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For sexual massage, see erotic massage. For "massage" as a euphemism for paid sexual favors, see prostitution.
Massage is the practice of applying pressure or vibration to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, and joints. A form of therapy, massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to heal injury, relieve psychological stress, manage pain, improve circulation and relieve tension. Where massage is used for its physical and psychological benefits, it may be termed "therapeutic massage therapy" or manipulative therapy.

Table of contents
1 The massage session
2 Types of massage
3 Massage therapist organizations
4 Mayan Uterine Massage
5 Watsu
6 Janzu
7 See also
8 External links

The massage session

Most massage techniques involve the client being treated lying down on a massage table or in a massage chair; though there are a few exceptions, as with Thai massage (see below). Due to the necessary physical contact between the practitioner and the client or patient, care is taken to avoid causing sexual arousal. Although the massage subject is generally unclothed, their body is "draped" with towels or sheets. This also helps keep the patient warm.

Areas of the body such as the areas around the groin and intimate parts of the body are normally not touched at all in therapeutic massage. The treatment normally starts with the client face down for the first part of the session, and they then roll over (hidden by the towels) for the second part of the session, which is carried out face up.

Types of massage

There are well over 150 different types of massage therapy. Various styles of massage have developed from a number of sources.

Swedish massage

This style utilizes long, flowing strokes. Pressure is mainly applied on the skin level. The main purpose is for relaxation by pushing around or kneading the muscle groups. Oil, cream, or lotion is applied on the skin to reduce friction and allow smooth pushing and pulling of the tissues. This style of massage is generally attributed to the Swedish fencing master and gymnastics teacher Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839).

Trigger point therapy

A trigger point is an area of a muscle that refers pain sensations to other parts of the body. Trigger Point Therapy applies pressure to these points leading to immediate release of tension and improved muscular functioning. This work is based upon the trigger point research and manuals of Dr. Janet Travell.

Sometimes this work is incorporated into other styles of massage therapy such as neuromuscular therapy (NMT).

Deep tissue massage

Pressure is applied on the muscles in order to reach deep muscle groups. It is allegedly effective for sport injury. The drawback is the surface pain afterwards resulted from pressing the skin too hard. Usually only a minimal amount of lubricant is used on the skin. The types of strokes used are effleurage and petrissage.

Chinese Zhi Ya massage (指壓)

Zhi Ya is a form of Chinese massage based on acupressure. It is similar to Tui Na massage except it focuses more on pinching and pressing at acupressure points.

Chinese Tui Na massage (推拿)

Tui Na is a form of Chinese massage (按摩) that is similar to Zhi Ya, but focusing more on pushing, pulling and kneading the muscle.

Shiatsu (指圧)

Shiatsu is a form of Japanese massage based on acupressure. It is uncertain whether it originated from Chinese Zhi Ya.

Scalp massage

In some barber shops in Hong Kong, scalp massage often lasts 30 minutes to 45 minutes during shampooing of the hair.

Sole or Foot massage

Also known as reflexology, foot massage, as practiced by the Chinese is performed in the context of chi, in that each spot on the sole of the foot corresponds to an internal organ, and the applied therapy is healing to one's overall well being. The theory supposes that an ailment of an internal organ will be associated with the nerve ending on the sole of the foot.

Before the massage, the patient's feet are soaked for about ten minutes in a foot bath, typically a dark colored solution of hot water and Chinese herbs. The massage therapist uses liberal amounts of medicated cream, to moisturize the foot and to provide lubrication. The knuckles on the therapist's hand are usually used to provide a hard and smooth implement for the massage. As pressure is applied to the sole, theory holds that a healthy patient should not feel any strong pain. Painful spots, reflexologists believe, reflect illnesses of other parts of the body. The practitioner rubs and massages the painful spots to break down rough spots and accumulated crystals and increase circulation.

The ailments are healed when the sore spots of the sole are treated and removed by massage. Based on this theory, some shoe liners are made with pressure points to stimulate the soles of the feet to promote better health of the overall body. The nature of these "crystals" has yet to be elucidated or demonstrated scientifically. Regardless of the actual correlation of reflexology to internal organs, many enjoy it for the mix of stimulation and relaxation.

Ancient Thai Massage

Also known as passive/assisted yoga or Thai bodywork, it is usually soothing because of its emphasis on stretching and loosening the body. It is also known as Ancient massage because its roots go back far into history, originating in India and then becoming popular in Thailand.

The patient changes into pajamas and lays on a firm mattress on the floor. (It can be done solo or in a group of a dozen or so patients in the same large room.) The practitioner leans on the patient's body using the forearm to apply firm rhythmic pressure to almost every square inch of the patient body. No oil is applied except sometimes to the patient's palms and soles. A full course of Thai massage lasts anywhere from one to two hours including pulling fingers, toes, ears etc., cracking the knuckles, walking on the patient's back, arching the patient's back in a rolling action etc. There is a standard procedure and rhythm to the massage. Sometimes in a large group massage, the practitioners do the procedures in unison.

Thai massage is a tourist attraction in Thailand and the practitioners are usually women. In some establishments, they sit inside a room with a large display window, so clients can pick the girl they like by the number tag on them. Some say the young and pretty women usually give a poor massage because of lack of experience. A full massage in Thailand costs around US$17 (in 2001) depending on exchange rate and location (it may cost ten times more inside a five star hotel).

MA-URI massage

MA-URI is a new form of massage introduced by Hemi Hoani Fox in 1990, who cites as its roots Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi Nui dance, claiming increased so-called energy flow within the body and mind. Focus is internal, upon breathing, intent, and concentration. Claimed benefits include mental and physical health.

Study and advocation is primarily carried out at the MA-URI Institute, headed by Hemi and Katja Fox. It is currently difficult to find practitioners, though this may change as it grows more popular.

Massage therapist organizations


The American Massage Therapy Association (
AMTA) is the largest professional organization of massage therapists in the United States, although there are other professional organizations.


The National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCTMB) is the only national certifying group of massage therapists in the United States. This is the test that professional massage therapists take in the US even if their states don't offer licensure, in an effort to demonstrate their knowledge. Over 25 U.S. states currently use it as a requirement for their state license as well.


The Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance is the national organization for massage therapists in Canada. It consists of all the members of the various provincial and territorial associations and works to promote and improve the profession.


The Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners is the other national not-for-profit association for massage therapists in Canada. Its members are massage therapists and other touch therapists throughout Canada, working to support and promote those therapies.


The Canadian Sports Massage Therapist Association is the national, not-for-profit association for sports massage therapists working in Canada. It sets standards and provides certification for its members and also promotes the profession.

See also

External links