Massage Techniques

Our massage therapists use a wide variety of techniques in treatment.


General Swedish Massage is the standard set of modalities that are used in relaxation massage at spas.  This includes effleurage (long strokes), petrissage (rhythmic tapping or pounding) and deep point pressure techniques such as muscle stripping.  All massages must include some relaxation techniques in order to be effective.  We strive to find a balance where we can treat areas of dysfunction that may be tender or painful, but in a way where the patient remains comfortably relaxed.  This results in a more pleasant experience for the patient and is also the most efficient way to make progress in painful areas.


Deep-Tissue Massage is a general term that is used to indicate a treatment style that is not “spa” or “relaxation”, but is intended to specifically treat and correct dysfunction in the body.  The more specific term would be therapeutic massage, and it is our main focus here in the clinic.


Trigger-Point Release is the modality used when a therapist locates and compresses a “knot” in a muscle until the muscle relaxes.  We are essentially blocking local blood flow to the muscle by compressing the tiny capillaries in the tissue.  Temporarily starved of fuel (oxygen), the knot can no longer contract forcefully.  This a standard and very effective massage technique, commonly used in most treatments.


Myofascial techniques assess and treat the vast and complex web of connective tissues (fascia) in the body.  These tissues cover and intertwine within muscles, form tendons and ligaments, coat the surface of all your organs, and provide barriers between different body cavities.  A myofascial treatment seeks to assess and treat the subtle lines of force that are created by connective tissues that have been under constant long-term strain.  Myofascial techniques are deep, slow, gentle stretching motions that can often be used in combination with more specific muscular techniques.  Rob and Shanna both have a special interest in myofascial work and incorporate this modality into many of their treatments.


Joint Mobilization techniques are used to improve alignment or range of motion at a joint.  There is a complex relationship between muscle tension and joint function in the body.  Chronic overly tight muscles can bring joints out of alignment.  Poorly aligned joints can overwork certain muscles and cause pain and inflammation in others.  Long-term habits of body position (usually developed at work, the most common being head-forward posture from computer use) lead to impaired joint movement and specific patterns of muscular tension.  Chronic problems such as low back pain and tension headaches often result. Rob and Shanna both have a strong focus on postural assessment in their treatments.  Joint mobilization techniques are small, gentle and slow stretches or oscillations, intended to improve joint health and to increase range of motion where it is limited.


Muscle Energy techniques are another technique used to help with posture and joint alignment.  With these techniques the therapist anchors the limb and joint in a specific alignment and provides resistance while the patient attempts to move the limb in a specific way.  This technique allows the patient to have full control of the movement and takes advantage of the leverage that is generated.  It’s a very precise and effective tool that is used to correct more specific and obvious dysfunction, for example when neck range of motion is severely impaired, or when one side of the hip is misaligned with the other.


Craniosacral therapy seeks to assess the craniosacral rhythm in the body and to treat disorders arising from imbalances in the flow of craniosacral fluid.  This fluid surrounds, protects, and provides shock absorption for your brain and spinal cord.  It is produced and absorbed in different cranial cavities and flows through a series of channels in your brain and spinal cord.  An extremely subtle motion of the cranial bones flexing minutely at the suture lines of the skull pumps this fluid through the body.  Craniosacral work is very complex and subtle, with gentle positions of pressure held at various points of the head, neck and spine.  Rob and Shanna have a great interest in craniosacral work but do not provide specific craniosacral-only treatments at this time.  Instead they incorporate elements of this technique into other massage modalities while working on the head and neck.  Craniosacral work is deeply relaxing, and can be very effective for conditions such as headaches, whiplash, TMJ (jaw) dysfunction, or sinus infections.


TMJ techniques are specific to the temporomandibular joint, the jaw, one of the most complex joints in the human body.  Every time we open our mouth the TMJ joint partly dislocates, with the mandible sliding halfway out of the joint on top of a disc of connective tissue that sits between the mandible and temporal bone.  Problems with muscles and ligaments attached to the disc and surrounding bones can cause specific symptoms in the jaw such as clicking, locking, and reduced range of motion.  In severe cases irreversible arthritis can result.  Rob and Shanna have taken specific training on TMJ treatment and can offer intraoral treatment (working outside the teeth but inside the cheek, wearing latex gloves) to those patients that require it.


Other modalities that are sometimes used in the clinic are Manual Lymph Drainage (helping reduce chronic swelling or fluid imbalances), Visceral Manipulation (gentle massage of organs in the abdominal cavity to promote healthier blood flow, better movement of intestinal contents, or better positioning), and Contract-Relax or Agonist-Relax stretches (to improve range of motion at a joint).


Listening skills and conversational skills are essential tools of a massage therapist.  Often patients come to us with great sources of stress in their lives that are being expressed in physical dysfunction in the body.  As therapists it is also our job to find ways to help you reduce the personal stress in your life.  You will find a sympathetic ear if you feel like talking, some good stories if you’d like a good laugh to distract you from your troubles, or comfortable silence in which to let go of the worries of the moment.  Both Shanna and Rob know when to listen, when to speak, and when to be quiet.


At the end of a treatment we always provide home-care advice for patients which may consist of:

  • stretches for tight muscles
  • strengthening exercises for weak muscles
  • application of ice or heat for pain relief, to treat inflammation, or to relax muscles
  • postural awareness exercises
  • breath exercises to encourage deep relaxation breathing
  • ergonomic advice to change postural habits at work
  • recommendations to seek treatment from other therapists including physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists
  • advice on when we feel it would be appropriate to seek help from a family doctor or medical specialist