AskDefine | Define massage

Dictionary Definition

massage n : kneading and rubbing parts of the body to increase circulation and promote relaxation


1 manually manipulate (someone's body), usually for medicinal or relaxation purposes; "She rubbed down her child with a sponge" [syn: rub down, knead]
2 give a massage to; "She massaged his sore back"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Massage



From massage, from masser + -age.


(US) IPA: /məˈsɑʒ/


  1. the action of rubbing or kneading someone's body, to help the person relax or to relieve aches


  • Greek: (χειρο)μαλάσσω, εντρίβω
  • Catalan: massatge
  • Dutch: massage
  • Finnish: hieronta
  • French: massage
  • Italian: massaggio
  • Japanese: マッサージ
  • German: Massage
  • Kurdish: gemirandin, perixandin, mistdan, masaj
  • Spanish: masaje


  1. To rub and knead (someone's body or a part of a body), to perform a massage on (somebody).
  2. To manipulate (data or a document) to make it more presentable or more convenient to work with.
    • 2008, Patrick Wintour & Steven Morris, The Guardian, May 22 2008, p. 3:
      The Conservatives have massaged expectations down by saying they would be delighted with a majority of 1,000 [...]
  3. To falsify (data or accounts).


to perform a massage on somebody
  • German: massieren
  • Japanese: マッサージする
to manipulate data or a document
to falsify data or accounts



masser + -age


massage m
  1. massage

Extensive Definition

Massage This article is part of the branches of CAM series. Complementary and alternative medicine Classifications NCCAM:Manipulative and body-based methods Modality:Professionalized
Massage is the treatment and practice of manipulation of the soft body tissues with physical, functional, i.e. mechanical, medical/therapeutic, and in some cases psychological purposes and goals. The word comes from the French massage "friction of kneading," possibly from Arabic massa "to touch, feel, handle" or from Latin massa "mass, dough". (In distinction the ancient Greek word for massage itself was anatripsis , and the Latin was frictio.)
Massage involves acting and manipulating the patient's body with pressure (structured, unstructured, stationary, and/or moving), tension, motion, or vibration done manually or with mechanical aids. Target tissues may include muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, joints, or other connective tissue, as well as lymphatic vessels, and/or organs of the gastrointestinal system. Massage can be applied with the hands, fingers, elbows, forearm, and feet. There are over eighty different massage modalities. The most cited reasons for introducing massage was patient demand and perceived clinical effectiveness.
In professional settings, massage involves the client being treated while lying on a massage table, sitting upright in a massage chair, or lying on a pad on the floor. Except for modalities such as Acupressure, Shiatsu, Tui Na, Thai Massage, or Barefoot Deep Tissue, the massage subject is generally unclothed or partially unclothed, also referred to as disrobed, and their body would be "draped" with towels or sheets.


Ancient and medieval times

Writings on massage have been found in many ancient civilizations such as Rome, Greece, Japan, China, Egypt, and India. The ancient Chinese book called Huangdi Neijing by the Yellow Emperor recommended "massage of skin and flesh." The technique of massage abortion, involving the application of pressure to the pregnant abdomen, has been practiced in Southeast Asia for centuries. One of the bas reliefs decorating the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, dated circa 1150, depicts a demon performing such an abortion upon a woman who has been sent to the underworld. This is believed to be the oldest known visual representation of abortion. In Romania some illnesses were treated by a massage in which the patient was treaded on by a tame bear..

Modern times

United States: Massage started to become popular in the United States in the middle part of the 1800s
Because it is illegal to advertise or offer sexual services in most of the United States, such services are sometimes advertised as "massage".
United Kingdom: Massage is popular in the United Kingdom today and gaining. There are many private practitioners working from their own premises as well as those who operate from commercial venues.
Massage in sports, business and organizations: The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta was the first time that massage was offered as a core medical service.


Massage Table

A typical commercial massage table has an easily cleaned, heavily padded surface, and a horseshoe-shaped head support that allows the client to breathe easily while lying face down and can be stationary or portable. An orthopedic pillow or bolster can be used to correct body positioning.

Massage Chair

Ergonomically designed massage chairs for positioning a person who will be receiving a massage, serve a similar function as a massage table. Chairs may be either stationary or portable models.
Massage chairs are easier for the practitioner to transport than massage tables, and clients do not need to disrobe to receive a chair massage. Due to these two factors, chair massage is often performed in settings such as corporate offices, outdoor festivals, shopping malls, and other public locations.


Many different types of oils can be used including fractionated coconut oil, grape seed oil, macadamia oil, sesame oil, pecan oil, and mustard oil. Arnica, from the flowers or leaves of the Arnica montana, may be added olive oil when used medicinally, or almond oil when used as a massage oil. Aromatherapy oils such as neroli oil and pine oil can also be mixed with carrier oils.

Mechanical aids

Electronic massage chairs are commercially available, which operate without any manual help. Lexus cars of the fourth generation LS include shiatsu and shoulder massage systems.

Massage methods

Different specialized massage methods sorted in alphabetical order.
Massage can be performed by a professional Massage Practitioner, or by other health care professionals, such as chiropractors, osteopaths, athletic trainers, and/or physical therapists. Massage therapists work in hospitals as allied health professioners, in nursing homes, sports and fitness facilities, spas, beauty salons, cruise ships, private offices, and travel to private residences or businesses.


Breema bodywork is performed on the floor with the recipient fully clothed. It consists of rhythmical and gentle leans and stretches. There are also self-Breema exercises. The essence of Breema is expressed in the Nine Principles of Harmony.

Cachunga Massage- Traditional Persian Massage

Cachunga/Ka-khn-ga (Pronunciation) Introduced to the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia by Darius the 8th. This is a massage that primarily focuses on the breasts of females. Cachunga is a deep tissue massage used with oil. It is based on a fondling motion, and is usually performed in the direction of the heart to promote circulation.

Chair massage

"Seated massage" (also refereed to as chair-massage), is done in a variety of diverse settings, e.g., business,corporate and clinical settings, and in public areas such as airports, shopping centers, sport clubs, and salons. A seated-massage typically lasts 10-30 minutes, and is performed while fully clothed. Seated massage is an excellent technique to use for working on the neck, shoulders and upper back areas of the body. Due to the way the individual is positioned, seated massage allows the therapist to work with the force of gravity while doing a treatment.


Champissage or (Indian head massage) has been used in India for centuries. It combines massage with the more subtle form of chakra balancing. It is normally done by applying oil over the body. Also called 'champi' or Maalis. The word shampoo in English usage dates back to 1762, with the meaning "to massage". The word was a loan from Anglo-Indian shampoo, in turn from Hindi chāmpo (चाँपो /tʃãːpoː/), imperative of chāmpnā (चाँपना /tʃãːpnaː/), "to smear, knead the muscles, massage". It itself comes from Sanskrit/Hindi word "champā" (चम्पा /tʃəmpaː/), the flowers of the plant Michelia champaca which have traditionally been used to make fragrant hair-oil. It is often performed by the barber after a haircut on the head, shoulders, arms, and neck.
The term and service was introduced by a Bengali entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed, who opened a shampooing bath known as 'Mahomed's Indian Vapour Baths' in Brighton, England in 1759.

Craniosacral therapy

Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating the functioning of the craniosacral system, and is often mistakenly referred to as a type of massage. It works through using the body's own self-correcting mechanisms rather than the application of physical force from the practitioner. When used by a massage practitioner, craniosacral therapy can usefully complement the massage treatment,

Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue techniques are generally designed for more focused massage work. Working a specific joint, muscle or muscle group, the practitioner can access deeper layers of the soft tissue. Starting superficially and easing into the depth of the muscle slowly often allows more movement. If the pressure is applied too deeply or too quickly, the muscle may tighten to protect that area, and unnecessary damage or inflammation can be induced. Very little lubricant is used as the pressure doesn't travel much over the skin.
The most commonly used 'tools' during deep tissue massage may include, 3 and 6 fingers, reinforced fingers, knuckles, a flat elbow, opposing thumbs, the heel of the hand or foot, and the forearm. Deep tissue is similar to Myofascial Release.
Deep muscle therapy was created by Therese Pfrimmer of Canada.

Horstmann technique

Practical technique that works by initially balancing the "energy field" and then holding on special energy points while mobilising limbs.

Esalen Massage

Esalen Massage was developed by Charlotte Selver and works with gentle rocking of the body, passive joint exercises and deep structural work on the muscles and joints, together with an energetic balancing of the body.

Infant massage

Shantala massage is an ancient Indian massage technique with a rhythmic character, given to massage babies and children. It was introduced into Western society by Dr. Frederique Leboyer, a French obstetrician.


Lomilomi is the traditional massage of Hawaii. As an indigenous practice, it varies by island and by family. The styles most known today are those of Auntie Margaret Machado of the island of Hawaii, Uncle Kalua Kaiahua of Maui and Oahu, and Kahu Abraham Kawaii of Kaua'i, who called his style Kahuna Bodywork. Other names given to massage performed in Hawaii are temple style, lomi lomi, lomi lomi nui, romi kapa rere, romi romi and ma-uri. Some of these styles may be traditional, and others may have been influenced by or created in modern times. The purported Lomilomi massage given by Barbra Streisand to Robert De Niro in "Meet the Fockers" was not an accurate representation of the style.

Medical massage

Massage used in the medical field includes Manual lymphatic drainage used for lymphedema However, it is less effective than pharmaceutical management of SVT with verapamil or adenosine.

Myofascial release

Myofascial release refers to the manual massage technique for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia, integument, and muscles with the goal of eliminating pain, increasing range of motion and equilibrioception. Injuries, stress, trauma, overuse and poor posture can cause restriction to fascia. This is usually done by applying shear compression or tension in various directions, or by skin rolling. Myofascial release originators come from Physical Therapy and from Structural Integration (Rolfing); its current developers include John Barnes, Art Riggs, Michael Stanborough, Tom Myers, Til Luchau and Michael Leahy, the originator of a complete regime called Active Release Technique or ART.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and myofacial techniques are believed to lengthen tight/facilitated muscles while fiber activation techniques are believed tone weak/inhibited muscles.

Neuromuscular therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) is used for pain relief. Perceived imbalances in Human position are assessed initially through a postural assessment. These are then addressed through systematic and site specific massage. NMT was developed in the 1930s by Dr. Stanley Leif, current practitioners include Paul St. John.

Nihon Kaifuku Anma - Traditional Japanese massage

Introduced to Japan about 1300 years ago. Anma is deep tissue work using no oils and is based on kneading movements. Shiatsu massage grew out of this rich tradition.

Pregnancy massage

Doulas will often use massage in an attempt to smooth the labor process.

Reflexology massage

Reflexology, also called Foot zone therapy, is traditionally practiced without lotion, as the pressure points on the feet are stimulated by thumb and finger walking, as well as static pressure. Foot massage practitioners believe that the ailment of an internal organ will be associated with the nerve ending on the sole of the foot. As pressure is applied to the sole, theory holds that a healthy patient should not feel any strong pain. This theory is based on a perceived energetic flow of "meridians" in the body, also known as Chi.
Before the massage, the patient's feet are soaked for about ten minutes in a foot bath, typically a solution of hot water and Chinese herbs. The practitioner rubs and massages the painful spots to break down rough spots and accumulated crystals which have not been scientifically researched. Based on this idea, some shoe liners are made with pressure points to stimulate the soles of the feet.


Shiatsu (指圧) is a form of Japanese massage that uses thumb pressure and works along the same energy meridians as acupressure and incorporates stretching. While receiving Shiatsu, you are fully clothed while laying on a mat on the floor.

Soft tissue therapy

Treatment techniques include trigger point therapy, myofascial Release, friction for adhesions between fascial layers and muscles. Sustained finger pressure to alleviate hypertonic, or tight, areas within muscle and fascia, active Release therapies, and deep tissue massage are all derivatives of soft tissue therapy. Different types of stretching such as static stretching, dynamic stretching, and/or PNF stretching (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation).
Another form of Soft tissue therapy is Muscle energy technique (MET) which uses reciprocal inhibition (RI) which is when the therapist uses a client’s muscle to stretch the opposing muscle. The therapist takes the muscle that they are wishing to stretch to its full range of motion. The therapist then gets the client to use the opposing muscle by moving away from the therapist. When the client relaxes the therapist then moves the muscle in an attempt to realign the muscle fibers.

Sports massage

A Sports Massage can be described as massage that has derived from the Swedish style massage specifically to treat sporting injuries and sports persons, pre and post-event. The same techniques of effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement, compression, and vibration are employed; however, the movements are often reinforced, which makes the effect much deeper, and are usually targeted towards specific muscles and tissues to treat them in isolation, as well as holistically. A Sports Massage may involve treating the entire body, as part of a training routine, or more usually a specific area is treated due to a particular muscle strain or injury. Due to the nature of various sports and athletic pursuits, clients may attend for treatment with recent injuries. Direct pressure over the injury site is specifically contra-indicated for 48-72 hours after the occurrence; this over and above the standard massage contra-indications.
Neuro Muscular Technique (NMT) and Muscle Energy Technique (MET) are often used by the Sports Massage Therapist to treat high degrees of tension or 'knotting' of specific muscles. These techniques are extremely useful in relaxing the muscles sufficiently to allow the therapist perform a more standard massage routine.

Stone massage

Heated stones were used by Egyptians, Native Americans and in Lomilomi massage. Smooth hot or cold stones, usually basalt or marble, are used to massage the body. When heated stones are used, muscles relax, allowing the massage therapist to work deeper into the muscle. Energy medicine is sometimes incorporated into stone massage. Stones are heated in hot water and are placed under the back, along both sides of the spine, and on top of the torso and are believed to heat the chakra or meridians centers. Heated stones coated in oil are then used directly in the hands of the therapist delivering various massaging strokes.

Structural Integration

Rolfing, a method of Structural Integration, works with realigning the body structurally and human gait.

Swedish massage

This style utilizes long, flowing strokes, often but not necessarily in the direction of the heart. There are six basic strokes: effleurage from the French effleurer, 'to skim over', petrissage from the French pétrir, 'to knead', friction, tapotement, compression, and vibration. Petrissage is a kneading movement with the whole palm or finger tips, using wringing, skin rolling, compression, and/or lifting. Petrissage is usually applied vertically to the muscle tissue. Oil, cream, or lotion is applied on the skin to reduce friction and allow smooth strokes. Effleurage consists of long, flowing or gliding strokes, performed with open hands. In many massage sessions, effleurage is used as the initial type of stroking, as it has a calming effect when performed slowly. Swedish massage has shown to be helpful in reducing pain, joint stiffness, and improving function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee over a period of eight weeks.


This style of massage is generally attributed to the Swedish fencing master and gymnastics teacher Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839). However, it was in fact the Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes. The term Swedish Movement System was transposed to Swedish Massage System sometime during the second half of the 19th century. Ling’s system was the Swedish Movement System or Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. This may be how he has become incorrectly associated for so long with Swedish massage.

Tai Ji/Tai Chi massage

This massage uses the natural principles of Yin and Yang to achieve balance in the energies of the body. Practitioners of Tai Ji believe that it uses Tao and deals with Qi blockages.

Thai massage

Known in Thailand as นวดแผนโบราณ (Nuat phaen boran, IPA [nuɑt pʰɛn boraːn]), meaning "ancient/traditional massage", Thai massage is also known as Thai ancient massage, traditional Thai massage, Thai yoga massage, yoga massage, Thai classical massage, Thai bodywork, passive yoga or assisted yoga. Thai massage originated in India based and is based on Ayurveda and yoga, thereafter becoming popular in ancient Siam, now known as Thailand. It was believed that the massage art was brought over to Thailand by Shivago Komarpaj (Jivaka Kumarabhacca), a contemporary of Gautama Buddha over 2500 years ago. The receiver is put into many yoga like positions during the course of the massage. In the northern style based out of Chiang Mai, Thailand there is a lot of stretching movements, unlike the southern style where acupressure is emphasized.
The massage recipient changes into loose, comfortable clothes and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. (It can be done solo or in a group of a dozen or so patients in the same large room.) The massage practitioner leans on the recipient's body using hands and usually straight forearms locked at the elbow to apply firm rhythmic pressure. The massage generally follows the Sen lines on the body — somewhat analogous to meridians or Channel (Chinese medicine) and Indian nadis. Legs and feet of the giver can be used to fixate the body or limbs of the recipient. In other styles, hands fixate the body, while the feet do the massaging action. Oil is not used in traditional Thai Massage. A full Thai massage session typically lasts two hours or more, and includes rhythmic pressing and stretching of the entire body; this may include pulling fingers, toes, ears, cracking the knuckles, walking on the recipient's back, and arching the recipient's into bhujangasana or (cobra position). There is a standard procedure and rhythm to this massage. In Thailand a two hour massage might cost around 300 Thai baht (US $8 in 2005) depending on location (it may cost ten times more inside a five star hotel).
Note: The traditional therapeutic practice of Thai massage should not be confused with the sexual service of the same name that is available in some hotels and brothels. Sometimes the traditional therapeutic Thai Massage, or ancient massage, is referred to as "old lady massage", while the sexual practice, which has nothing to do with therapeutic traditional massage is called "young lady massage".

Traditional Chinese massage

Tui Na (推拿) focusing on pushing, stretching and kneading the muscle. Zhi Ya (指壓) is similar to Tui Na massage except it focuses more on pinching and pressing at acupressure points. They are both based on principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Trager Approach

The Trager Approach combines movement, massage and education.

Trigger point therapy

This can also be called pressure point massage.


Watsu is the combination of hydrotherapy and Shiatsu developed by Harold Dull in his time spent at Harbin Hot Springs near Middletown, California, USA. The work is done in skin temperature water with both the therapist and practitioner in the water, usually a pool which is between 3.5 ft to 4 ft. (100–120 cm) deep. The work entails much movement in the water and practitioners believe that it incorporates the activation of the energy lines derived from Shiatsu.

Associated methods

Many types of practices are associated with massage and include Bodywork (alternative medicine), manual therapy, energy medicine, and breathwork. Other names for massage and related practices include hands-on work, body/somatic therapy, and somatic movement education. Body-mind integration techniques stress self-awareness and movement over physical manipulations by a practitioner. Therapies related to movement awareness/education are closer to Dance and movement therapies. Massage can also have connections with the New Age movement and alternative medicine as well as being used by mainstream medical practitioners.

Beneficial effects

Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state anxiety. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject. This study, however, did not include a no treatment or placebo control group so these effect may be due to the placebo effect or regression towards the mean. Massage can also relieve tension headaches. Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain. However, a meta-study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign failed to find a statistically significant reduction in pain immediately following treatment.
State anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce state anxiety, a transient measure of anxiety in a given situation. by increasing peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs). However, this immune system effect is only observed in aromatherapy massage, which includes sweet almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil, and sweet marjoram oil. It is unclear whether this effect persists over the long term.

Multiple dose effects

Pain relief: When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain. Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment. The researchers warn that these results should "be viewed with caution until a double-blind controlled trial can be conducted".
Massage has been used in an effort to improve symptoms, disease progression, and quality of life in HIV patients, however, this treatment is not scientifically supported.


In the USA there are about 90,000 massage therapists. There are around 1,300 programs training massage therapists in the country and study will often include anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, massage techniques, first aid and CPR, business, ethical and legal issues, and hands on practice along with continuing education requirements if regulated. In the US, 32 states use the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's certification program as a basis for granting licenses either by rule or statute. The National Board grants the designation Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB). There are two tests available and you can become certified through a porfolio process if you have equivalent training and experience. Between 10-20% of towns or counties regulate the profession. These local regulations can range from prohibition on opposite sex massage, fingerprinting and venereal checks from a doctor, to prohibition on house calls because of concern reguarding sale of sexual services.
In the USA licensure is the highest level of regulation and this restricts anyone without a license from practicing massage therapy or by calling themselves that protected title. Certification allows only those who meet certain educational criteria to use the protected title and registration only requires a listing of therapists who apply and meet an educational requirement. they are British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador. , this trend was started by Andrew Weil. There were 15,500 spas in the United States in 2007 with about a third of the visitors being men.

Prevalence in Asia

In Asia, bathroom attendants may provide a hot face towel and a massage.

Notable practitioners

Heinrich Himmler, commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany might have lost faith in German victory due to his discussions with his masseurs Felix Kersten and Walter Schellenberg. Albert Bedane (1893–1980) who provided shelter to a Jewish woman and others during World War II was a massage/physiotherapist.
massage in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Масаж
massage in Czech: Masáž
massage in Danish: Massage
massage in German: Massage
massage in Spanish: Masaje
massage in Esperanto: Masaĝo
massage in French: Massage
massage in Indonesian: Urut
massage in Italian: Massoterapia
massage in Hebrew: עיסוי
massage in Lithuanian: Masažas
massage in Malay (macrolanguage): Urut
massage in Dutch: Massage
massage in Japanese: マッサージ
massage in Norwegian: Massasje
massage in Polish: Masaż
massage in Portuguese: Massagem
massage in Russian: Массаж
massage in Slovak: Masáž
massage in Finnish: Hieronta
massage in Swedish: Massage
massage in Ukrainian: Масаж
massage in Yiddish: מאסאזש
massage in Chinese: 按摩

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bandage, bathe, care for, caress, cure, cushion, diagnose, doctor, ease, facial, facial massage, feel up, fiddle, finagle, fluff, flux, fondle, frictionize, gentle, give care to, handle, heal, knead, kneading, laxate, limber, limber up, loosen, manipulate, manipulation, mash, massaging, massotherapy, mellow, milden, minister to, mollify, nose, nurse, nuzzle, operate on, palpate, pet, physic, plaster, plump, poultice, pulp, purge, relax, remedy, rub, rub against, rub down, rub noses, rubdown, shake up, smash, soften, soften up, splint, squash, strap, stroke, stroking, subdue, supple, tenderize, tone down, treat, tune down, vibrator, whirlpool bath
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