Glossary of Massage Terms

Category: Massage Posted: 14 Aug 2018

Posted: 14 Aug 2018

Check out our glossary of massage terms to understand what it all means

It is easy for us to use certain words without realising that some of those terms may not be widely understood by the general public. The list of terms below sheds some light on popular terms used in the world of massage. There are of course also many different types of massage therapy - however this list deals with general terms rather than treatment styles.

Main Massage Terms Explained



Combo Massage

A Combo Massage is when two distinct styles of massage therapy are brought together into one session. Importantly, it is not simply one style of treatment followed by another (for example 45 minutes of Swedish massage followed by 15 minutes of Reflexology) but more so an effective and integrated combination of two techniques, such as an oil-based combination Swedish Thai massage.


A tapotement technique in which your practitioner will form a cup shape with her hands and lightly but quickly 'drum' over the target area of your body without the centre of her palm touching your body. When performed correctly it is an excellent stimulator for the body.


One of the most well-known massage movements, effleurage is probably the first technique learned by most therapists. Using the base of the palms, the massage therapist glides her hands over your skin, applying a little pressure as they go. The move should be flowing and smooth and some therapists combine it with Rolling.

Energy Healing

As well as anatomy and physiology based massage techniques, there are many thousands of practitioners who believe in energy based healing. This type of therapy centres on the belief that our bodies comprise energy lines (meridians and chakras) and achieving a good state of health and wellbeing requires not only balance in the physical aspects but also spiritual alignment.


A term that appears to have developed from Western visitors to the Far East, where the provision of non-massage related sexual services after a massage treatment was often described as "extras". As explained in our Frequently Asked Questions, professional massage therapy has no place for extras but it is indeed a source for repeated frustration and even some amusement for the more experienced and confident therapists who work in the industry.


Fascia is defined as a network of fine connective tissue that binds together your internal organs and holds it all together. Fascia exists immediately underneath your skin, around each of your muscles and around each of your organs. When you feel tense in your body, it could be muscle tension or it could be a tense facia. Massage can help release tension in both areas. Myofascial release is the therapy technique most commonly used to release fascia tension.


An often-used term to describe a massage treatment that will cover the whole body from head to toe. Our Focus Man defines those various areas and allows the recipient to choose which parts they would like more time on.


Another Tapotement technique, in this one the therapist's hands are stretched out like a karate position and the target area of the recipient's body is 'chopped' or 'hacked' with the sides of the hands. This is usually done in short sharp bursts and can be invigorating. The best style of hacking is where the therapist keeps their fingers apart whilst lifting their hands with the fingers coming together as the hand makes contact. In this way it feels like a fan is tapping against your body. Like other Tapotement moves, this is applied only to fleshy parts of the body.

Holistic Massage

The concept of treating the body as a whole, including anatomy, physiology with psychology and spirituality.


One of the most popular Pettrisage movements, kneading is just like the word sounds – think of a baker making bread. Put simply, it is a rotating motion in which soft tissue is lifted, squeezed and then compressed back into their original places. It is repeated until the therapist feels the soft tissue beginning to relax.

Massage Therapist

A trained individual who performs massage therapy treatments as a profession. The term is asexual.


A male Massage Therapist.


A female Massage Therapist.

Mobile Massage

The concept of bringing massage therapy to the recipient's own location (as opposed to having a location which the client needs to travel to). Mobile massage is usually restricted to homes, hotels and offices but there are also providers to take massage therapy to the beach!

Outcall Massage

An alternative and popular term for Mobile Massage.


Another term for Tapotement.


One of the most popular and widely practiced general massage techniques, petrissage covers a range of specific movements which involve squeezing, kneading and rolling the client’s skin, soft tissue muscle and fascia. Petrissage is a more intense movement and should only be applied to relaxed tissues. It is therefore is usually performed after Effleurage.


An extremely effective and liked pettrisage movement, rolling is performed by lifting the skin and compressing it against other soft tissues such as adjacent muscle tissue, using the fingers and thumbs of the therapist's hands. It is most often done on the abdomen and thigh area and is a common part of Slimming massage and Lymphatic Drainage massage.


Coming from the French word 'tapoter' meaning to tap or pat, tapotement is a massaging technique that is similar to drumming (or percussion as the more technical term). Tapotement techniques are usually applied to the more fleshy areas of the body such as gluteus and not over bony areas such as shoulders. To carry out tapotement, your practitioner will perform short but rapid movements over the area using a variety of hand positions. Cupping, hacking and tapping are all forms of tapotement.


This is the softest Tapotement technique and is usually applied only to very sensitive areas of the body, like the face. It is simply a very light tapping of the skin using the tips of the therapist's fingers, akin to raindrops. It is not usually performed for more than a few seconds.

Visiting Massage

An alternative term for Mobile Massage.


Let us know if you have any other terms you feel should be added to the list!