Glossary Of Massage Therapy Terminology 

Are you a massage therapist or considering becoming one? Then you need to become familiar with common massage therapy terminology. Knowing the lingo will help you better interact with colleagues, and practitioners, and meet client needs. This post serves as an all-encompassing guide introducing key terms related to massage therapy and its definitions – making your life that much easier so that you can focus on refreshing your clients with effective bodywork! Read on for the ultimate glossary of professional massage therapy jargon!

Achilles tendon:

The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is located at the back of the ankle. It is a strong and large tendon. It’s responsible for enabling us to walk, run, and jump.



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.



In massage treatment, adduction maneuvers are performed to manage a range of issues such as a sprain, strain, and body posture discrepancies by bringing the body part near the center of the body. It is regularly used in liaison with other treatments to enhance joint mobility, decrease suffering, and expand the range of movement.



Adhesion in massage therapy refers to the sticking together of fascial layers, which can create tension, pain, and limited mobility. Adhesions can be caused by trauma, inflammation, or repetitive strain and can be treated through techniques such as myofascial release and deep tissue massage to help loosen and separate the layers of fascia.



The term agonist in massage therapy refers to a muscle or a group of muscles that are primarily responsible for producing a specific movement. In other words, they are the main muscles being worked during a massage or exercise. 


Amma Therapy: 

A Japanese massage technique that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to release tension and promote relaxation.


Anatomy: The title “Anatomy” in Massage Therapy Terminology refers to the study of the structure and function of the human body. It is essential for massage therapists to have a thorough understanding of anatomy in order to effectively assess and treat their clients. This includes knowledge of muscles, bones, joints, and other systems of the body, as well as an understanding of how they work together.


Applied Kinesiology:

The practice of Applied Kinesiology involves using muscle testing to diagnose and treat health issues holistically. The approach utilizes principles from traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic, and nutrition to promote equilibrium among the body’s energy systems.



Plant-derived extracts known as essential oils are often utilized to enhance physical and mental health. Essential oils are often incorporated into massage oils or diffused into the air during massage sessions.



Assessment is a crucial component of massage therapy terminology, where the therapist evaluates the client’s condition to formulate a treatment plan based on their specific needs. During the assessment process, the therapist will look for any muscle imbalances or dysfunctions, evaluate the client’s posture, range of motion, and overall physical condition, and take into account medical history, lifestyle habits, and any possible issues that may cause a problem. 


Aquatic Massage:

An aquatic Massage is a form of bodywork done in water that utilizes buoyancy and resistance to help increase mobility and flexibility while lowering stress and muscle tension. This method of therapy is excellent for those who are unable to tolerate traditional massage because of pain or illness.


Barbara Ann Brennan Healing Through the Human Energy Field:

The book “Healing Through the Human Energy Field” by Barbara Ann Brennan puts forth the concept that the human body functions as an energy system, and any disruptions in this energy field can cause different types of physical and emotional disorders. The technique involves the use of the practitioner’s hands to help balance the energy center in the body.


Berry Method (The):

The Berry Method incorporates aspects of chiropractic, direct muscle and joint manipulation, and mind-body awareness to correct musculoskeletal imbalances. It involves an initial evaluation of the body’s structure, followed by a series of specific adjustments to restore proper alignment and function.



The Bio-dynamic approach to massage therapy focuses on accessing the natural rhythms and movements of the body. This technique uses gentle and non-invasive methods like rocking and stretching to ease tension and induce a state of relaxation.


Bowen Therapy: 

Created by Aussie Tom Bowen, the Bowen Approach is a soft form of massage that can alleviate distress. While this approach can be executed on a single area of the body, it works most effectively as an entire-body therapeutic massage. It entails a repetitive rubbing technique with a sequence of precise motions on predetermined muscle groups, ligaments, and nerve casings.



A general term used to describe various therapeutic techniques that involve manipulating the body’s soft tissues to promote relaxation and alleviate pain.


Cardiac muscle fibers:

The heart contains specific cells called cardiac muscle fibers that contract on their own to pump blood throughout the body. These fibers are smaller and more tightly packed compared to skeletal muscle fibers. They form an intricate network that enables the heart to contract and relax in a coordinated manner. 


Carrier Oil:

Carrier oils are a vital component of massage therapy. They are used to dilute essential oils and promote their absorption while nourishing and moisturizing the skin. Carrier oils come in various types, each with unique properties and benefits, and are essential in creating an effective and enjoyable massage experience.


Central Nervous System:

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is responsible for controlling bodily activities and interpreting sensory stimuli using the brain and spinal cord. These organs are responsible for sending signals throughout the body. Massage therapy has been scientifically shown to have a beneficial impact on the CNS by reducing stress and anxiety levels and promoting relaxation. 


Chair Massage: 

Chair Massage is a type of massage that uses a specially-built chair and can be done with or without oil. The massage focuses on the head, neck, shoulders, and back, and typically lasts between 10-30 minutes.


Chakra Energy Massage: 

A massage technique that focuses on the body’s chakras, which are said to be energy centers that run along the spine. The massage is designed to help balance the chakras and restore the body’s natural flow of energy.


Chakra Balancing Indian Head Massage:

A massage technique that incorporates both Indian head massage and chakra balancing. The massage focuses on the head, neck, and shoulders, and is designed to promote relaxation and balance the body’s energy centers.


Cherokee Bodywork: 

A type of traditional Native American healing that incorporates massage, energy work, and herbal remedies. The massage is designed to promote overall wellness and balance in the body.



A type of Indian head massage that focuses on the upper body, including the head, neck, shoulders, and upper arms. The massage is designed to release tension and promote relaxation.



Chiropractic is a type of healthcare that deals with diagnosing and treating issues related to the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. It is a complementary discipline.


Connective Tissue Massage: 

A technique that involves applying sustained pressure to the connective tissue, which is believed to promote relaxation and relieve tension.


Craniosacral or Cranio Sacral: 

This therapy is called craniosacral therapy and it targets the system that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, including the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid. The therapy involves gentle manipulations to relieve tension and enhance the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. 


Deep Tissue Massage: 

A massage technique that uses slow, deep strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, to relieve chronic muscle tension and pain.


Direction of Movement:

The direction of movement is a crucial concept in the field of massage therapy as it refers to the various techniques used by therapists to apply pressure and manipulate muscles in specific directions. This can involve both longitudinal and cross-fiber techniques, or encompass a range of movements such as kneading, tapping, and effleurage. 



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.



Documentation is an integral part of providing quality healthcare services. In the context of massage therapy, documentation serves as a continuous record of patient progress and treatment plans. Documentation that is effective helps ensure that treatment is given uniformly, thoroughly, and customized to meet the unique needs of every patient. 



to softly caress, originating from the French word effleure; employed at the outset of a massage to facilitate contact, disperse lubricant, feel out; prepares skin for deeper practices, can be used to move between strokes or regions/body parts, or to terminate the massage or part of the body.



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.



Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and tenderness in the joints and muscles. Massage therapy can help manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia by reducing pain, promoting relaxation, and improving the quality of sleep.



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.



Force, in massage therapy terminology, refers to the pressure applied to the body during a massage. Different techniques may involve the use of light, moderate, or deep force levels, depending on the therapist’s goals and the client’s needs. Force, combined with other elements such as speed or direction of movement, can help improve circulation, release tension, and promote relaxation in the muscles.



Friction is a type of massage technique that involves rubbing or kneading the muscle tissue. It is used to alleviate muscle tension, increase circulation, and reduce scar tissue.



In massage therapy, a fulcrum is a point of contact used to create leverage when applying pressure to the body. It helps the massage therapist to apply more pressure without using too much force or strain.


Foam Roller:

A foam roller is a cylindrical piece of foam used for self-massage. It can help relieve muscle tension, increase flexibility, and alleviate muscle pain.


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.



The Feldenkrais method is a type of movement therapy that is aimed at improving awareness, flexibility, and coordination. Massage therapy is frequently utilized to aid in injury rehabilitation, manage chronic pain, and enhance overall wellness.


Functional Training:

Functional training refers to a type of exercise that focuses on movements that mimic everyday activities or sports-specific movements. It can help improve balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility.


Gua sha: 

A traditional Chinese technique that involves using a smooth-edged tool, typically made of jade or other similar stones, to scrape the skin in a firm and rapid manner. This is said to help promote circulation and reduce pain and inflammation.


Gravity-assisted massage: 

The massage technique uses the body weight of the therapist to apply pressure on the muscles. The client is positioned in a way that enables the therapist to utilize gravity to apply pressure on the affected area.


Geriatric massage: 

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



A massage technique that involves using long, smooth strokes to apply pressure to the muscles. This refers to a way of performing an activity in a smooth and consistent manner with a particular rhythm. It is commonly utilized to encourage a state of calmness and alleviate tightness in the muscles. 


Trigger Point Therapy (Golgi Tendon Organ Release): 

A massage technique that involves applying pressure to areas of muscle tension and trigger points in order to help release them. This is typically done through a combination of firm pressure and deep breathing.


Graston Technique: 

A form of soft tissue mobilization that involves using specially designed tools to break up scar tissue and adhesions in the muscles. This refers to a technique of making quick, repeated movements that can aid in alleviating conditions like constant pain and restricted mobility.


Hot Stone Massage:

A hot stone massage is a massage technique that involves the use of heated stones to alleviate muscle tension and promote relaxation. The stones are typically made of basalt, a volcanic rock that retains heat well and is placed on key points of the body. This type of massage can provide deeper muscle relaxation and improve circulation.



One type of therapy that can alleviate pain and reduce inflammation involves the use of water via baths, wraps, and compresses. This therapy is called hydrotherapy. It is beneficial for relaxing muscles, reducing tension, and enhancing circulation.



Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that uses hypnosis to help people overcome various issues such as anxiety, smoking, and phobias. The practice promotes deep relaxation and focuses on the subconscious mind to change negative behaviors.


Healing Touch:

Healing Touch is an ancient massage technique that uses the energy of touch to help restore balance and promote healing in the body. This practice has been around for a long time and is founded on the idea that the body has its own natural healing powers. Through the use of compassionate touch and a directed purpose, Healing Touch has the capability to promote mending, calmness, and emotional stability while also decreasing unwanted pain, and inflammation and bolstering the body’s immunity.



For a lateral massage, pressure is applied from the hips to the shoulders or from the shoulders to the hips along the sides of the body. This technique helps to release tension in the muscles and enhance circulation. It is typically used alongside other massage techniques to offer clients a comprehensive and invigorating session. Essentially, the lateral side refers to the area on the side of the body.



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. It is important for massage therapists to have a solid understanding of ligament anatomy and function in order to provide effective treatments.


Myofascial Release:

A myofascial release is a form of bodywork that focuses on the fascia, which is the connective tissue that surrounds and provides support to muscles, bones, and organs. It involves applying gentle pressure and stretching to release tension and promote healing, often resulting in increased mobility, reduced pain, and improved circulation. Some practitioners also use tools like foam rollers or specialized massage balls to aid in the release.


Swedish Massage:

Swedish Massage, also referred to as conventional massage, uses rubbing, round motions, and long movements to enhance blood circulation and reduce muscle tension. This approach was developed by the Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the intent of creating a sense of relaxation and relieving strain. Considered a therapeutic approach, Swedish massage is widely recognized for its ability to better joint flexibility and increase circulation, as well as alleviate muscle aches and spasms.