Massage Terminology

Massage Dictionary

Communication between Massage Therapist and Client is key. Learn more about massage therapy terminology to aid in conversations about your personal wellness.

Abduction: Movement away from the median plane.

Absolute Contraindication: Factor or condition for which receiving massage would put the therapist or the client at health risk or the client’s condition could be made worse.

Active Trigger Point: Trigger point that causes symptoms such as pain, even at rest.

Acute Pain: Normal, predicted physiologic response to an adverse stimulus, often trauma; the affected area may be inflamed.

Adduction: Movement towards the median plane.

Adhesion: Abnormal tissue that can restrict the normal movement between tissues, limiting the strength and motion of the body.

Amma: Ancient Chinese style of massage that could be regarded as the original massage techniques and the precursor to all other therapies-manual and energetic.

Analgesics: Agents that reduce pain.

Anatomic Position: Standard body position used in Western medicine, with the body upright and facing forward, arms at the sides, palms facing forward, thumbs to the side, feet about hip distance apart, and toes pointing forward.

Antagonist: Muscle that must relax and lengthen or eccentrically contract and lengthen to allow actions of the agonist to occur.

Aponeurosis: Broad, flat tendon; attaches skeletal muscle to bone, another muscle, or skin.

Artery: Vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the tissues of the body.

Asian Bodywork Therapies: The use of traditional Asian techniques and strategies to treat the human body, mind, and spirit (this includes the electromagnetic or energetic fields that surround, infuse, an bring that body to life.

Ayurveda: India’s traditional healing modality; a science of health and medicine designed to maintain or improve health through the use of dietary modification, massage, yoga, and herbal preparations.

Bodywork: Generic term used to describe any therapeutic or personal self-development practice that may include massage, healing touch, movement, or energetic work.

Boundary: Parameter indicating a border or limit; delineates differences between clients and massage therapists: clarifies each person’s roll in the therapeutic relationship such as individual responsibilities, expectations, and limitations.

Brachial: Relating to the part of the arm between the shoulder and the elbow.

Burnout: The condition of being tired of, or unhappy with, one’s work.

Carrier Oil: Oil used to dilute and suspend one or more essential oils.

Cautionary Site: Certain area of the body containing structures that, when massaged, may negatively impact the client’s health; also called Endangerment Sites.

Centeredness: Mental, emotional, and physical states of consciousness in which the mind is cleared and he or she is experiencing the present moment; may also include feeling the presence o God, nature, or a higher power and feeling like being part of a larger whole.

Cerebrospinal Fluid: Fluid circulating around the brain and spinal cord; supplies oxygen and nutrients, carries away wastes, ad acts as a shock absorber.

Chakras: In Ayurveda, seven energy centers in the body that receive, process, and distribute energy, and keep the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health of the body in balance.

Channels: In traditional Chinese medicine, pathways an vessels through which chi (ki) flows; the connection of the material body to the nonmaterial part of the body; channels distribute, balance, and connect the chi (ki) of the interior organs with the surface or exterior of the body (also called meridians.)

Chronic Pain: Pain that persists for a longer period of time than expected for the condition.

Clinical Massage: Involves the use of specific focused techniques that, when applied properly, reduce reported signs and symptoms and improve function.

Communication: Act of exchanging information through words, actions, behaviors, body language, and feelings.

Confidentiality: Nondisclosure of privileged information.

Connective Tissue: Tissue that is the most abundant and diverse; connects, supports, transports, and defends.

Contraindication: Presence of a disease or physical condition that makes it unsafe to treat a particular client in the usual manner.

Crepitus: Noisy discharge produced by the body that may resemble a crack or crackling sound.

Cryokinetics: Cold Therapy combined with joint movement.

Cryotherapy: External therapeutic  application of cold.

Cupping: In Asian bodywork therapy, a method in which a warmed cup is placed upside down directly on the skin, creating a vacuum that suctions the skin to relieve energy stagnation.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: soreness felt 8 to 14 hours after activity, often reaching a peak after 48 hours.

Diet: Food and drink consumed to supply the processes of nutrition.

Disclosure: Honest an open sharing of personal knowledge as well as ideas and insights.

Disease: Illness characterized by signs and symptoms.

Disorder: A condition of functional abnormality.

Documentation: Process of providing written or digitized information of client care.

Draping: Covering the body with cloth to provide a professional atmosphere, support the client’s need for emotional privacy, (modesty) and sense of security, and provide warmth, while lowing access to individual parts of the client’s body.

Edema: Abnormal accumulation of fluids in body tissue.

Effleurage: Application of gliding movements that are repeated and follow the contours of the body.

Elevation: Raising or lifting a body part; moving superiorly.

Endomysium: Connective tissue  layer that surrounds individual muscle fibers.

Epimysium: Connective tissue layer surrounding an entire muscle.

Essential Oil: Concentrated essence of one of more aromatic plants.

Extension: Straightening or increasing the angle of a joint.

Fascia: A type of connective tissue; superficial fascia is immediately deep to the skin, and deep fascia surrounds muscles, holds them together, and separates them into functioning groups.

Five Phases: In traditional Chinese medicine, the dynamic state of chi (ki) expressed as earth, wood, fire, metal, and water; also known as the five elements.

Flexion: Bending or decreasing the angle of a joint.

Fomentation Pack: Hot Pack.

Frequency: In massage, the rate at which massage strokes are repeated in a given time frame.

Fu: In traditional Chinese medicine, refers to the yang, more hollow organs such as the small intestines, gallbladder, large intestine, bladder, triple heater, and stomach.

Gait: The manner in which a person moved on foot, such as in walking or running.

Gel State: Thick, gelatinous state of the ground substance in fascia.

Gluteal (buttock); Relating to the curve of the buttocks formed by the gluteal muscles.

Health: Condition of physical, mental, and social well-being with the absence of disease.

Homeostasis: Constancy of the body’s internal environment; it represents a relatively stable condition within a very limited range.

Hydrotherapy: Internal and external therapeutic use of water and complementary agents.

Ice Massage: Ice applied using circular friction.

Immediate Muscle Soreness: Experienced during or shortly after exercise or actively, disappearing as soon as the person has rested and blood flow returns to normal.

Inflammation: Protective mechanism in response to tissue damage that serves to stabilize the injured area, contain infection, and initiate the healing process for damaged tissue.

Informed Consent: Permission from a client to accept treatment after he or she has been informed of the risks, benefits, and consequences of the techniques and procedures.

Intake Form: Form filled out by the client before the first massage session; includes the client’s personal information and contact information, as well as health and medical histories; also called a health questionnaire.

Intention: In massage, a consciously sought goal that defines the purpose of the session.

Intersubjectivity: Nonverbal communication between two people.

Jump Sign: Spontaneous reaction of pain or discomfort that causes a client to wince, jump, or verbalize at the application of pressure.

KI: In Japanese, the energy or life force that creates and binds together all things and phenomena existing in the universe; this includes everything that manifests physically in nature and in the human body, as well as the emotions, thoughts, and spirit.

Kinesiology: Study of human motion.

Kyo: Japanese term that means empty, yin, depleted, or not enough ki.

Latent Trigger Point: Trigger point that does not cause referred pain or other sensations until direct pressure is applied.

Lateral: Oriented father away from the midline of the body.

Lateral Deviation: Side-to-side movement in the transverse plane.

Lesion: Any noticeable or measurable deviation from normal healthy tissue.

Liniment: Not really a lubricant; used as an analgesic and to create the sensation of heat and sometimes cold.

Liver: Organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdominal cavity; largest and most complex internal organ; filters toxins, produces bile, metabolizes nutrients, and produces plasma proteins.

Local Contraindication: A situation in which massage can be administered safely while avoiding an area of the body.

Local Disease: Disease affecting only one area of the body, such as a foot fungus.

Local Twitch Response: Reflexive impulse that causes the affected muscle or an adjacent muscle to fire or twitch spontaneously; characteristic of trigger points.