Rub everyone the Right way

<br> Basics of Massage <br>

Basics of Massage

What is massage? What is bodywork and how do the two differ?

Massage includes a number of disciplines which share the use of
pressure, friction and strain upon the muscles and joints of the body for
therapeutic or affectionate physical responses. In the book Massage: A
Career at your fingertips
Martin Ashley identifies several types of
massage: massage for preventive general health; massage for relaxation,
pampering or `beautification'; sports massage, massage for pain relief;
rehabilitative massage (for recovery from physical injury); massage as an
adjunct to medical or chiropractic treatment; and massage for personal
psychological transformation.

The term `bodywork' is often used to refer to therapies that are often combined and confused with massage, e.g. Shiatsu,Trager,Rolfing and Reflexology.

What are some examples of massage and bodywork?

  1. Swedish massage (which is a proper name, not a reference to Sweden)refers to a collection of techniques designed primarily to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. The lymph system and veins (which carry blood back to the heart) both rely on muscle
    action, rather than heart pump pressure, to operate. Many believe it is safe to apply light pressure in the opposite direction.

    Friction is reduced by oil, or lacking that baby powder. Some practitioners claim benefits from vegetable rather than mineral oil while
    others disagree.
    Swedish massage can relax muscles, increase circulation, remove metabolic waste products, help the recipient obtain a feeling of connectedness, a better
    awareness of their body and the way they use and position it.

    The strokes and manipulations of Swedish Massage are each conceived as having a specific therapeutic benefit. One of the primary goals of Swedish Massage is to speed venous return from the extremities. Swedish
    Massage shortens recovery time from muscular strain by flushing the tissue
    of lactic acid, uric acid and other metabolic wastes. It improves circulation without increasing heart load. It stretches the ligaments and
    tendons, keeping them supple. Swedish Massage also stimulates the skin and
    nervous system while at the same time relaxing the nerves themselves. As
    it can help reduce emotional and physical stress it is often recommended as
    part of a regular programme for stress management. It also has specific
    clinical uses in a medical or remedial therapy.

  2. Shiatsu, on the other hand, is a system based on the body's energy
    meridians. Shiatsu massages are normally done fully clothed and involve
    pressing points on the body and stretching and opening of the energy
    meridians. Shiatsu is somewhat related to acupuncture, which is a form of anaesthesia and therapy used in Chinese hospitals for surgery. Its
    proponents view it as a form of treatment alternative to medicine or surgery. (Toru Namikoshi's Complete Book of Shiatsu Therapy -- published by
    Japan Pubns., Inc. with ISBN 0-87040-461-x in 1981 -- claims to be the
    definitive work; Zen Shiatsu by Shizuto Masunaga & Wataru Ohashi, also
    published by Japan Publications Inc, ISBN 0-87040-394-x is also recommended
    in the archive.) Question
    5.2.3 has references to WWW resources
    dealing with Shiatsu.

  3. This subsection, about Reflexology, is largely based on notes
    provided by Reflexology expert and author Kevin Kunz. He notes that there
    are significant differences between foot massage and Reflexology. Any
    errors are the fault of the FAQL maintainer and no one else.

    Reflexology is based on the belief that there are places on the
    feet (and hands) that correspond to parts of the body, e.g. internal organs
    and joints. Manipulating those parts of the feet (or hands) can have
    direct effects on corresponding parts of the body. Some proponents claim
    the ability to diagnose and treat illnesses of these organs by appropriate
    reflexological treatment.

    I haven't seen a convincing explanation of why this is supposed to
    work but many people cite Reflexology as an excellent technique for
    holistic assessment and adjunct to other therapies. Although Reflexology
    is often discussed as part of Zone Therapy this isn't completely accurate.
    The archive contains some discussion and references to books about

    According to Reflexology teacher Terry Norman :
    a currently accepted theory in the West is that Reflexology works
    by way of the neuro-reflex points found in the feet & hands. When
    organs don't function normally the neural signals along the
    network change patterns. Such changes can be detected and
    monitored through the reflex points. Chemistry at these points
    sometimes changes as well -- hard painful spots (said to be uric
    acid crystals) may form at points that relate to the organ, or
    area of the body, to which the reflex point corresponds.
    Occasionally, when rubbing or pressing firmly on these spots you
    can feel them "pop" or burst apart -- they feel grainy or gritty
    like sand or sugar. After the spots disappear, the area begins to
    become less tender and the organ to which the reflex point relates
    also functions better.

    In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the points on the hands
    & feet correspond to the channels & collaterals. TCM has charts
    dating back thousands of years illustrating the same points on
    these areas as modern day Foot & Hand Reflexology charts. I
    believe that the "true" system is some convergence of both
    systems. Although, I think that what has been called
    "Reflexology", or "Zone Therapy" is nothing more than a
    re-discovering of the wheel you might say.

  4. By mixing scents with the oil, various pleasing moods can be
    created. Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant substances for health and
    beauty treatment. It is often combined with massage since oils can be used
    to carry fragrances while also allowing more pressure to be applied to
    muscles. Its proponents claim that health benefits are associated with
    specific choices of scent. For example, clary sage can be used to combat
    depression. (See questions
    5.2.4 and HREF="section05.html#512">5.1.2 for other sources of
    information about Aromatherapy.)

  5. `On-site massage' is one name for a short (15-20 minute) massage of
    a client sitting in a special, portable massage chair. The client remains
    fully clothed and no oils are used while their shoulders, neck, upper back,
    head and arms are massaged. On-Site is popular at some offices as an
    employee benefit and for some conferences, workshops and certain social

  6. Erotic massage is really a sexual foreplay technique, rather than a
    form of massage. Massage focuses on muscles, whereas erotic massage
    focuses primarily on skin. It's been said that 95% of erotic (or sensual)
    massage is the same as other massage. There is nonetheless some
    information specifically about erotic massage in the archive.

  7. Trigger point and Myotherapy are pain-relief techniques to
    alleviate muscle spasms and cramping. The therapist locates and
    deactivates `trigger points', which are often tender areas where muscles
    have been damaged or acquired a re-occuring spasm or `kink' that worsens
    painfully when aggravated. The major goals are to reduce spasm inducing
    new blood flow into the affected area. The spasms are partly maintained by
    nervous system feedback (pain-spasm-pain) cycle. Spasms also physically
    reduces blood flow to the trigger point area (ischemia), reducing oxygen
    supplied to the tissues and increasing the spasm.

    Pressure is applied to trigger points, for a short time (between
    about 7 to 10 seconds per point), which can be momentarily painful but is
    greatly relieving. It is common to hit the same trigger points several
    times during a session, but you won't be leaning into a sore spot for
    several minutes. Often ice or another cooling agent is used to reduce
    nervous system response, making the area easier and more comfortable to
    work. Then the muscles are gently stretched to complete the relaxation
    process, hence the name `spray and stretch'. Myotherapy aims to erase pain
    and soothe tightened muscles. People with acute or chronic muscle tension
    and the associated pain are likely to benefit greatly from this type of

  8. Polarity therapy is a holistic approach to natural health care. It
    asserts that energy fields exist everywhere in nature, and that the flow
    and balance of this energy in the human body is the underlying foundation
    of health. Stress, tension, pain, inflexible thinking, and environmental
    stimuli are among many factors that can contribute to the restriction of
    this energy flow in the human body. According to Polarity therapists, such
    energy blocks can be released by the use of four therapeutic methods:
    bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. The founder of Polarity
    Therapy, Dr. Randolph Stone DO, DC, ND, emphasized the interdependence of
    body, emotions, mind and spirit. Polarity therapy includes gentle body
    manipulation and holding pressure points (poles) as well as counselling on
    developing positive thoughts and attitudes, understanding the principles of
    food combining and easy exercises to increase energy flow. Polarity is
    often used by care givers in conjunction with many other therapies.

  9. Myofascial release is used to evaluate and treat restrictions in
    the body's contractile connective tissues (muscles) and non-contractile
    supportive connective tissues (fascia) by the application of gentle
    traction, pressures and positioning. Fascia is a complex supportive web
    throughout the body affecting all components of the musculoskeletal,
    nervous and visceral (organ) systems. It surrounds groups of muscle
    fibres, and entire muscle groups and organs. While it is not contractile,
    it can be passively elastically deformed. That is how it retains tensions
    from physical and emotional traumas. It is also involved when a person
    suffers chronic pain or physical dysfunction. Chronically tense muscles
    restrict blood flow and fatigue the body. Both fascia and muscle tissues
    can become shortened if they are improperly used. As well, layers of
    fascia can stick together.

    Myofascial release techniques are used to coax muscles in spasm to
    relax, and break adhesions in the fascia. Bodies respond to these
    therapies by releasing tension that has been stored in the fascia, thus
    allowing more functional flexibility and mobility of the muscles, fascia
    and associated structures. Another definition of fascia appears in
    2.6 (about technical terms).

  10. Craniosacral therapy can be considered to be a type of myofascial
    release that is especially suited to addressing tensions in the
    Craniosacral system: the membranes that contain the cerebrospinal fluid
    within the head and spinal column, as well as the cranial (head and face)
    bones to which these membranes are attached. Release of restrictions in
    these membranes and at the sutures between the cranial lobes is deeply
    relaxing and may relieve certain types of headache, spinal nerve problems,
    tempororomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), and stress in the nervous
    system. Other body functions can also benefit and emotional tension may be
    discharged through the process of Somato-Emotional Release.

  11. Reiki is a gentle hands-on healing technique to reduce stress,
    relieve pain, and facilitate healing. Practitioners hold that the vital
    energy of the universe is channelled through the practitioner to energize
    the various body systems on levels that promote healing and wholeness. The
    hands (and intuition) are used to scan a client's body, and to perceive and
    treat areas of reduced vitality.

    The following subsection, about Reiki, is based on a text provided by
    Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Brian M. Carter.

    In English, the Japanese word `Reiki' refers to the teachings of Usui
    Shiki Ryoho, translated as the `Usui Method of Natural (or Drugless)
    Healing'. The Method has been known in Japan since the late 1860s. It was
    brought to U.S.A. in the 1930s and, although it has no Christian roots, it
    is certainly not a so-called New Age concoction.

    It is based on the same energetic principles as acupuncture, t'ai chi
    chuan and chi kung. But Reiki is neither invasive, as is acupuncture, nor
    does it require physical agility and effort to gain benefits, as do t'ai
    chi and chi kung.

    According to Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Brian M. Carter: `this
    adjunct to competent medical care is definitely based on a traditional
    Oriental model of bodily healing, because it assumes the presence of an
    imbalance of an energetic nature that is manifesting in the physical body
    as stress, or, in more serious cases, as a life-threatening disease one may
    be facing. As Reiki practitioners, we have learned that, in many cases, we
    can help persons with such illnesses to remove these unseen causes and
    replace them with robust energy that will have a definite, noticeable,
    beneficial physical effect.'

    There are two principal aspects of Reiki practice. As one
    successfully builds a strong practice of Reiki, one also learns how to
    convey this ki energy to others who need it. One aspect is called practice
    `for oneself', which is emphasized in First Degree Reiki practice. The
    other is called practice `for others' and is emphasized in Second Degree
    and Master level practices.

    For most daily stress, tension, minor illness, trauma, etc., First
    Degree Reiki practice is very effective. For life-threatening illness --
    in which severe physical manifestations have already materialized
    (e.g. cancer and AIDS) and congenital diseases (e.g. cystic fibrosis and
    muscular dystrophy) it is often very difficult for a person to effectively
    practice `for oneself' therefore help from a more advanced Reiki
    practitioner is often required for the best results. Second Degree and
    Reiki Master level practitioners have acquired considerable ability in
    directing and focusing ki energy through practice and study with persons
    with severe illness. Such practitioners will have specific, advanced
    techniques with which to help the ill person.

    Much more information about Reiki is available in the archive's
    reiki file. Information about the archive is available in question
    5.1.2. There are also some WWW resources about Reiki -- see question
    5.2.3 for details.

  12. Trager Psychophysical Integration (usually just called Trager) uses
    light, gentle, non-intrusive movements to facilitate the release of
    deep-seated physical and mental patterns. Each part of the client's body
    is moved rhythmically so that the recipient experiences the possibility of
    moving lightly, effortlessly, and freely on their own. A Trager session
    should help reduce stress from chronic tension, teach more effective ways
    to recover from stressful situations, enhance conscious awareness and
    flexibility, improve self-image, expand energy, restore free flowing
    movement and full self-expression by reducing constriction and rigidity. A
    Trager session can bring about the experience of peace and serenity -- a
    high-energy state of well-being beyond relaxation.

  13. The Hakomi method is a body-based psychotherapy using special
    states of consciousness to help clients probe non-verbal levels where core
    beliefs direct and influence their experiences. Body-mind awareness and
    touch are used to explore the body as a deep source of information,
    empowering the client to change their attitudes.

  14. Jin Shin Do (transl. the way of the compassionate spirit) is
    derived from acupressure. The technique involves applying gentle fingertip
    pressure to thirty specific points along the body to release, smooth and
    balance vital `chi' energy. Practitioners meditate and try to transfer chi
    to clients by using knowledge of where energy flows and patterns meet.
    According to its practitioners, Jin Shin Do pervades all aspects of our being
    by affecting general muscle tension, improving circulation, balancing
    emotions and raising the spiritual state of being.

  15. Neuromuscular therapy uses advanced concepts in pressure therapy to
    break the stress-tension-pain cycle. It aims to relax muscle so that
    circulation can increase and the body will return to normal neuromuscular
    integrity and balance. The St. John Method is a type of NMT.

  16. Pfrimmer deep muscle therapy was developed by Therese Pfrimmer.
    Once partially paralysed, she overcame her disability through deep muscle
    manipulation and spent the next 30 years developing this technique.
    Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy works across the muscles manipulating deep
    tissues, stimulating circulation and regenerating lymphatic flow, thus
    promoting detoxification and oxygenation of stagnant tissues.

  17. A description of Rolfing will appear here soon. [Added 6 Sept. 95]

  18. There are many more types of massage and bodywork than those
    dealt with here. If you are interested in learning about a specific type
    that is not mentioned here, look for a file about it in the archive or read
    one of the books recommended in this FAQL (see question
    HREF="section02.html#23">2.3) or in the book
    file in the archive (see question 5.1.2).

Where can I read about massage techniques?

The Massage Book by George Downing (and illustrated by Anne
Kent Rush) is highly and frequently recommended. It has been co-published
by Bodyworks and Random House with ISBN 0-394-70770-2 (paper) since 1972.
The trade edition is reported to have ISBN 0-394-48241-7.

Keith Grant recommends The Complete Book of Massage by Clare
Maxwell-Hudson (Random House, 1988) and The Book of Massage: The Complete
Step-by-Step Guide to Eastern and Western Techniques
by Lucinda Liddel
with Sara Thomas, Carola Beresford Cooke and Anthony Porter (A Fireside
Book published by Simon and Schuster, 1984).

The FAQL maintainer thinks The Back Rub Book: How to give and
receive great back rubs
by Anne Kent Rush (A Vintage Book published by
Random House, 1989/ISBN 0-394-75962-1) and The Massage Book are great.

The alt.backrubs archive (see question
5.1.2) contains detailed
recommendations for these and other books as well as much advice for novice
and experienced massagers. The archive category Getting Started contains
basic advice about massage techniques. The archive also contains
suggestions for videos, journals and specific magazine articles.

The alt.romance FAQL contains some advice about giving some basic
massages too. You can find that document in the alt.romance newsgroup and
at the FTP site in pub/usenet-by-group/alt.romance. See
question 5.2 for information about FTP and the site in

Is massage a sexual technique?

It can be, but it need not be.
Massage operates in a continuum between physical therapy or say
Shiatsu, which is exclusively muscle focused and is highly non-erotic, to
Swedish massage, which is muscle focused and includes affectionate but not
erotic touch, to erotic massage which is a sexual technique.

Most people's response to a good (Swedish) massage is to fall
asleep, not to get aroused. If a massage is focused on relaxing muscle
groups, it will not be an erotic experience. The donor will get a major
workout and the receiver will be very relaxed. If a massage is focused on
touching skin it will be an affectionate experience and a highly intimate
and emotional one -- but not an erotic one. If a body rub is primarily
focused on touching skin, especially if that focus includes erogenous
zones, it will be an erotic experience.

There are some very nice strokes which are used only in sexual
contexts, they are quite distinct from the strokes used in other kinds of
massage. Some of them are described in the archive.

One of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family (one which
perpetuates a culture of addiction and dependence) is a deep confusion
between affectionate and erotic touch combined with a strong yearning for,
yet fear of, emotional intimacy. People who have this confusion are likely
to experience any kind of touch as erotic or to use affectionate touch as a
surrogate for forbidden erotic touch. These same people are likely to view
all nudity as sexual, or more properly, to consider touch, nudity and sex,
as surrogates for the intimacy vacuum associated with the culture. This
forms the subtext for some of the threads that appear periodically in the
newsgroup. Because most massage, like most body therapies, is hindered by
clothing, and involves touch, this newsgroup periodically attracts the
attention of some of these unfortunates.

You will avoid unpleasant misunderstandings if you are clear in
your own mind on what you want, and if you are able to clearly discern
between a prospective masseur/masseuse/massee :-) and a prospective sexual
partner, or someone with a voyeuristic interest in the pseudo-intimacy of

There is lots about this in the archive (see question HREF="section05.html#512">5.1.2 for
information about the archive). In particular, see the sections entitled
Sex & Massage and Sexual Massage/Foreplay.

Might I hurt someone if I do something wrong?

There are some things of which to be careful. Read a good book, to
learn all you need to know. In general, be careful of organs, joints
(including vertebrae), and veins. Avoid applying heavy pressure to the
kneecap, back of the knee, the abdomen and the front of the neck. There is
a right direction (toward the heart) and a wrong direction to apply
pressure. (Veins have valves that act to prevent the back flow of blood
returning to the heart. You don't want to blow those valves!) Read the
toward.heart file in the archive (see question
HREF="section05.html#512">5.1.2) if you are
interested in the discussion of why certain massage techniques do not go
towards the heart. Similarly, the abdomen should be massaged in a
clockwise direction because of the way the intestines are laid out.

Obviously avoid broken bones, acute inflammations, etc. and use
caution if the recipient has a medical problem, including infections.
Information and advice about massaging bruises, and dealing with chronic
pain, is available in the archive. Cancer and plebitis have been mentioned
as conditions incompatible with massage.

Beyond that, you're responsible for getting your own expert
therapeutic, medical, legal, etc. advice :-)

The warning file in the archive contains some of the more dire
warnings posted to the newsgroup. The toward.heart file in the archive
contains some more information about the direction in which to apply

What does this technical term mean?

Below is a short list of technical terms which arise in
alt.backrubs. If you would like to see an addition or change to this
list please read question
0.3. Expansion of acronyms is in question
1.2. Descriptions of some massage and bodywork techniques are in
question 2.2.

Draping: refers to the covering of the client's body while they are
being massaged.
Effleurage: is used in Swedish massage. It is a long, gliding stroke.
Esalen: Keith Grant posted this quotation from the Esalen catalogue:
`Esalen Institute is a center to explore work in the humanities
and sciences that promotes human values and potentials. Its
activities consist of public seminars, residential work-study
programs, invitational conferences, research, and
semi-autonomous projects. (Its been described as being a state
of mind as much as a physical place).'
Fascia: A layer or sheet of connective tissue that connects the various
structures and organs of the body. Some fascia is simple sheets,
others are complex and multi-layered. Fascia is usually divided
into two types: superficial and deep. (See question HREF="section00.html#05">0.5 for
reference source.)
Fibromyalgia: an arthritic condition affecting muscles.
Holistic Massage: treats the body as a whole and does not concentrate
on only a troubled area. (compare with Therapeutic)
Petrissage: is used in Swedish massage. They are kneading, grabbing,
wringing strokes used to focus on body regions.
Strain/Counter Strain are a set of techniques for relieving musculoskeletal
spasm and pain. It is a passive procedure that places the body or
limb into the position of greatest comfort. This reduces or arrests
the inappropriate nervous system activity that maintains protective
muscle spasm. Normalization of both muscle tone and joint function
normally accompany the decrease or elimination of pain that result.
Tapotement: are a variety of percussive strokes, hitting, tapping, or
pinching strokes used in Swedish massage.
Therapeutic Massage: usually concentrates on a particular area which needs treatment. (compare with Holistic)