Modalities of Massage

Types of Massage

What Are Some of the Different Types of Massage Techniques?

I made the decision to go to massage school as a serious life changing decision…but I didn’t think about all the amazing extras I would get out of the experience.  I pictured myself doing traditional Swedish massage and learning anatomy.  But, when you really think about it….that isn’t a very well rounded educational experience.

I was doing myself a disservice by not paying closer attention to the curriculum and the interesting things that also make up the 1000 hours of training in my program.  Typically most mainstream massage practitioners end up doing work that is predominantly Swedish with some snippets of other modalities and styles thrown in.

I think this is because it is what a lot of our clientele are looking for.  But more and more people are interested in the other varieties of bodywork and the unique sessions and practices that are available.

I’m thankful for the variety of massage modalities approached by my program…but they also leave me wanting more time with each one.  Here’s a snapshot for you:

Elder Massage

I didn’t think about the specific anatomical and biological changes that occur in our bodies as we age…and more specifically how that relates to massage therapy.  Think about skin breakdown.  As we age, our collagen breaks down and skin becomes more susceptible to tears.  Many individuals take medications for prevention of various diseases that can result in bruising or bleeding easily.

Still others may have extensive medical histories related to surgeries or illness/injury that may result in adaptations to massage.  For some people in long term care or more institutional living areas, massage may mean softly stroking arms and legs while quietly chatting.  For others, deep pressure and traditional massage practices may work best.  This is a modality where knowing your client’s medical history is imperative.

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT or Trigger Point)

This specific modality involves working relatively deeply with the connective tissue of the body.  Most schools of thought agree that the trigger points (areas of irritation around skeletal muscle) are located in a similar pattern on all bodies.

By administering pressure to one of these sites, which are able to be felt through palpation, one has the potential to create a release. There are some differences in the amount of time to work on each trigger point.  Some say between two and five minutes…the program I attend follows the 60-90 second theory.

This modality takes a lot of time and communication between the therapist and client.  Because the trigger point release causes a release of toxins (think old cells, and cellular waste) into the body; many agree that working on more than 3-5 points in one session may have detrimental effects for the client in subsequent days.


A component of energy palpation work specifically focused on the feet (or at times hands), reflexology involves specific points and pressures on areas that correlate directly to areas of the body.  Think about the shape of the interior base of your foot…it closely mimics the lordosis and kyphosis (terms you will learn if you don’t know them already) of the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral vertebrae.

Reflexology as an alternative medical practice follows the belief that there are zones of our body which are represented on the hands and feet and receiving work on these areas can benefit the entire body.  Squeamish about feet….you’ll get used to them!

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is typically similar to the principles of Swedish Massage in practice but involves working with the client in different ways to promote the health and well-being of the Mom and Baby.  In this modality work is most often done in a side lying position or with the support of a specifically designed pregnancy cushion.

Care is taken to address symptoms of pregnancy such as swelling (edema), stretching of muscles and pressure on joints.  Work is traditionally not as deep and specific areas known to cause induction of labor are worked around with care.

Final Thoughts

I’ll continue this line of writing for the next week or two in order to introduce you to more modalities of massage.  Please know that you should receive massage from a trained and licensed professional who follows the regulations of your state in order to ensure your health and safety.

Keep this in mind when you look at schools….and until next time….breathe!