Massage is the practice of applying structured pressure, tension, motion or vibration — manually or with mechanical aids — to the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints and lymphatic vessels, to achieve a beneficial response. A form of therapy, massage can be applied to parts of the body or successively to the whole body, to heal injury, relieve psychological stress, manage pain, and improve circulation. Where massage is used for its physical and psychological benefits, it may be termed "therapeutic massage therapy" or manipulative therapy.
Massage can also be a part of lovemaking for many couples, and often takes place in the context of sex work. As massage is a lightly regulated industry, clients are advised to get references, ask questions and judge for themselves.
In commercial settings, massage techniques involve the client being treated lying down on a massage table or in a massage chair, or on a mattress on the floor. Except for modalities such as Thai Massage or Barefoot Deep Tissue, the massage subject is generally unclothed, and the body may be "draped" with towels or sheets. This also helps keep the client warm. In some jurisdictions it is required that certain areas such as the genitals on both genders and the breast/nipple area on women be draped at all times. Due to the necessary physical contact between the practitioner and the client, sexual arousal (or signs of it) is possible, but rarely intentional. In many forms of massage, the treatment may start with the client face up or down for the first part of the session: the client then rolls over for the second half of the session. Relaxation is necessary for maximum therapeutic benefits to be achieved.
Good communication is essential to effective massage. In a commercial setting, the client is encouraged to communicate the type of treatment expected, for example relaxation or pain relief, full body massage or focus on a specific area, the amount of pressure that is comfortable, preferred techniques, and past medical history and current physical condition.
Massage therapist organizations
* The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) an international, for-profit, organization of professional massage therapists and bodyworkers.
* Association of Massage Therapists ltd
* Association of Remedial Masseurs
* Australian Natural Therapists Association
* Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
* Massage Australia
* The Association of Massage Therapists and Wholistic Practitioners is a national non-profit organization for people who provide massage therapy in Canada. Its members are massage therapists and other touch therapists throughout Canada, though their membership is primarily in Alberta.
* The ACAM American-Canadian Association of Massage therapists (en) or Association Can-American des Massothérapeutes (fr) is a national not-for-profit association for massage therapists in Canada and the US. Its members are massage therapists and other touch therapists throughout Canada, working to support and promote those therapies.
* The Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance (CMTA) is a national alliance for provincial massage therapy associations in Canada (not individual membership). It consists of various provincial and territorial associations and works to promote and improve the profession.
* The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) regulates the profession of massage therapy in the province of Ontario.
* The Canadian Sports Massage Therapist Association (CSMTA) is the national, not-for-profit association for sports massage therapists working in Canada. It sets standards and provides certification for its members and also promotes the profession.
* The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is the largest 501 c (6) non-profit professional organization of massage therapists in the United States, although there are other professional organizations such as the Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals (ABMP)
* The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is the only national certifying group of massage therapists in the United States. This is the test that professional massage therapists take in the US even if their states don't offer licensure, in an effort to demonstrate their knowledge. Over 34 U.S. states currently use it as a requirement for their state license as well. The certification earned by successful completion of the NCBTMB exam produced by the NCBTMB is NCTMB.