Massage Terminology

Glossary Of Massage Therapy Terminology: Expert Insights and FAQs

Massage therapy is such an amazing healing practice that has been around for centuries, taking care of both our bodies and minds. And guess what? As you start exploring the world of massage therapy, understanding the terms used can level up your experience. So, in this article, we’ve put together a super handy glossary of massage therapy terms that will give you all the insights you need into this incredible and relaxing practice. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

Accessory Muscles:

Accessory muscles refer to muscles that are not primarily involved in a particular movement but assist the main muscles in achieving the movement. These muscles are also used to compensate for weak or injured primary muscles. In massage therapy, knowledge of accessory muscles is important in addressing muscle imbalances and promoting overall muscle health.


Acupressure involves applying pressure on specific points in the body to relieve discomfort and promote relaxation. This practice dates back thousands of years and is based on traditional Chinese medicine principles. One common acupressure point that can alleviate eye strain and tension headaches is located at the webbing between the thumb and index finger, which can be easily massaged using your fingers.


Acupuncture is an alternative medicine practice that originated in China. It involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. It has been found through research that acupuncture could be useful for treating various conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and nausea. Nonetheless, like any medical treatment, it is crucial to seek advice from a qualified practitioner.

Aromatherapy Massage

Aromatherapy massage combines the benefits of massage therapy with the use of essential oils derived from plants. These oils are selected for their specific therapeutic properties and are often diluted before application. The massage not only promotes relaxation but also offers the potential benefits of aromatherapy, such as stress reduction and mood enhancement.


Connective tissue massage, also known as Bindegewebsmassage, focuses on the fascia – the connective tissue encircling and holding muscles, bones, and organs in place. This gentle tissue manipulation can ease persistent pain, boost blood flow, and promote better overall health.

Chair Massage

Chair massage is a convenient and efficient form of massage therapy that is performed while the recipient is seated in a specially designed-chair. It focuses on the upper body, particularly the back, neck, shoulders, and arms. Chair massage is often provided in workplaces and events and offers quick relaxation and relief from muscle tension.

Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy focuses on the cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Practitioners use gentle touch to assess and influence the rhythm of this fluid, aiming to improve the functioning of the central nervous system. This technique is known for its soothing and deeply relaxing effects.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy involves placing cups on the skin and creating a vacuum to draw the skin and underlying tissues upward. This technique is used to increase blood flow, alleviate muscle tension, and promote healing. Cupping leaves distinctive circular marks on the skin that usually fade within a few days.

Deep Tissue Massage

Unlike Swedish massage, deep tissue massage specifically focuses on penetrating connective tissues and the deeper layers of muscles. This technique aims to alleviate tension and promote optimal healing and relaxation. This technique employs firm pressure and slow strokes to alleviate chronic muscle tension, reduce inflammation, and address specific areas of discomfort. It’s particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with chronic pain or limited mobility.


The term “Disease” refers to any medical condition that affects the normal functioning of the body. Massage therapists are trained to identify the indications and manifestations of diverse diseases and modify their treatments accordingly. This information is vital to guarantee the safety and efficacy of massage therapy for clients with pre-existing health issues.

Effleurage, Petrissage, and Tapotement

Effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement are foundational massage strokes used in various techniques. Effleurage involves long gliding strokes, petrissage includes kneading and squeezing motions, and tapotement uses rhythmic tapping or percussive movements. These strokes are often combined to create customized massage experiences.


Fascia refers to the dense connective tissue that runs throughout the body. It surrounds organs, muscles, and bones, providing support and protection. Massage therapists use different techniques to manipulate fascia to improve the range of motion, reduce pain, and alleviate tension.


Flexion is a massage therapy terminology used to describe the bending of a joint or limb. The movement is achieved by muscles contracting and shortening, which allows the angle between two bones at the joint to decrease. Massage therapists often use flexion techniques to improve joint flexibility and range of motion. By applying pressure during flexion, they can also release muscle tension and promote relaxation around the joint.

Friction and Vibration

Friction involves applying pressure and rubbing the skin’s surface, usually in circular motions. Vibration entails using rapid shaking or trembling movements to create a relaxing sensation. Both techniques can help improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and enhance the overall massage experience.

Foot Reflexology:

Reflexology for the feet is a massage therapy that targets certain areas of the feet and applies pressure. These areas are believed to correspond with different parts of the body, and applying pressure to them can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

Geriatric massage:

A massage technique designed specifically for the elderly. This typically involves using lighter pressure and gentler techniques to accommodate for any physical limitations or health issues that may be present.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese therapy that involves using a tool to scrape the skin’s surface. This technique aims to improve circulation, break down scar tissue, and promote healing. Gua Sha is often used on the back, neck, and shoulders to relieve muscle tension and pain.

Holistic Approach

A holistic approach to massage therapy considers the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit. It emphasizes treating the whole person rather than isolated symptoms. Holistic massage therapists take into account the client’s lifestyle, emotions, and overall well-being to create a personalized and transformative experience.

Hot Stone Massage

Hot stone massage involves placing heated smooth stones on specific points of the body. The warmth from the stones helps to relax muscles and expand blood vessels, enhancing blood flow. The therapist may also use the stones to perform massage strokes. This technique is known for its soothing effects.


Hydrotherapy incorporates the use of water in various forms, such as hot baths, cold compresses, and steam, to enhance the effects of massage therapy. The contrast between hot and cold temperatures can help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and relax muscles.


Ligaments are tough, flexible bands of tissue that connect bones to one another at joints. These fibrous bands are vital for providing stability and preventing excessive movement in the joint. Massage therapy can help to reduce inflammation and increase circulation around ligaments, thereby accelerating the healing process and improving joint function. Massage therapists need to have a solid understanding of ligament anatomy and function in order to provide effective treatments.

Lomi Lomi Massage

Lomi Lomi is a traditional Hawaiian massage that incorporates long flowing strokes and forearm techniques. This technique is not only about physical healing but also about spiritual and emotional harmony. Lomi Lomi massage aims to release tension and promote a sense of connection and balance.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage focuses on stimulating the lymphatic system to promote the removal of toxins and waste from the body. This technique involves gentle rhythmic strokes and is particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with edema, inflammation, and compromised immune function.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release focuses on the fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs. Over time, the fascia can become tight and restrict movement, leading to discomfort. Myofascial release involves gentle sustained pressure to stretch and release the fascia, promoting flexibility and reducing pain.

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is tailored for expectant mothers to address the unique physical and emotional changes they experience during pregnancy. This technique focuses on relieving discomfort, reducing swelling, and promoting relaxation. It’s essential to choose a massage therapist trained in prenatal massage to ensure safety and comfort.


Reflexology is grounded in the concept that certain points on the hands, ears, and feet correspond to distinct organs and systems within the body. By applying targeted pressure to these points, reflexologists strive to restore equilibrium and facilitate healing in the corresponding areas. Reflexology can serve as a harmonious complement to other massage techniques, fostering relaxation and overall well-being.


Reiki, a Japanese energy healing technique, encompasses the gentle placement of the practitioner’s hands on or near the recipient’s body. It aims to harmonize and restore the flow of energy, promoting overall well-being and balance. The goal is to channel universal life energy to promote healing and balance. Reiki is deeply relaxing and can complement traditional massage therapy.

Self-Care and Maintenance

Massage therapy doesn’t end after the session. Practicing self-care through activities like stretching, staying hydrated, and maintaining a good posture can prolong the benefits of massage. Additionally, regular massage therapy sessions can contribute to long-term health and well-being.


Shiatsu is a Japanese massage technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body using fingers, palms, and thumbs. It is based on the concept of energy flow (qi) through meridians. Shiatsu aims to balance the body’s energy and promote overall well-being. It’s often performed on a mat on the floor, and the recipient remains fully clothed.

Sports Massage

Sports massage is designed for athletes to enhance performance, prevent injuries, and aid in recovery. This technique combines various massage styles to target specific muscle groups used during sports activities. Sports massage can improve flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, and promote faster healing after strenuous workouts.

Stretching Techniques

Stretching techniques are often integrated into massage sessions to enhance flexibility and range of motion. Massage therapists may gently stretch the client’s limbs and joints, helping to improve muscle function and reduce the risk of injuries.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is one of the most well-known massage techniques, characterized by its gentle and flowing movements. This technique focuses on promoting relaxation, improving blood circulation, and easing muscle tension through a combination of long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, and gentle stretching. It serves as an excellent introduction to the world of massage therapy.

Thai Massage

Thai massage is an ancient technique that combines elements of yoga, acupressure and assisted stretching. The person receiving the treatment stays fully dressed and reclines on a comfortable mat placed on the floor. The practitioner uses their hands, elbows, knees, and feet to apply pressure and perform stretches. Thai massage improves flexibility, energy flow, and overall well-being.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger points are tight knots within muscle fibers that can cause pain and discomfort, often radiating to other areas. Trigger point therapy involves applying pressure to these knots to release tension and alleviate pain. This technique can be integrated into various massage styles and is especially effective for individuals with muscle pain and tension.


Exploring the glossary of massage therapy terminology provides valuable insights into the diverse world of massage techniques and their benefits. From Swedish massage’s relaxation to deep tissue massage’s targeted relief, each technique offers a unique approach to enhancing physical and mental well-being. If you’re in Long Beach and have been on the hunt for a solution to manage stress, alleviate pain, or indulge in some much-needed relaxation, look no further. Long Beach massage therapy offers a broad spectrum of benefits that cater to all these needs and more.

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Mara Swick

Mara Swick is a seasoned licensed massage therapist and esthetician with over two decades of expertise. Her profound knowledge and hands-on experience make her a trusted voice in holistic wellness and skin care.