Common Massage Terms
Massage Term Definitions
Aromatherapy uses essential oils (plant extracts) to produce physical and psychological benefits. Essential oils can be mixed with oils and used topically or just used for scent. There is disagreement between the alternative health and mainstream science communities as to the real physiological benefits of aromatherapy, but there seems to be a consensus that it aids relaxation.
The term cupping is used to describe two different forms of alternative therapy. The first traces its origins to traditional Chinese medicine and is the practice of using glass cups to lift the skin and connective tissues with suction, thereby increasing blood flow and pulling toxins from the body. This form of cupping can be practiced by placing a number of stationary cups on vary parts of the body, such as the back, neck, and sacral area, or by applying oil to the recipient and slowly moving the cups over the skin. A second type of cupping is commonly found in Swedish massage and is the process of forming “cups” with each hand and gently slapping the recipient’s back, shoulders, or thigh areas. Proper cupping should produce a hollow noise rather than a slapping sound. This is also referred to as clapping or tapotement.
This is the manner in which sheets are draped over a client’s body to allow privacy and comfort while providing the therapist access to the regions that will be massaged. For example, at the beginning of a standard massage, a client will be face-down on the table with a sheet covering them from neck to toe. When the therapist begins to work on the back, they will fold the sheet down to the buttocks area and begin. When finished they may replace the sheet over the back and then fold it over a leg to begin working on that area. Draping of the genitalia, and breasts in a woman’s case, during bodywork is mandatory in most parts of the United States.
Slow, gliding strokes made with one or both hands across the body’s surface. Commonly used in Swedish or Russian massage, this technique is useful for general relaxation and preparing tissues for deeper work.
Not actually oils, essential oils are concentrated liquids that have been extracted from plants, such as lavender and rose, for their physiological or psychological benefits.
Four Hands Massage
Also referred to as a tandem massage, this is a full body treatment performed by two massage therapists simultaneously. Four hands massage is not a style but rather a chosen massage, such as Swedish, performed by an extra set of hands. While a four-handed massage produces twice the amount of bodywork over a similar period of time, and can be a very interesting sensory experience, there are no additional health benefits over standard massage.
This may or may not be performed in conjunction with cupping (Swedish, not Chinese), and involves contacting the body with gentle, karate-chop movements.
Massage performed at a therapist’s office, spa, or residence.
The back-and-forth shaking of a body’s soft tissue in order to loosen and relax an area before other massage is performed.
Similar to kneading dough, a massage therapist alternately squeezes and releases soft tissue areas, providing relaxation and improved circulation.
LMT – Licensed Massage Therapist
The State of Missouri, as well as many other states, requires by law that therapists receive a certain amount of training before being licensed to perform bodywork and in states that do not have set requirements, cities have generally developed their own. The amount of training varies from state to state, usually in the range of 250 to 1,000 hours. Feel free to ask your therapist about the details of their license.
A massage performed at the client’s home or office location. The therapist will bring a portable massage table and other needed supplies, such as sheets and music. This type of massage generally includes an added fee because it requires travel time and transportation costs. Also referred to as mobile massage.
This is a deeper massage technique that generally follows effleurage. Petrissage is used to remove knots and lactic acid from the muscles.
Pressure points are locations on the body through which energy, or chi, passes. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that stimulating these points through acupuncture or acupressure will unblock them and allow chi to move more freely through the body, resulting in better balance and health.