Types of Massage Therapy | Boston Bodyworker

Types of Massage Therapy

The Boston Bodyworker is proud to have been providing Boston with massage therapy services for nearly 20 years. Established in 1999, our mission was to share with all of you the amazing benefits massage therapy can have on your overall health and wellness. We originally coined the term ‘Clinical’ Massage in an effort to distinguish ourselves from the more commonly recognized term, Swedish Massage. As much as we believe in the benefit of relaxation, we wanted to help people understand that massage therapy can be so much more than just relaxing. So, we set out to educate, inform and apply our brand of massage therapy in an effort to achieve our ultimate mission; to help you ‘Feel Better’!

Over these past 20 years, we have seen the demand for alternative therapies increase exponentially. Massage is by far the fastest growing of all of these fields. Massage has been scientifically proven to:

  • Relieve stress

  • Relieve postoperative pain

  • Reduce anxiety

  • Manage low-back pain

  • Help fibromyalgia pain

  • Reduce muscle tension

  • Enhance exercise performance

  • Relieve tension headaches

  • Help you sleep better

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  • Ease symptoms of depression

  • Improve cardiovascular health

  • Reduce pain of osteoarthritis

  • Decrease stress in cancer patients

  • Improve balance in older adults

  • Decrease rheumatoid arthritis pain

  • Temper effects of dementia

  • Promote relaxation

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Decrease symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Help chronic neck pain

  • Lower joint replacement pain

  • Increase range of motion

  • Decrease migraine frequency

  • Improve quality of life in hospice care

  • Reduce chemotherapy-related nausea

Now, this all sounds great, but not every massage will do what is listed above simply because you are lying on a table.  A great massage is always tailored to the individual.  This is accomplished by first discussing your goals for the session with your licensed massage therapist.  You will be asked several follow-up questions in order for us to best customize the massage you are seeking as well as many questions throughout the massage in order to fine tune the service as we go.

Many patients arrive at our website or business with a pre-determined idea of what they THINK they need based upon either common societal perceptions or perhaps a friend’s experience.  They will ask for a ‘Deep Tissue’ or a ‘Sports Massage’, not really knowing the difference, but ultimately trying to communicate what they DON’T want; “a fluff and buff massage where they just smear scented oils and play Yanni or Enya.” Well, great, we don’t do that. We are NOT a spa! However, that does not mean we don’t provide you with a relaxing, yet therapeutic service.

Massage has long been considered to work only if there is some sort of pain or discomfort involved.  As a matter of fact, many, many years ago, I too believed that.  This is simply not true.  It has been shown that inflicting pain on top of existing pain will often heighten the individuals own pain experience, hence causing even more pain, eventually leading to what is known as central sensitization.

A great massage is applied by listening to the patient as well as the patient’s body through careful and compassionate touch or palpation.  We know so much more about pain science than we knew even just 5 years ago.  A primary component of any massage service we provide is education about the science of pain.  In order for any of us to really rid ourselves of pain or at least manage pain, we must first understand that pain is a multi-dimensional experience for each of us that is predicated upon our own unique neuro-signatures (personal experience with pain from the day we are born).  The medical community refers to this as the ‘BioPsychoSocial Model’ of pain.  What this means is that pain is not an input (touch a hot flame; it hurts, withdraw hand), but rather an output from the brain; 100% of the time (touch a hot flame; brain instantly responds by delivering a pain response that withdraws the hand from the flame).  In other words, the issue is not always in the tissue. Studies have shown time and again that damaged tissue, herniated discs and postural deformities (causations) do not always correlate with pain. As your massage therapists, we try to help you to navigate and understand this information so you can apply it to your own pain experiences. The massage we provide you will be administered in a manner that best suits YOU, not just the condition being treated.

There are more than 250 different types of massage, bodywork, and somatic therapies. Depending on the type of massage therapy, actions may include stroking, kneading, tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, pressure to the muscles and other soft tissues, passive or active movement. Each of these actions has been shown to have an impact physiologically.  How much and how strongly you perform these actions matters just as much.

Research has shown us that being proactive vs. reactive with our health keeps our immune system strong and our bodies functioning optimally.  One of the best ways you can do this is by getting regular massages.  Just as we routinely get our cars tuned-up or update & run regular maintenance with our devices to keep them all performing optimally, our bodies require the same attention.

While many of us seek out a great massage to work out a ‘knot’ or ‘tender point’, few understand that the primary objective of ANY great massage is to activate the bodies ‘relaxation response’. During the relaxation response, the body moves from a state of physiological arousal, which includes increased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed digestive functioning, decreased blood flow to the extremities, increased release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and other responses preparing the body to fight or run, to a state of physiological relaxation, where blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning, and hormonal levels return to their normal state. Combined with compassionate and educated touch, a clinical massage will melt away chronic tightness, discomfort and stiffness as it helps you to return to a state of physical balance (homeostasis).

A clinical massage from the Boston Bodyworker will focus not only on doing this but will also address the most common areas of overuse that we all contend with in our day to day lives.   Conditions that arise from prolonged sitting, traveling, texting and lack of varied movement can all have a compounding impact on the overall function of the human body, creating atypical posture, movement and breathing patterns.  We will not only ‘wake-up’ muscles that have become weak and inhibited, but we will also ‘release’ muscles that are tight and over active.   At the conclusion of your massage, you will not only feel relaxed and rejuvenated, you will gain a new sense awareness and control (proprioception) of your own body.  You will experience a new-found freedom in ranges of motion that may have been restricted, limited or perhaps you didn’t realize you should be capable of.  Most importantly, you will have a new appreciation for what a massage does for YOU.  This is why we recommend and provide the benefits of a clinical massage on a monthly basis at an affordable rate.

We understand that there are many common ‘techniques’ in the massage therapy world such as ‘deep tissue’, ‘trigger point’ and ‘myofascial release’.  These are all techniques that are grounded in the actions we discussed previously (stroking, kneading, tapping, compression, vibration, rocking, friction, pressure to the muscles and other soft tissues, passive or active movement).  It is not your job to know what the best technique is for you any more than it is your job to know the best kind of brake pad or even tire is for your car.  Let the professionals handle this.  Many will simply state they want a ‘Deep Tissue’ massage.  What is that?  If it is a massage based upon the depth of tissue we are affecting, then great, but most mean they need it to hurt just a bit.  That sensation may be achieved with just 2 lbs. of digital pressure that barely penetrates the skin and first layer of fascia (hence the pain education).

Here is a list of common techniques as well as a description of how they are commonly applied.  Throughout a clinical massage, your therapists may incorporate many of these as well as many other styles of massage, but ultimately, they are all using the same actions we have already listed above.

Types of Massage

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is based on Swedish massage and uses similar strokes but, unlike Swedish, it focuses on all muscle layers from the superficial to the deepest ones. DTM is a highly therapeutic and specific technique which is very effective in releasing restrictions of the deeper muscles and the underlying connective tissue. Although DTM can be performed on the whole body, it often focuses on specific affected areas.

Deep Tissue Massage can be very effective in releasing chronic patterns of tension and restoring the structural and functional integrity of the musculoskeletal system. DTM can address dysfunctions relating to: stress, prolonged computer work, bad posture, sports or any other type of injuries, excessive athletic training, repetitive overuse of muscle groups (which can result to various syndromes, like Repetitive Stress Syndrome, Carpal tunnel Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Patellofemoral Syndrome, various orthopedic conditions ( i.e. scoliosis), headaches, etc.

Orthopedic Massage

What sets orthopedic massage apart from the numerous other massage techniques is the fact that it, itself, is not a specific ‘technique’. Rather, the term ‘orthopedic’ is used to refer to the locomotor system, as it is used in conventional medicine. An analogy can be made with the phrase ‘orthopedic medicine’, which describes a conceptual approach to medical practice more than just one particular treatment method. Similarly, the phrase ‘orthopedic massage’ describes a comprehensive system, rather than a particular technique (though some are attempting to use the phrase to describe a specific ‘technique’). As a comprehensive system, orthopedic massage is capable of integrating a variety of massage’s most effective techniques in the treatment of soft-tissue dysfunctions, pain and injuries. Four component parts characterize the system of orthopedic massage: orthopedic assessment, matching the physiology of the tissue injury with the physiological effects of treatment, treatment adaptability, and understanding the rehabilitation protocol.

Sports Massage

Sports Massage is a combination of massage strokes and techniques combined with flexibility and specific exercise routines geared to increase an athlete’s performance capabilities. The application of Sports Massage is determined by one’s own specific anatomical and physiological needs. Basic musculoskeletal evaluations, orthopedic assessments, and flexibility analysis do this. By determining the athlete’s specific needs, the Sports Massage therapist will not only be able to provide increased strength, speed and flexibility, but also improve biomechanical efficiency and decrease the potential for injury. This is a comprehensive program with a shared responsibility between the Sports Massage Therapist and the athlete.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release is a highly specialized stretching technique used by therapists to treat patients with a variety of soft tissue problems.

To understand what Myofascial Release is and why it works, you have to understand a little about fascia. Fascia is a thin tissue that covers all the organs of the body. This tissue covers every muscle and every fiber within each muscle. All muscle stretching, then, is actually stretching of the fascia and the muscle, the myofascial unit. When muscle fibers are injured, the fibers and the fascia which surrounds it become short and tight. This uneven stress can be transmitted through the fascia to other parts of the body, causing pain and a variety of other symptoms in areas you often wouldn’t expect. Myofascial Release treats these symptoms by releasing the uneven tightness in injured fascia.

Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is a comprehensive program of soft tissue manipulation techniques that balance the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) with the structure and form of the musculoskeletal system. NMT is a deep form of bodywork that treats the many causes of acute pain, postural disorders and soft tissue damage. This technique is based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system maintains homeostatic balance. These same laws dictate how the central nervous system initiates pain responses.

Active Release Technique

Active Release Technique (A.R.T.), developed by Dr. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP, is a system designed to treat soft tissue (muscles, tendons & ligaments) dysfunction. The basic principles of A.R.T are easy to understand although very difficult to perform. In order to treat the soft tissue properly, the practitioner must have an extensive background in the field of anatomy and finely tuned palpation skills.

At the risk of over simplifying the technique, the injured or altered structure is shortened, and a soft contact is used just distal to the injured area where tension is developed into the lesion. While the contact tension is maintained, the altered structure is lengthened using active motion or in some cases passive motion. During this motion, the lesion is palpated, and the contact is changed accordingly. This will allow the practitioner to concentrate the tension on the appropriate tissue.

Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT)

Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT) was developed by Erik Dalton PhD in the early 80’s after seeing a need for a more integrative perspective on pain management in the human body. In 1998, his first Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques book and videos were released. This very popular home-study course included Dalton’s “Dirty-Dozen” routines for assessing and correcting pain problems associated with Vladimir Janda’s commonly seen postural model. It was then that Myoskeletal Alignment — an integrative marriage of the work of Janda, Rolfing, and manipulative osteopathy – was born.

Pre/Post Natal Massage Therapy

Massage has been used for centuries in almost every culture to help women through pregnancy and promote faster recuperation from childbirth. Pregnancy has dramatic physiological and psychological effects and can be a very stressful time for many women. After giving birth, the new mother requires as much nurturing and support, as her newborn. Massage can help pregnant women and new mothers deal with the effects of the physical, hormonal and emotional changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

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