch-therapy methods for infants, performed by parents.

Jin Shin Do: A form of acupressure that holds vital points for prolonged periods.

Lomi Lomi: An ancient and still-popular Hawaiian massage technique that utilizes the elbows and forearms and long, connecting strokes to relax the body.

Manual Lymph Drainage: Aims to create greater mobility of the lymph fluids through gentle stroking of the lymph channels and internal organs.

Medical Massage: The application of massage techniques to treat specific physical conditions, sometimes by diagnosis of a physician. Medical-massage therapists have extended training.

Myofascial Release: A method of affecting connective tissue by applying pressure in the direction of fascial resistance.

Myotherapy: A trigger-point technique that manipulates points with specific pressure.

Neuromuscular Therapy: Massage techniques applied specifically to muscle, fascia and ligaments for pain relief.

Pfrimmer Deep Muscle: Deep, cross-fiber technique that uses the thumbs and fingers as the primary tools.

Polarity Therapy: Manipulates the body’s magnetic energy fields through touch, diet and exercise, to create a balance of body, mind and spirit.

Pregnancy Massage: Various touch-therapy techniques used to alleviate the strain and discomfort of pregnancy.

Reflexology: A system of pressing points on the feet and hands to affect health in the rest of the body.

Reiki: Energetic healing system that utilizes gentle hand placements and channels healing energies through the practitioner to the recipient.

Rolfing: Also called Structural Integration, this method strives for realignment of the body’s structural relationship with gravity and consists of deep-tissue work on the fascia, conducted over 10 sessions.

Rosen Method: Direct, gentle touch; focus on client breathing, relaxation response and verbal cues, to help the client become aware of unconscious muscle tension.

Rubenfeld Synergy Method: Integrates elements of body/mind therapies, Gestalt theory and hypnotherapy.

Seated massage: Acupressure or massage techniques used while client sits fully clothed in a portable massage chair. Sometimes referred to as corporate, workplace or onsite massage.

Shiatsu: A Japan bodywork system that employs the thumbs to press upon tsubos (energy points) along meridian lines, to create energy flow and health.

Somatic Therapy: Refers to the mind/body connection utilizing the fundamentals of Freud, Alexander, Reich, Feldenkrais, Gestalt, Hakomi, Rolfing and other therapy techniques. Touch, movement, bodily awareness and visualization are all components of somatic therapy.

Sports Massage: Massage techniques used before, during and after athletic training and competition.

Swedish Massage: Stroking, kneading, percussive, vibration and friction massage strokes.

Thai Massage: Works sen lines (meridians or energy pathways) with rhythmic pressing combined with stretches and joint movement, performed while a clothed client lies on a floor mat.

Thai Yoga Massage: Blends Thai massage, yoga and Ayurvedic principles.

Therapeutic Touch: An energy technique where the hands are held up to six inches away from the body to gauge areas of imbalance and move energy to where it’s needed.

Touch for Health: Uses muscle testing for assessing and acupressure for treating imbalance.

Trager Work: Involves rocking and shaking movements ranging from gentle to vigorous that loosen restrictions in the joints and promote relaxation.

Tuina: Chinese massage utilizing a variety of hand movements to stimulate acupressure points.

Watsu: A system of holding shiatsu points and stretching clients in body-temperature water.

Zero Balancing: Combines energetic, anatomical and structural evaluation, gentle touch and re-alignment, performed on a clothed, seated client.