A Glossary of Complementary Animal-Care Therapies: Massage and Bodywork, Energywork, and Medicine

ayrault-1200General Descriptions

Massage, Bodywork and Energywork
According to the Association of Bodywork and Massage Practitioners (ABMP), there are more than 250 variations of massage, bodywork and somatic (mind-body) therapies. Many practitioners combine a variety of approaches into a single, integrative style or approach. They may also utilize a range of techniques, one at a time, to address specific needs of their clients.

Massage: Manual manipulation of soft tissue with the intention of positively affecting the health and well-being of the client. Although structural and energetic systems will be affected, the effects for the soft tissues, circulation and nervous system are primary.

Bodywork: Various forms of touch therapies that may use manipulation (massage), movement, energywork and/or mind-body-emotion re-patterning to affect structural changes to the body.

Energywork: A description commonly used for therapies which do not involve soft tissue manipulation or movement, affecting primarily the energetic and emotional aspects of the body system but also including the physical.


Complementary medicine: treatments used in addition to the conventional therapies a doctor may prescribe.

Alternative medicine: used instead of conventional methods, such as seeing a homeopath or naturopath instead of a regular doctor.

Holistic medicine: a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all involved, addressing physical, mental emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health. May include drugs and surgery if no safe alternative exists.

While therapies such as massage, bodywork and energywork may be used in complementary, alternative and holistic approaches, we will describe below, under Medicine, only modalities outside the scope of practice of massage and bodywork professionals, and in some states, outside the scope of practice of anyone other than a veterinarian for animals.


Common modalities listed alphabetically

Acupressure (Energywork and/or Bodywork): an ancient Eastern technique of applying finger pressure to acupoints, which lie along meridians (as used with needles for acupuncture). Meridians are channels of energy flow in the body as identified and described in many Eastern systems of healing. Both acupressure and acupuncture are based on a philosophy of balancing these energy meridians within the body, thus allowing the body to heal itself. Local pain or other symptoms are viewed as expressions of the condition of the body-mind as a whole.

Shiatsu: a Japanese system of healing combining acupressure, compressions and stretches, all with the intent of balancing the energy along the same meridian pathways as used with other systems of acupressure.

Craniosacral Therapy (Bodywork): a gentle touch method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the craniosacral system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and the membranes, cerebrospinal fluid and skeleton surrounding them. (See Myofascial Release.)

Deep Tissue Massage (Massage and Bodywork): a variety of massage applied in a way that affects the deeper layers of muscle and fascia to release chronic patterns of tension in the body. (See Myofascial Release.)

Lymphatic Facilitation, Manual Lymph Drainage, Lymphatic Massage, Lymph Drainage Therapy, etc. (Massage): gentle, rhythmical strokes applied to stimulate the movement of the lymphatic fluids in order to assist the body in cleansing, boosting immune function and reducing pain and stress.

Myofascial Release (Bodywork): a form of bodywork using three-dimensional application of sustained pressure and movement into the fascial system in order to eliminate fascial restrictions and facilitate the release of emotional patterns. The fascial system is a single, continuous, connective-tissue sheath that spreads without interruption throughout the entire body in a three-dimensional web. Imbalances in this system can cause asymmetries, poor posture, abnormal tensions, pressures, pain and dysfunction. Fascial or Soft Tissue Mobilization, Deep Tissue Massage, Structural Integration and Craniosacral Therapy (among others) all share characteristics of Myofascial Release, but with each modality having a distinct focus, approach and philosophy.

Shiatsu (see Acupressure)

Sports Massage (Massage): a form of massage focusing on muscle groups relevant to a particular sport. Application of techniques varies according to whether the goal is to prepare for or recover from an athletic event.

Structural Integration (Bodywork): based on the work of Dr. Ida P. Rolf, various forms of structural integration, including Rolfing and Hellerwork among others, are all based on the idea that the entire system benefits when the structural arrangement of the body is aligned and balanced to work with rather than against the forces of gravity. The techniques are directed toward the myofascial system–the ligaments, muscles, tendons, and surrounding connective tissues– in order to affect the entire body as a whole.

Swedish Massage (Massage): a system of long strokes, kneading, friction and percussive techniques on the more superficial layers of the muscles, combined with movements of the joints.

Stretching (Bodywork): using active or passive movements of the joints to lengthen soft tissues, balance muscle tone, and enhance or retrain patterns of movement and body awareness.

Tellington TTouch (Bodywork): developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, a combination of specific touches, lifts, and movement exercises to help release tension and increase body awareness.

Trigger Point Therapy, Neuromuscular Therapy, Myotherapy, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy, etc. (Massage and/or Bodywork): techniques and protocols that break cycles of spasm and pain with application of pressure to trigger points combined with stretches. Trigger points are irritated areas in muscles that may trigger pain or spasms when pressure is applied.


Common modalities listed alphabetically

Aromatherapy: the therapeutic use of essential oils (extracted from herbs, flowers, resin, woods, and roots) to aid in relaxation and to relieve a wide range of symptoms.

Flower Essences: a vibrational therapy that seeks to correct emotional imbalances by working on the subtle body instead of the physical body.

Reiki: a form of energy healing originating in Japan in which the practitioner, trained to access and serve as a channel for the life force (ki or chi), places hands on or just above the client’s body in order to activate healing energy within receptive points on the body. Also used as a form of distance healing.

Sound Therapy: uses the media of sound (music, tones, tuning forks, vibrations, etc.) as tools for healing, enabling the realignment of natural body rhythms.


Acupuncture: using fine needles on the acupoints (as described above for acupressure) rather than finger pressure.

Chiropractic: the diagnosis and treatment of joint dysfunctions, with special emphasis on the spine. It assumes that these joint subluxations can interfere with the body’s function and its innate ability to heal itself by interfering with the nervous system.

Homeopathy: based on a “like cures like” principle–that is, if a substance can cause symptoms in a healthy body, then it can stimulate self-healing of similar symptoms in a sick person or animal. Clients are given minute amounts of natural, non-toxic substances to stimulate the body to cure itself. There are no known or suspected contraindications or drug interactions between homeopathic and conventional medicines.

Osteopathy: a system of comprehensive medical care going beyond conventional medical philosophy to include an emphasis on structural balance of the musculoskeletal system. Osteopathic physicians use joint manipulation, postural reeducation, and physical therapy to normalize the body’s structure and promote healing.

Physical Therapy: uses a variety of tools, including massage, heat and cold, joint manipulation, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation, to strengthen, relax and heal muscles and improve function.