AD 1878: Dutch massage practitioner Johan Georg Mezger applies French terms to name five basic massage techniques,[13] and coins the phrase "Swedish massage system". These techniques are still known by their French names (effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (lifting and kneading the muscles), friction (firm, deep, circular rubbing movements), tapotement (brisk tapping or percussive movements), and vibration (rapidly shaking or vibrating specific muscles)).

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Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific[1] system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.[2]

For starters, you bear in mind the things described above that tend to cause ugly pain, and you avoid that kind of therapy like the plague. Then you look for some clues that painful pressure is okay. Here are at least three reasons why unpleasantly intense pressure might be therapeutic — “bad pain,” but not ugly. In each of these situations, it might be acceptable to tolerate sensations so intense and painful that the only thing about them that is pleasant is the part where it stops.

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One of the most well-known and verified benefits of reflexology is an improvement in circulation throughout the body, which means that blood and oxygen are being cycled through the body more effectively. This means more oxygen reaches vital organs, thereby optimizing their functioning and further increasing the metabolism. This also results in faster healing and re-growth of damaged cells.

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Flushing. If massage can “improve” any tissue — unknown — one way it might do it is through simple hydraulics: physically pumping tissue fluids around, and/or stimulating the circulation of blood and lymph. I won’t get into the evidence about it here. Suffice it to say that it might be true, and if it’s true then it may not much matter if the process is uncomfortable. While gentler massage may feel pleasant and satisfying, it is possible that more biological benefits can only be achieved hydraulically — whether it’s comfortable or not. This is even more plausible because of trigger points: it’s likely that the tissue fluids of a trigger point are quite polluted with waste metabolites, and the need for flushing is greater, but it’s especially uncomfortable to squish those polluted patches of tissue.

Swedish massage is defined by four or five (somewhat familiar) techniques, which have French names: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic choppings), and friction (rubbing). Some therapists now incorporate advanced techniques that have rehabilitating effects and stretches for improving your range of motion. But the ultimate goal here is relaxation. As the default Western massage, Swedish massage is an extremely popular, simple, soothing touch therapy. For more, read our Guide to Swedish Massage.
Deep tissue massage is a therapeutic technique that relieves deep-seated muscle tension and soothes chronic tightness. During a deep tissue massage, a trained therapist delivers intense pressure through slow strokes and targeted fascial release. This technique is often used to treat repetitive-stress injuries, posture problems, and sports injuries.

Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”, suggests Gammal. Seek referrals if possible, and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Rotenberger recommends a massage therapist specifically trained in orthopedic treatment and assessment, as s/he will know when to refer you to another healthcare professional, in the case that you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort not fixable via massage. You can find a reputable practitioner via www.orthomassage.net or www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.
Reflexology is best for people who are looking to relax or restore their natural energy levels. It’s also a good option if you aren’t comfortable being touched on your entire body. Reflexology uses gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands, and ears. You can wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows access to your legs.
While there are numerous benefits to this branch of massage, elementsmassage.com reminds you that it is important to keep your expectations for the treatment reasonable. While Deep Tissue massages use more pressure to reach deeper muscle tissues and often yield immediately noticeable results, asking your therapist to apply more pressure and gritting your way through pain will do more damage than good. If you are in pain, your muscles will begin to contract, making the therapist’s efforts moot. Applying more pressure will not speed up the process. Like any treatment, Deep Tissue massages need time to be effective. Keep in mind that the injury or muscle tension that you are hoping to get resolved has had a great deal of time to form; it will take time to undo the damage. Like any treatment, often the therapy will not be enough; including other changes to your lifestyle, such as exercise, relaxation techniques or working on posture in addition to your massage appointments will help move the process along and help you see faster and longer lasting results.

I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the "Flying Finn," was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.

During most full-body massages the expectation is you’ll be undressed. Your massage therapist will ask you to undress for your massage while they wait outside. It’s up to you whether or not to keep your underwear on. Your massage therapist will drape a sheet over your body, which they will pull back and adjust as they work their way around. You will be covered most of the time.
In a poll of 25–35-year-olds, 79% said they would like their health insurance plan to cover massage.[28] In 2006 Duke University Health System opened up a center to integrate medical disciplines with CAM disciplines such as massage therapy and acupuncture.[126] There were 15,500 spas in the United States in 2007, with about two-thirds of the visitors being women.[119]
Several mechanisms for deep massage’s natural stress-relieving effects include its ability to dilate blood vessels and also lower activity of the limbic system (including the hypothalamus), which is responsible for autonomic nervous system regulation and cortisol secretion. Massage has been shown to improve relaxation by boosting activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, as measured by heart rate, blood pressure and heart rate variability. (8, 9)
Deep Tissue Massage can release the chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow deep strokes on any contacted areas and deep finger pressure on the contracted areas, either following or going across the grain of muscles, tendons and fascia. It is called deep tissue, because it also focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue. It can help reduce pain, increase range of motion, relieve muscle spasms and improve circulation.
Many people confuse reflexology with massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, but there are essential differences between these therapies.  Massage therapists manipulate larger areas of soft tissue in the body while reflexologists apply pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, and ears.  Unlike either massage or reflexology, Reiki does not involve any physical manipulation or pressure, but instead uses light touch to work with the subtle vibrational field thought to surround the body. Finally, while acupuncture and acupressure, like reflexology, use reflex points on the body to influence other parts of the body, the points are not the same and acupuncture uses points over the entire body.

Reflexology is a bodywork technique that uses pressure points in the feet and hands in an effort to stimulate organs and systems throughout the body. Reflexology practitioners claim they can treat a wide range of maladies simply by manipulating these pressure points. The general idea is similar to that of other forms of alternative and Eastern medicine, such as acupuncture: clear blockages in the flow of the body's life force (or Qi) and healing will follow.


Whether you work in an office, a factory, a field, a hospital, or anything in between, there is a good chance that you put a lot of weight and stress on your feet every day. It is not always the back, stress can manifest itself in the other parts of our body too. People often opt for massages, so it makes sense that there should be foot massages too, right? Reflexology is much more than a foot massage, but at its foundation, that’s the easiest way to describe the process. This specific area of massage therapy also includes hands and ears, making it a holistic massage. 

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Practices resembling reflexology may have existed in previous historical periods. Similar practices have been documented in the histories of China and Egypt.[9] Reflexology was introduced to the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872–1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Edwin F. Bowers. Fitzgerald claimed that applying pressure had an anesthetic effect on other areas of the body.[16][17] It was modified in the 1930s and 1940s by Eunice D. Ingham (1889–1974), a nurse and physiotherapist.[18][19] Ingham claimed that the feet and hands were especially sensitive, and mapped the entire body into "reflexes" on the feet, renaming "zone therapy" reflexology.[20] "Modern reflexologists use Ingham's methods, or similar techniques developed by the reflexologist Laura Norman."[9]

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Typically, sports massage therapists hold a certification and maintain licensure. A good option is to become board certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and have an active membership with an association, like AMTA, to keep up to date with industry trends. Exact requirements depend upon the state in which the sports massage therapist practices.
I am also a triathlon coach and personal trainer, so I mix and match my appointments every week in between massage sessions and coaching and training sessions with my clients. I typically have between five and eight massage sessions per day, four to five days per week. There are typically two sports massage sessions per day. Most massage sessions include corrective exercise review so the client knows what self-care they should perform.

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A deep tissue full body massage is a form of healing bodywork. At your first massage, your massage therapist will do a brief intake. They will ask you questions about the type of pressure you’d like to receive during your deep tissue massage, any previous massage experience you’ve had, and any injuries or sensitivities you have. You can remain clothed, or the massage therapist will provide draping so that even if you’re not wearing clothes you are always fully covered. Deep tissue massage may be a good option for people with chronic pain or muscle tension. The systematic deep tissue strokes will work to break down any scar tissue or stiff tissues and create ease in your body again. Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, fists and knuckles to knead and stroke your muscles and loosen adhesions. Although deep tissue massage work is intense, it should not be painful, so communicate clearly with your massage therapist so they know if you’re having any discomfort. The national average cost of a deep tissue massage is between $70 and $90.


The ultimate massage experience combines a full body massage with additional time spent working on your tired feet. Using an integrative method of Reflexology, the therapist utilizes a whole-hand technique that works with the body meridians, opening pathways for better circulation and stimulation helping to create a calming effect to the whole body, mind, spirit, and soul!

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Like having your feet worked on? The therapist uses finger pressure and techniques such as kneading and rubbing to promote relaxation and healing in the body. Reflexology is based on "reflex areas" on the hands and feet, whose energy is believed to be connected to organs and other body parts. By applying pressure to the reflex points, the reflexologist can balance your nervous system and stimulate endorphins, the body's natural pleasure response, which reduces stress and discomfort.

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Deep tissue technique uses very little to no lubricant so that the muscles can be hooked or grabbed, thereby stretching and lengthening them, and to separate adhered muscle compartments. Strokes will be considerably slower and possibly shorter as the therapist waits for a slow release of tension. Some areas may be skipped so more time can be spent on specific areas of need. Doing this provides better alignment of the muscles and less restriction in the joints, thereby improving their movement and function. It is a massage in which the primary goal is less about general relaxation and more about promoting change in the actual structure of the body.

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Specialized massage tables and chairs are used to position recipients during massages. A typical commercial massage table has an easily cleaned, heavily padded surface, and a horseshoe-shaped head support that allows the client to breathe easily while lying face down and can be stationary or portable, while home versions are often lighter weight or designed to fold away easily. An orthopedic pillow or bolster can be used to correct body positioning.

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As we age, our nerve endings become less sensitive in many parts of our body, particularly in our extremities. That being said, reflexology has been connected with stimulating more than 7,000 different nerve endings in a single session, thereby increasing their function and reactivity. Opening and cleaning out neural pathways can help improve functionality and flexibility in many areas around the body. Neural pathways are like muscles, so it is good to work them once in a while to keep them sharp!
Prenatal massage uses mild pressure similar to Swedish massage. The therapist will focus on areas such as your lower back, hips, and legs. You can be fully or partially undressed depending on your comfort level. During the massage, you’ll either lie on your side or on a specially designed table with a cutout for your belly. If you’ve had pain in your calves or other parts of your leg, see a doctor before you have a massage.

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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Sports massage was developed to help athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. However, contrary to what the name suggests, you don't have to be an athlete to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons and can be beneficial for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion.


Pain relief: Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage.[10] A 2015 Cochrane Review concluded that there is very little evidence that massage is an effective treatment for lower back pain.[88] A meta-analysis conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign failed to find a statistically significant reduction in pain immediately following treatment.[80] Weak evidence suggests that massage may improve pain in the short term for people with acute, sub-acute, and chronic lower back pain.[88]

Massage therapists who have received specialized training and are certified in prenatal massage know how to position and support the woman's body during the massage, modify techniques, and avoid certain areas and techniques during pregnancy. Most will have a special table that allows the woman to rest comfortably and safely during the massage. Ideally, you should seek out a practitioner who is experienced and licensed in prenatal massage.
The reason the Pressure Question exists is that it’s hard for patients to tell the difference between nasty pain that might be a necessary part of therapy, and ugly pain that is just abusive. Not everything that hurts is therapeutic, but not every therapeutic procedure is painless! How can we tell if an intense massage technique is therapeutic or not?
A couples massage allows partners to experience massage together in the same area as one therapist works on each person. Some spas turn this into a romantic event that can leave guests starry-eyed, setting the treatment in a special room or suite large enough for two, beachside underneath the stars, or in the couple’s guest room at a hotel or resort. For an extra-special touch, rooms reserved for side-by-side massage treatments may feature cozy spa fixtures such as fireplaces, shower facilities, Jacuzzis, and dual soaking tubs, and some spas offer irresistible amenities like champagne and strawberries as a sumptuous treat. Many spas offer treatments à deux so spa-goers can share a pampering experience with a significant other, but a couples massage isn’t just for romantics—mother-daughter duos and best friends may also enjoy side-by-side services. For couples, this form of massage can offer a double dose of benefits. The tandem treatment invites couples to get a bit closer and reconnect, and it can enhance intimacy and teach each partner how to take care of the other. Plus, select spas allow lovebirds to get in sync by offering sessions that teach massage techniques. Pampering and rejuvenating facials, massages, and other treatments in a half- or full-day increments can make up a whole spa package for couples. For more on Couples Massage, see our guide.

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