The short answer is that massage is the “manual manipulation of soft tissue.” Soft tissue includes skin, muscle, tendon, fascia, and ligaments. The manipulation can be performed with hands, feet, knees, elbows, or massage tools. And you can do it to yourself or have someone else do it to you. There are many different kinds of massage and different ways to categorize them. One way to categorize the different forms of massage is by “intention” or “goal.” Using this criteria, Here are three types of massage:
“Relaxation” massage would include the type of pampering massage you might receive at a spa or salon, or the type you might give to your sweetie after a long day at work. The intention is to calm the mind, soothe the nerves, and physically relax the entire body. This type of massage could also be refered to as “full-body,” “Swedish,” or “fluff ‘n buff.”
“Corrective” massage has the intention of correcting a malfunction in the soft tissue that is causing pain or restriction of motion. For example: a knot, an adhesion, tendinitis, frozen shoulder, and many many many more examples. “Code” words to look for include “deep tissue,” “sports,” “clinical,” “orthopedic,” or “medical” massage. The pressure usually is very deep, but not always. The treatment session will not be a “full body” experience. This is the kind of massage that you want if you have a persistent knot, chronic pain, or want lasting relief from tension.
“Energetic” massage is intended to affect more than just the physical structures of the body. Examples include: Shiatsu and Reiki. Some forms of energy work involve no touch at all. Two examples are “Healing Touch” and medical Qi Gong. In the healing community, these forms fall under the heading of “bodywork” and not “massage.” However, if you intend to practice one of these modalities, your local government may still require that you have a massage license.
The intention of a “Sensual” massage is to arouse the senses. This might be the kind of massage you give your sweetie after a romantic date. This is also the kind that could get you arrested if you charge money for it. This category includes “erotic,” “tantric,” “date,” or a “happy ending” massage. Do NOT call me if you are looking for this kind of massage. “Asian” massage or “Thai” style have unfortunately become code words for an erotic experience. But there are legitimate forms of Asian and Thai massage.