A Study on Massage Therapy

During the study of massage therapy, one discovers that applying massage movements is much more than placing hands on the body, manipulating skin, muscle and fascia. Skillful application of massage strokes is a blend of the hand movements themselves and the body’s mechanics, as well as pressure and depth, excursion, rhythm and continuity, speed, duration and sequence. These elements effect not only the body’s response to massage therapy but also the intensity of the response.

Webster’s dictionary defines intension as a “clearly formulated plan of action.” All the other elements in the application of massage are dependant upon the intention of the massage therapist. This intention is generally based upon the needs the client has stated. As the therapist begins to palpate the tissues and administer the massage, the objective finding of the therapist are taken into account altering the application. A general intention may be to give the client a stress reduction or relaxation massage.

Depth is the spatial distance into the bodies tissue that is received between pressure application. The therapist can control the amount of pressure exerted on the tissues, but the client often controls how much depth is achieved due to the amount of conscious or unconscious muscular relaxation.

Pressure is the application of force exerted by the massage therapist on the client’s body. Usually therapist utilizes their own hands, elbows or forearms to apply pressure. However, handheld tools can be used as well. Most massage tools are made up of wood, rubber, glass and stone. S a tool is used to apply pressure, it must be disinfected between sessions. The amount of pressure that a therapist uses will also depend upon the following elements:

-The condition of the tissue prior to the application of the massage stroke

-The massage stroke the therapist is using

-The area on the body where the pressure is being applied

-The purpose or intent of the massage stroke

-The response of the client during the application of pressure


Excursion is the distance traversed on the client’s body or the length of the massage stroke. Once the therapist has applied the desired pressure of a stroke, the next consideration is how far across the skin the movement should go. The therapist decides if the massage movement will cover the length of the muscle, the area of the tissue restricted, or the topographical region.


-Speed is also consideration when contemplating rhythm and continuity. Speed refers to the rate of motion. The therapist determine the speed based on the purpose of the massage. Some general rules apply:

- If the massage moves are too fast, the client will not be able to track the movement across the skin.

- Massage strokes delivered to quickly may alarm the client and cause a tensioning reaction. Fast massage movements may also cause fatigue for the client.

- If the rate of the hand speed is to fast, the therapist cannot palpate and assess the soft tissues of the body

- Massage moves that are too slow may prevent the therapist from distinguishing ischemic tissue

-Rhythm and Continuity

An ordered repetition of strong and weak elements in the delivery of the massage strokes is rhythm. Rhythm is affected by excursion, speed and pressure. The basic rhythm of a massage should fit your client’s needs. The most favorable rhythm for massage depends on the intent of the massage: a slower, more fluid technique is relaxing. The concept of continuity in massage refers to the uninterrupted succession or flow of strokes and to the unbroken transition from one stroke to the next. It is more difficult for the client to relax when the massage lacks a smooth rhythm and continuity.


The length of time one spends on an area, or duration, may be difficult to determine. There are psychological components that affect duration, such as achieving a release in tight tissues.


A sequence is a succession of strokes. In a Swedish massage, the sequence is physiologically designed to increase circulation of blood and lymph by applying strokes to proximal areas first and then proceeding to the more distal areas: the strokes also progress from superficial to deep. The various strokes are not random but are specifically sequenced in order to prevent repetitive motion or injury to the therapist and to create physiological effect’s within the clients body.


The union of these elements, along with how the therapist’s body is positioned in space, results in a routine, which can be further broken down into its various massage movements, depending on the style of the massage. The delivery of these strokes may be adjusted through the use of pressure, depth, excursion, rhythm, continuity, duration and speed.

The perception of massage as something questionable has changed dramatically with the increase of well trained, licensed and certified massage therapy professionals. The public demand is driving the trend as the benefits of therapeutic massage are validated and become well known. In conclusion and as one would have found in this report massage therapy or body work is not only a service that feels good, however, it is also something that is beneficial for ones health mind and spirit.

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