The physical functionality of healing touch
Rehabilitative massage, in keeping with its focus on healing injury, tends to meet a higher standard of "quantifiability" in terms of its effectiveness: If you have an injury, you get massage, and the injury doesn't improve, then all other things being equal, the massage technique isn't effective. For this reason, the focus with most of these methods is less on spirituality and more on physical functionality.
Methods such as active release techniques (ACT), deep tissue massage, deep muscle therapy, myofascial release and neuromuscular therapy are devoted to finding points of tension, muscle spasms and scar tissue, and relieving these symptoms. Various methods of massage, pressure and stretching will make scar tissue and tense muscles more supple. The easing of these tissue knots, in turn, can trigger a whole body improvement as supplementary and connected tissues and structures are no longer compensating for the injury.
Other techniques focus on training the body to move safely, and correcting injuries that are a result of poor posture and gait. Kinesiology, integrative massage, *Aston patterning and the Alexander technique all partake in this to varying degrees. Experts in these fields study the daily tasks their clients perform and the injuries they have as a result, and try to find healthier and more efficient ways to participate in those activities. They also perform massage and other therapies to heal injuries already inflicted.
Medical massage, joint mobilization and the muscle energy technique (MET) all focus on maintaining limber joints and good muscle tone through joint manipulation, massage or muscle contraction, while fibromyalgia massage uses a variety of techniques and tools relieve pain (it's hypothesized that it might stimulate the central nervous system and cause the release of pain-blocking hormones).
No broad field of massage is without some questionable practices, however. The Bowen technique uses a sequence of gentle movements applied to tendons, ligaments and muscles. Fair enough - can't do much harm and may even heal. But the claim is that this "releases energy" by sending "harmonic" vibrations through the body, leading to balance. Cranial-sacral therapy (CST) sounds equally suspect. Practitioners claim that healing can be promoted by manipulating the head, spine and pelvis, to release "blocked" spinal fluids.