Compression massage releases deep-held tension and helps promote softening and spreading muscles and fascia. For athletes and people with chronic pain.
Compression is an effective massage technique performed by laying hands over a muscle area and pushing down onto the tissues. Hands are then lifted and moved to a different area and then repeated. The pressure of compressions can range from light to very deep.
Generally, people use deep compression massage for either overall relaxation and well-being, or to address a specific complaint, such as pain or limited range of motion. Research suggests massage therapy may contribute to both goals.
- Physical relaxation
- Improved circulation, which nourishes cells and improves waste elimination
- Relief for tight muscles (knots) and other aches and pains
- Release of nerve compression (carpal tunnel, sciatica)
- Greater flexibility and range of motion
- Enhanced energy and vitality
- Some clinical styles may help heal scar tissue as well as tendon, ligament, and muscle tears
- What specific conditions can massage therapy help?
- Massage therapy may help the body in many ways. Massage can relax muscle tissue, which may lead to decreased nerve compression, increased joint space, and range of motion. This may lead to reduced pain and improved function.
Deep Compression Massage therapy will improve circulation, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells and helps remove waste products. These circulatory effects of massage may have great value in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or edema (an excessive accumulation of fluid in body tissues).
Deep Compression Massage therapy is also thought to induce a relaxation response, which lowers the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure; boosts the immune system, and generally decreases the physical effects of stress.
Barefoot Deep Tissue Bodywork
Barefoot Deep Tissue Massage, Barefoot Sports Massage, Barefoot Compression Massage, Ashiatsu… These are some of the terms used to describe a modality of bodywork where the therapist uses feet, sometimes knees, or body to apply pressure instead of hands. Barefoot Deep Tissue Bodywork is an amazing way to relax and feel better, recover from injuries, or see improved results for athletic training. Direct pressure is applied to the muscles to give slow, deep, and thorough compressions. Some of the benefits for the client are as follows:
- Hypertonic muscles soften and lengthen.
- Muscles are cleansed.
- Muscles receive more nutrients.
- Nerves fire faster.
- Muscle lesions heal faster.
- Stretching the muscle fibers increases circulation.
- The range of motion is increased.
- Trigger points are eliminated (Freedom of movement and range of motion are increased.)
- The recipient is brought into parasympathetic dominance.
- Releases endogenous morphemes and cannabinoids.
The definition of Sports Massage
“Sports massage is a form of bodywork geared toward
participants in athletics. It is used to help prevent
injuries, to prepare the body for athletic activity and
maintain it in optimal condition, and to help athletes
recover from workouts and injuries.
“The scientific manipulation and assessment of soft
tissue for the prevention of injuries and therapeutic
purposes, involving the restoration to normal functional
the activity of the various structures of the body, while
maintaining good physical condition and health, through
mobilizing and improving muscle tone, promoting
relaxation, stimulating circulation and producing
therapeutic effects on all systems of the body.
Sports massage can also give valuable information
about the athlete’s condition and the effects of their
training program. Regular sports massage can help
to avoid problems associated with overuse, so allowing
for extra training sessions without the risk of injury or
Sports massage is not necessarily an hour, but
is specific to a particular muscle group or for the
speedier rehabilitation of a muscle injury.
A person does not need to be a top-flight athlete
to gain from sports massage. Anyone who exercises
or seeks to improve their general physical fitness may
benefit from treatment – in particular, those who do so
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of gentle massage which is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph from the tissues space body. The lymph system depends on intrinsic contractions of the smooth muscle cells in the walls of lymph vessels (peristalsis) and the movement of skeletal muscles to propel lymph through the vessels to lymph nodes and then beyond the lymph nodes to the lymph ducts which return lymph to the cardiovascular system. Manual lymph drainage uses a specific amount of pressure (less than 9 ounces per square inch) and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate lymph flow. From Wikipedia
Compression, friction, and vibration are three classifications of massage strokes, or techniques that, when used, add a lot of variety as well as increased health benefits to the recipient. Depending on how they are defined, these techniques are considered by some to be sub-categories of effleurage, petrissage, or tapotement.
All massage strokes offer some degree of compression, whether one is working with a traditional Swedish massage or the various forms of Eastern bodywork, such as Shiatsu or Thai massage. Pressure can range from extremely light, such as manual lymphatic drainage massage, to very deep, as in deep tissue massage and certain sports massage procedures.
In massage schools, if taught as a separate technique, compression is often taught simply as a stationary laying on of hands or fingers with a slight pushing down on to the tissue, a lifting up of the hands, and then moving over and repeating. This might be used on the client’s back at the opening or closing of a massage session in conjunction with a slight rocking movement, which is meant to encourage the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
In addition to relaxation, effective use of compression has many physiological benefits, including an increase in circulation, reduction of edema, and releasing of adhesions. Light compression can be used on almost anybody under any circumstances. It can be used during traditional on-the-table massage, chair massage, or massage on floor mats, and can be used over the clothing. Lubricant is not needed for most compression techniques, as it is not typically a gliding stroke.
Friction is another technique in massage therapy that rarely requires the use of oils or crèmes to be effective. Because it is a focused stroke used in a small, localized area, usually no bigger than a 50-cent piece, the hands or fingers of the therapist need to maintain a certain amount of stability and consistent pressure to achieve maximum results.
There are two broad classifications of this technique, circular and transverse. In circular friction, the fingertips of the first two fingers and/or sometimes the thumb are used to create small circular movements. The fingers do not glide over the skin but, rather, press firmly on the skin, which then moves over the underlying tissue. Friction is a very effective way to break up adhesions, especially in areas such as the intercostal muscles, as well as the infraspinatus portion of the scapula.
In transverse friction, the tips and pads of the fingers are used and, if the pressure desired is to be deep, one hand may be placed over the other as reinforcement. As in circular friction, the fingers do not glide over the skin, but press down on it and move across underlying tissue. Instead of circular movements, the direction of transverse friction moves either at a 90-degree angle or, in some cases, slightly oblique to the muscle fibers.
Friction strokes should not be used in pregnant women. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is produced, which results in a softening of ligaments, tendons, and fascia. This can easily result in the dislocation of joints if certain friction techniques are used. Friction is also contraindicated over varicosities, active inflammation, skin infections, or recently strained muscles. While friction techniques are a great way to increase circulation locally, it can also act as an irritant and aggravate underlying conditions and must be used with care.
Vibration is probably the least used of massage techniques. Students are somewhat fearful of doing it, and performing it for a final exam is often the last time it is used. Done correctly, though, it is one of the most effective techniques for soothing irritated muscles. Vibration uses the tips of the fingers moving in a very rapid back and forth trembling movement on the skin with light pressure. The vibration originates in the forearm muscles of the therapist and moves down through the hands, creating a motion similar to shivering. It is used only for very short periods of time, anywhere from five to 20 seconds in a given spot, as it is extremely tiring for the therapist.
Using vibration helps stimulate circulation and promotes healthy glandular activity, improves lymphatic flow and muscle tone and, if used along with friction techniques, loosens scar tissue.
As with any massage technique, certain precautions or contraindications should be taken into consideration either prior to or during the session. If the technique applied produces pain, especially along nerves, the massage should be stopped as it could aggravate an existing pathology. Areas that are inflamed or have open wounds should be avoided, as should recent injury sites. Care should also be taken when working on a woman who is pregnant. If in doubt as to whether a certain technique can be used, check with the client’s physician or a more experienced massage therapist.
Each person offers a different landscape of skin, muscle, and bone. Opening your massage routine to different techniques helps to make your sessions more effective and shows clients you are giving them a therapeutic treatment tailored to their body. Varying your strokes to accommodate each client’s individuality is also a way of becoming more familiar with the art and science of the profession. It helps to increase your palpation skills and knowledge of anatomy as well. This, in turn, helps you to become a more proficient massage therapist.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.