The variety of massage techniques is vast, possibly numbering in the hundreds, depending on who you consult. This article looks at five of the more commonly available specialty massage therapy techniques. Sometimes, you can find these techniques not only from massage therapists but also from physical therapists, chiropractors and other health care professionals.
1. Myofascial release
Fascia is a web-like connective tissue that covers everything inside your body, including your muscles, providing a flexible structural support. For reasons ranging from chronic muscle tension to poor circulation to injury, fascia can become less flexible, restricting movement and creating pain and tension. Fascia can stick together in adhesions, and develop tender, sensitive areas called myofascial trigger points that refer pain to other areas of your body.
The goal of myofascial release is to release adhesions and trigger points by gently stretching the fascia. Although approaches to myofascial release vary, the therapist typically finds a tight area, lightly stretches the area using hands or fingers, waits 90 to 120 seconds for the tissue to relax and then increases the stretch. The therapist repeats this process until the area relaxes fully, and then moves to the next tight area and repeats the process.
Reported benefits include pain relief and better movement. You might consider myofascial release if you have chronic pain or movement limitations that don't improve with other forms of massage.
2. Neuromuscular technique
Neuromuscular technique (NMT) is sometimes called trigger point massage or trigger point therapy because the primary technique used in NMT is the application of static pressure to myofascial trigger points. Because these points refer pain to other body areas, NMT is often useful for dealing with complex pain patterns.
3. Soft tissue release
Soft tissue release involves stretching a muscle while applying precise pressure to points along the muscle. A significant feature of this technique is that the therapist stretches the same muscle in multiple ways.
Soft tissue release is designed to help heal injuries of all types, ranging from whiplash to sports injuries to repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. The technique is also reportedly beneficial for people with chronic low back pain or fibromyalgia.
The premise underlying this technique is that precise stretching and pressure reorganize scar tissue, return the muscle to its proper resting length and correct muscle imbalances.
4. Lymphatic massage
The efficient movement of lymph fluid through your body is essential for good health because the fluid carries nutrition to cells and removes unwanted waste. Unlike the active circulation of blood, lymph fluid movement is passive and relies on your body movement to circulate. Lymphatic massage promotes the movement of lymph fluid.
Common types of lymphatic massage are Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) and Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). The massage therapist creates rhythmical motion to stimulate lymph fluid flow by using specific slow and gentle strokes to move your skin in the direction of the lymph flow. Instead of using massage oil or lotion, the therapist typically uses a powder for lymphatic massage.
Lymphatic massage is commonly used to reduce swelling, including excess lymph fluid collection after surgery called lymphedema. Lymphatic massage also reportedly helps improve a variety of circulatory problems, reduces blood pressure and relaxes your entire body.
5. Visceral manipulation
Visceral manipulation encourages normal movement and tone in your organs and their surrounding connective tissue. The theory is that improving movement and tone helps organs and their related body systems function better and also improves your body's structural integrity.
Using their hands, therapists locate organ and connective tissue restrictions. After locating a restriction, the therapist has you either sit, stand or lie down in a specific position and uses very gentle pressure to release tension and return the organ to a more balanced position. Therapists then do another assessment with their hands to find another restriction and will ask you to move into another position, where they will do another release.
Because therapists are continually assessing and moving you into new positions, this technique is done fully clothed. Visceral manipulation is said to help relieve a variety of conditions, ranging from pain and injury to digestive and reproductive disorders to emotional issues.