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Massage therapy is manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) to enhance a person’s health and well-being. There are dozens of types of massage therapy methods (also called modalities).


People seek massage therapy for a variety of reasons – to reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles, rehabilitate injuries, reduce pain, and promote overall health and wellness. At Northwestern, you are not simply going to a massage school - you are studying to be a healthcare professional who provides massage therapy.


Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health.  When you inhale essential oil molecules, messages are transmitted to the limbic system and affect heart rate, stress level, blood pressure, breathing, memory, digestion, and the immune system.  Essential oils are also believed to be absorbed through the skin.  Each essential oil has different healing properties, for example:  lavender for calming – ylang ylang for uplifting, rosemary for energizing, etc.


Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to conditions involving stress or improving emotionally-related conditions such as stress and stress-related conditions such as insomnia, headache, digestive disorders, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and back pain.


An ancient Hawaiian energy-based massage technique used by the kahunas (Hawaiian native healers), in which deep muscles are rigorously manipulated to interrupt muscle spasms, coupled with cross-fibre friction and strokes directed away from the heart; a specially carved stick may be used for massaging deeper tissues. Lomilomi massage is believed to be useful for chronic stress and tension, musculoskeletal disease and for increasing local blood and lymphatic circulation.


This 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.


Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.


Swedish massage therapy is the modality that is given to our client with the goal to relax the entire body by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart.  It is also beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.


Sports massage therapy is geared toward athletes of every kind.  It can be aimed to help heal strained muscles and allow healthy ones to reach peak performance and maintain it while minimizing the risk of injury.  It focuses on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive and often aggressive movements.  The main purpose is to help alleviate the stress and tension which builds up in the body’s soft tissues during physical activity.  Sports massage can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, increase blood circulation and lymph flow, reduce muscle tension, improve flexibility, and relieve pain.


The therapy is similar to Swedish massage, but the deeper pressure is beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension. The focus is on the deepest layers of muscle tissue, tendons and fascia (the protective layer surrounding muscles, bones and joints).


A specialty massage where we use smooth, heated stones, either as an extension of our own hands, or by placing them on your body while massaging other parts of the body. The heat can be both deeply relaxing and help warm up tight muscles so we can work more deeply, more quickly. A hot stone massage takes a lot of skill and sensitivity on the part of the therapist.  The warmth of the hot stones improves circulation and calms the nervous system.  Hot stone massage is suited to people who tend to feel chilly or who have cold feet. It's also suited for people who have muscle tension but prefer a lighter massage. The heat relaxes muscles, allowing the therapist to work the muscles without using deep pressure.  People also get hot stone massage for a variety of health conditions: back pain and aches, poor circulation, arthritis, osteoarthritis, stress, anxiety and tension, insomnia, depression.


Pregnancy massage, also known as pre-natal massage, promotes relaxation, soothes nerves, and relieves strained back and leg muscles in expectant mothers. Pregnancy massage is especially beneficial in the second and third trimesters, when the extra weight in your belly puts a strain on your back. It's a popular complementary therapy when choices for pain relief, such as medication, are often limited.   Pregnancy massage has been found to reduce stress, decrease swelling in the arms and legs, and relieve aches and pains in muscles and joints.  Not only can massage be physically beneficial, but the human touch can be comforting and provide emotional support during pregnancy.


A system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body. This treatment method can be effective for back pain, migraines, infertility, arthritis, anxiety, asthma, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, headaches, kidney function, PMS, sinusitis,  and many other problems.


A form of therapy of Japanese origin based on the same principles as acupuncture, in which pressure is applied to certain points on the body using the hands.  Shiatsu therapists use finger and palm pressure to energetic pathways, called meridians to improve the flow of qi.  A scientific explanation is that shiatsu calms an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which improves circulation, relieves stiff muscles, and alleviates stresss.


A trigger point is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body.  Trigger points can occur as a result of muscle trauma (from car accidents, falls, sports- and work-related injuries, etc.), muscle strain from repetitive movements at work or play, postural strain from standing or sitting improperly for long periods at the computer, emotional stress, anxiety, allergies, nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and toxins in the environment.   The therapist will locate and deactivate them using finger pressure.  It takes time to get a muscle in that hyper-irritable condition, and it will likely take more than one massage to get rid of it.  These points are often areas of chronic "holding" and you need to learn how to move in different ways to keep them from recurring.  A single event can initiate a trigger point, and you can suffer the effects for the rest of your life if that trigger point is not addressed properly. The therapy may be a little uncomfortable.

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