Therapeutic Massage means "touching and manipulating the body's soft tissues for therapeutic benefit."
Massage affects tissues directly to improve tone and blood flow. Massage relaxes the nervous system. It calms and balances the nervous system via the nerve endings which report position, and through other nerve receptors.
The soft tissues that a massage therapist works with are:
- Connective Tissue, also known as Fascia and Myofascia. Myofascia is the connective tissue which covers the muscles
- Joint Capsules
- Lymphatic System
- Muscle and Joint Proprioceptors. These are the nerve endings which report the body's position
Swedish Massage is the most common set of massage therapy techniques used in the US. Swedish Massage is a set of five massage strokes with French names:
- Effleurage - the basic sliding, gliding stroke which soothes and calms and spreads the massage oil or cream.
- Petrissage - a kneading stroke which accesses deeper structures to liberate and mobilize metabolic waste products in the spaces between the cells. Petrissage reactivates capillaries to help blood and oxygen flow to the tissues. Petrissage is a component of Deep Tissue Massage.
- Tapotement - a rhythmic tapping, slapping, beating stroke which awakens and balances the nervous system and restores good resting muscle tone.
- Friction - also a component of Deep Tissue Massage. Friction, or cross-fiber friction, works on deeper structures to help them move more smoothly.
- Vibration - this is a shaking, jiggling, or rocking stroke.
Most people think of Swedish Massage as 'relaxation massage.' However, ALL massage is based on the Swedish Massage system.
Deep Tissue Massage is a specialized kind of Swedish Massage that uses the five Swedish Massage strokes.
Stretching is also a part of the system of Swedish Massage. Massage Therapists are trained in passive muscle stretching, and active techniques called Muscle Energy Techniques.
Orthopedic Massage, or Medical Massage, is the systematic application of four principles when applying massage to injuries and after surgery. Orthopedic Massage / Medical Massage is Swedish Massage applied at a very high level of skill to a person who is injured, recovering, or medically frail.
Why do People Receive Massage?
Favorite reasons to receive massage are for stress relief, massage for pain relief, massage to reduce anxiety, and massage to relax. Many people enjoy receiving massage because it produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.
Some of the Benefits of Massage
- Pain Relief from musculoskeletal injuries 
- Massage also reduces the pain experienced in the days and weeks after a massage 
- Massage reduces subclinical depression 
- Massage reduces anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate 
- Massage improves sleep quality 
- Many more citations of studies about the clinical benefits of massage http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/adultmassage.html
- Here is an entire page about the benefits of massage
- and an article about how often people receive massage
What Therapeutic Massage is NOT
Therapeutic Massage does not include spinal manipulation, diagnosis, exercise recommendation, or rehabilitation via exercise. Massage Therapy does not include the use of most medical devices. Massage therapists do not use ultrasound or TENS units on their clients. Massage therapists do not prescribe exercise. Massage therapy is not a substitute for medical care.