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Massage is applying pressure or vibration to a part of the body, or successively to the whole body; objectives may be the good feeling, and/or to heal injury, improve circulation and relieve tension in the muscles or skin.

Due to the body contacts between the practitioner and the client or patient, some massage parlors provide more sexually oriented services (see erotic massage). It is not always obvious in advance whether a massage parlor provides authentic non-sexual massage by licensed practitioners or is actually a front for erotic massage or prostitution. However, establishments which offer erotic massage services usually provide hints at the services offered using a variety of innuendos, such as "VIP massage" or "full service". These innuendos are noticeable by there absence at establishments providing only therapeutic massage.

Where massage is used for its physical and psychological benefits, it may be termed remedial massage therapy. See manipulative therapy. This article is about non-sexual massage.

Table of contents

The massage session

Most massage techniques involve the client being treated lying down on a massage table. There are a few exceptions: see Thai massage, below, for an example.

Due to the necessary body contacts between the practitioner and the client or patient, care is taken to avoid inadvertent sexual arousal. Although the massage subject is generally unclothed, their body is "draped" with towels. This also helps keep the subject 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 originated from different countries.

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.

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.

Chinese Tui Na massage (推拿)

Chinese massage (按摩) that is similar to Zhi Ya, but more on pushing, pulling and kneading the muscle.

Chinese Zhi Ya massage (指壓)

Chinese massage based on acupressure. It is similar to Tui Na massage except more on pinching and pressing at acupressure points.

Shiatsu (指圧)

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

Sole massage (aka Reflexology[?])

Some persons believe that each spot on the sole of the foot corresponds to an internal organ. They believe that an ailment of the internal organ will be reflected by the accumulation of certain crystals at the nerve ending on the sole of the foot. As pressure is applied to the sole, a healthy patient should not feel any pain at all. Painful spots, reflexolgists believe, reflect illnesses of other parts of the body. The practitioner rubs and massages the painful spots to break down the 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.

Thai Massage

This is probably the most soothing and relaxing of all massages (purely according to personal preference and experience, of course).

The patient changes into pajamas and lays on a firm mattress on the floor. Sometimes 10 to 20 patients receive massage simultaneously in a 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 to the patient's palms and soles. A full course of Thai massage lasts at least 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. The practitioners are usually women and they sit inside a room with a large display window, so that the 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 costs around US$17 (in 2001) depending on exchange rate and location (it may cost 10 times more inside a 5 star hotel).

How to find a massage therapist in the United States:


The AMTA is the largest professional organization of massage therapists in the United States. (Although there are other professional organizations as well.) Visit the American Massage Therapy Association's website: http://www.amtamassage.org


the only national certifying group of massage therapists. 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. Visit the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: http://www.ncbtmb.com/

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