Glossary of Massage Terms

Category: Massage Posted: 17 Sep 2019

Posted: 17 Sep 2019

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

Sometimes professional massage practitioners and providers inadvertently use words without realising that they may not be widely understood by the general public. Use this simple English language glossary to help you understand the meaning of the most popular massage therapy terms. This is an excellent resource for both trainee massage therapists or confused clients.


There are of course also many different types of massage therapy, from Accupressure to Zen shiatsu from Japan. You can find out more about the styles of massage available under the Treatments section. The list below aims to demystify general terms often used in massage therapy.

Glossary of Massage Terms
Term Definition
Combo-massage The process of seamlessly combining two distinct styles of massage therapy into one integrated session. The popular Thai Oil combo massage is one such example.
Cupping A specific tapotement technique. The massage therapist forms an inverted cup with their hands and drums the client’s body using light and rapid beats. The centre of the therapist’s palm does not touch the client. An excellent stimulator for nerves and increasing blood circulation.
Effleurage Using the base of their palms, the therapist glides their hands over the client’s skin, applying low to medium pressure. The movement is smooth and flowing, often combined with rolling. One of the most familiar massage techniques and usually the first to be learnt by a trainee therapist.
Energy healing A branch of massage that is distinct from anatomy and physiology based techniques and focuses on spiritual health. This type of therapy centres on the belief that achieving the highest state of health and wellbeing requires not only balance in biological aspects but also spiritual alignment.
Fascia A network of connective tissue that runs throughout the insides of the human body, effectively holding it all together. It exists from immediately below the skin to around each and every muscle and organ. See myofascial release for a treatment type that focuses on the fascia.
Full body massage A massage treatment that includes all areas of the body from head to toe, excluding private parts. It is common for clients to book a full body massage but specifically identify certain body parts that they to be excluded or those which they prefer extra focus on.
Hacking A type of tapotement technique. The therapist forms a karate position with their hands, keeping the fingers slightly apart, and then chops the client’s torso with the sides of their hands. Usually performed as an invigorating part of an overall full body massage, in short sharp bursts using medium to firm pressure.
Holistic massage The concept of using physical touch together with mental empathy to protect, maintain and restore introduce health and wellness to others.
Home visit massage An alternative term for mobile massage.
In-home massage An alternative term for mobile massage, specifically used when the therapist is travelling to the client's home.
In-room massage An alternative term for mobile massage, specifically used when the therapist is visiting a client at their hotel room.
Kneading A type of pettrisage. The therapist grips fleshy areas of the client’s body to rub, squeeze, compress, mould and manipulate the skin and underlying muscles, tissues and tendons. The physical action is similar to that of a baker working on dough to make bread.
Massage therapist A trained individual who performs holistic massage treatments as a profession. This term is asexual, equally applicable to all genders of people.
Masseur Traditionally used to describe a male massage therapist.
Masseuse Traditionally used to describe a female massage therapist.
Mobile massage Holistic massage treatments in which the massage therapist travels to the client to perform the therapy. Also known as visiting massage, outcall massage, home visit massage, in-home massage and in-room massage.
Myofascial release A specific type of massage therapy which aims to release tension in the human fascia.
On demand massage A massage service that can be requested at the last moment, as and when it is required, with very little notice period. This type of Massage Me Now service has continued to gain popularity since around 2009, most especially in dynamic urban environments such as London, where residents often live busy and unpredictable lifestyles.
Outcall massage An alternative term for mobile massage.
Percussion An alternative term for tapotement.
Petrissage One of the most widely practiced massage techniques. A more intense movement than effleurage, comprising movements such as kneading and rolling.
Rolling A type of pettrisage. The therapist grabs a fleshy part of the torso and squeezes it slightly to compress the muscles before rolling it towards adjacent muscle tissue. The movement is most often done on thighs and the side of the abdomen and forms a key element of lymphatic drainage and anti-cellulite slimming massages.
Tapotement A popular and common type of massaging technique. The name is derived from the French word tapoter which means to tap or pat. The movement involves short rapid drumming over fleshy parts of the body using the therapist’s fingers and hands. Cupping, hacking and tapping are all forms of tapotement.
Tapping A type of tapotement. This is the softest tapping movement style, applied to the most sensitive areas of the body such as the face. The aim is to create an elegant and relaxing feeling on the skin using the tips of the therapist's fingers, similar to raindrops.
Visiting massage An alternative term for mobile massage.
SOURCE: The Massage Rooms

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