A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy
Handling Mothers and Babies With Care in State College, PA

Style Definitions



We are pleased to provide you with a few definitions of various Massage Therapy terms and styles. We know that many names and terms are often thrown around, so we offer this as a service to educate you and hopefully clarify a few things that will help with your understanding of Massage Therapy and what it has to offer. If there is a term or style that you wish to know more about, and can not find the information here, please contact us and we will do our best to answer your questions.

Some of these forms of massage require special certification by the Massage Therapist to be performed. Such information is noted in the individual listings.

Swedish Massage - This is usually the most common, basic form of massage found in the United States. Unless advertised as something different, when someone sees a simple, "Full Body", or "Basic" massage, it is usually a Swedish massage. This type of massage usually consists of a combination of long, gliding strokes and kneading movements with percussion or friction-type movements depending on what the therapist is trying to do. It is a very versatile type of massage that can be both claming and gentle, or deep and effective for unwinding tight tissue or getting rid of annoying knots. Whatever the purpose or whatever strokes are being used, Swedish Massage is almost always characterized by strokes that are directed toward the heart. The purpose of this is to enhance blood flow, lymph drainage, and filter out toxins and waste by sending everything to the heart. For people that have never had massage before, this is one on the best types of massage to use as an introduction to the benefits of massage therapy.

Deep Tissue Massage
- This type of massage is a general term used to cover any type of massage that targets deeper tissues than just the surface muscles. Deep Tissue Massage can work on the fascia - or connective tissue that covers all muscles and bones, or the deepest layers of muscle. Most people when they ask for a "Deep Tisue Massage" are really looking for just a very deep pressure massage that gets rid of tension or knots, which is also how some therapists advertise it. Some use the term Deep Tissue to differentiate between a relaxing, gentle, stress-relieving massage and a more therapeutic massage that tackles deeper issues or problems. There are certain techniques to an official Deep Tissue Massage, so if that is what you are looking for, double check with your therapist as to what they consider a Deep Tissue Massage.


Trigger Point Work - Trigger Points are nasty little points that lie in the muscle tissue that, when touched or pressed, can cause extreme and radiating pain. They are often difficult to find because the pain that is felt is often referred pain - meaning it is felt in another place than where the problem actually lies. There is officially much debate as to what exactly a trigger point is and what it is made of, but all you really need to know is that if you have one, it hurts. Also getting rid of them hurts. When a trigger point is found, the only way to get rid of it is through direct pressure onto the trigger point itself. This takes the pain away from the remote site where the original pain was felt, and puts all of it, amplified, onto the one spot where the trigger point exists. It can be painful at times, but once the trigger point is found and eliminated, the pain is greatly lessened.


Myofascial Release - Pronounced [my-o-fash-al] is a form of massage practiced not only by massage therapists, but also chiropracters and physical therapists. It is a form of unwinding and relaxing fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and organs. Connective tissue doesn't stretch, but it can contract or get stiff, especially if there was once an injury and scar tissue has formed. If connective tissue - the covering of the muscles - gets too tight or stiff, it can restrict the way the muscles move or function. By unwinding or releasing this tissue, allows the muscles to work better on a deeper level. Myofascial Release is done by what feels like a deep, focused, localized stretch that is held or sustained for at least 2 minutes at a time. It can seem like nothing is happening because the strokes are held for so long, but the difference can be dramatic.


Lymph Drainage / Lymphatic Massage -
This type of massage is slow and through and serves to speed or aid the flow of lymph through the body. Lymph is fluid made from red blood cells and helps nourish cells throughout the body as well as remove toxins such as lactic acid from the body by shuttling the bad stuff to a place where it can be filtered out. Unfortunately if the lymphatic ystem gets clogged or flows slowly, swelling or a buildup of waste can occur. A lymphatic massage can help the lymph flow more easily and helps push unwanted or extra fluid into the lymph nodes which then filter the lymph and getthe system working better once again. Many of the strokes seem the same as a Swedish Massage, just done much, much slower. The reason for the slowness is that the hands have to move at the same speed as the lymph as it normally moves. It can seem like a slow, redundant form of massage, but the results can greatly decrease the amount to swelling or inflammation found in th ebody part being worked on.


Rolfing* -
This is a form of Deep Tissue Massage that was developped by Ida Rolf in the 1930s. It is a very deep form of fascial work that restructures and realigns the entire body. Unlike most massage forms which only focus on muscles and tissues, Rolfing* also works on restructuring the fascia around the skeleton and organs, causing the entire body to become realigned and working on a smooth, easy level. Rolfing* is not your average form of massage, and should only be done by a qualified, trained, and certified Rolfing* specialist. It has been described as a very deep and intense type of massage, usually done in 10 one-hour sessions. We are not certified to perform Rolfing* at this practice, but can refer you to someone who is
 *Rolfing is a registered trademark, and I can't figure out how to make that little R with a circle around it beside the word, and I really don't want to get sued.

More definitions to come.

Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
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