In the last issue of Cascade Business News, we identified the key components of a therapeutic massage, plus we listed some of the modalities (or variations) one might see when visiting a massage therapist. We briefly highlighted some of the well-known modalities such as deep tissue, fire cupping, pin and stretch, scraping and myofascial release, with the promise of diving in further this week on what those modalities entail. We’ll also provide you with the inside scoop on which one might be the right fit for you and whatever tweaked, bent, twisted, or tight somethin’ somethin’ you happen to be nursing at the moment. Sound good?

Let’s begin with a quick recap on what a therapeutic massage is. Physical Therapy First explains to us that this type of massage “has a defined purpose in mind: to relieve pain or tension on a specific part of the body.” Unlike a spa massage, which generally doesn’t have a particular goal in mind, therapeutic massage uses a variety of methods to address specific problem areas in the body.

So what types of therapeutic massage can one get when visiting a massage therapist? That’s what we’re going to look at today. Because believe it or not, there are many different types of therapeutic massage available, all of which are targeted to treat a myriad of issues you might be facing. So let’s take a peek at some of the more widely-asked-for modalities people receive, and stay tuned for the next issue for a closer look at some of the lesser-known (yet equally beneficial) modalities you may not even know your massage therapist can do.

Deep Tissue:

Probably the most well-known modality of massage therapy, deep tissue has become a popular technique in relieving tension in the body. But what exactly is it? One of Elk Ridge Chiropractic & Wellness Center’s Licensed Massage Therapists, Justin Hodai, is an expert in the field and offers us a brief explanation.

“Deep tissue is slow, deep pressure targeting the affected muscle belly or wherever in the muscle cell there is congestion or disfunction.” In other words, deep tissue provides pressure in order to relieve pressure. Weird, right? Justin explains that only through ‘deep pressure’ can the affected area be broken down. “Releasing the congestion, or ‘knot,’ will allow the muscle to return to a structure that ‘slides and glides,’ restoring range of motion and relieving the pain or discomfort the ‘knot’ was causing.” The muscle is then reset to its natural state, which sets the stage for continued muscle regularity in the future. So the next time you’re feeling stressed, tense, tight, and overall not as loosey-goosey as you should be, this might be a good massage to ask for.

Myofascial Release:

Dealing with some neck or back pain? Maybe some carpal tunnel or fibromyalgia? Myofascial release might be the solution you’ve been looking for. Elk Ridge’s Licensed Chiropractic Assistant, Monica Stefanac explains it as a “manipulative treatment that attempts to release tension in the fascia due to trauma, posture, or inflammation.” Pretty straightforward, right? Except what does the word ‘fascia’ mean? Monica has the answer for us.  She tells us that fascia are “the connective tissues that surround the muscles, bones, nerves, and organs of the body.” Sometimes those areas can become tight, creating more of the knots that Justin was telling us about. “These points of restriction in the fascia that we also call ‘pressure points,’ can place a great deal of pressure on nerves and muscles, causing chronic pain,” Monica adds. “They can also cause referred pain – pain felt in one part of the body that is actually caused by another.”

So how do we fix this? With myofascial release. Monica tells us that “practitioners of myofascial release work to break up those pressure points by employ long stretching strokes with hands or instruments. This balances tissue and muscle mechanics, restores flexibility and muscle function, improves overall joint range of motion, while also enhancing circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may become restricted.” So that ‘fascia’ thing we’ve never heard of is actually quite an important feature in maintaining a healthy body. Who knew, right?

Fire Cupping:

You read that right. This modality uses literal fire in order to extract oxygen from the space between the skin and the cup, which is then applied to the body. This creates a suction technique meant to relieve tension in the patient’s target areas. Sound fun? Scary? Maybe a bit of both? Let’s take a closer look.

Mona Rowden, another Licensed Massage Therapist at Elk Ridge, gives us the details on this pyrotechnic modality. “Fire cupping is an effective treatment tool,” she tells us. “It’s been around for thousands of years and is one such modality that has come from the east that took a while to catch on here in the west. For example, after witnessing the cupping marks on Olympian Micheal Phelps, more people became curious as to what kind of treatment he was receiving.” Ah ha! So that’s what that was! We know you’ve probably been agonizing over this mystery for a very long time. Therefore, we’re thrilled to finally relieve you of that rapt anticipation you’ve no doubt been harboring all these years. You’re welcome.

Mona goes on to explain, “There are thousands of applications where cupping is beneficial. For many therapists, it’s used as a deep tissue modality. Whereas deep tissue massage presses on the muscles, cupping is the reverse. The suction of the tissues into the cup creates a negative force which loosens the muscles, increases blood flow, decreases inflammation and relaxes the nervous system. With increased blood flow, toxins can be removed and the affected area can begin to heal and function better.”

But what are those octopus-looking suction marks that are left? Are they normal? Mona has the answer to this question as well. “The circles that are left from cupping are not bruises!” She explains. “The darker the marks, the more stagnant the underlying tissues were, which helps the massage therapist know exactly where the primary problems are on the patient’s body. But they don’t last,” she goes on to say. “The marks can remain from a few days to several weeks depending on how stagnant those muscles were prior to cupping. But they will eventually fade.” So no permanent octopus marks! Whew!

Pin & Stretch:

Perhaps you’ve not heard the name before, but chances are, if you’ve been to a massage therapist and/or a chiropractor’s office, you’ve had this done before. Monica Stefanac gives us the run down on this technique.

“Pin and stretch is a deep tissue massage and stretching technique that is highly effective at treating problems with muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia,” she explains. “Our clinicians identify specific muscles and tendons where overuse has caused repetitive injury and where scar tissue has built up. This method of stretching involves shortening the muscle length by pinning the muscle, usually with the elbow, then taking the muscle through the full range of motion. This increases muscle stretch and restores it to its proper length.” She adds on, “Some table gripping and wincing may occur during the use of this method, but never fear! The end result is met with relief. Nerve conduction will improve as well as blood and lymph flow throughout the body to speed up the rate of healing and improve performance.” Think of it as the proverbial arm stretch in the morning that gives us just the ‘umph’ we need to take on the day.

Hopefully you managed to learn a bit more about therapeutic massage and how the different modalities may be beneficial to you. Perhaps this was your first time hearing about one or more of these and you want to give them a try. At Elk Ridge Chiropractic, our licensed massage therapists are trained in the modalities you read about today and are currently taking on new clients. Give us a call at (541) 388-3588 to schedule an appointment, or send us an email at

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