In this complete guide to Worlds Best Massage Techniques, we are going deep into the world of massageStarting from the very basics, we will be guiding you through the various types of massage techniques with a load of up to date information, not only a beginner who is looking for some information but also intermediate to a well-experienced therapist will learn something new.
Swedish Massage Sets the Stage
In the west, what most people think of when they hear the word massage is Swedish massage, a system directly applied to the skin that includes gliding, kneading, and precursive strokes; friction; compression; vibration, and range of motionLubricants such as creams, lotions, or oils are used to facilitate smooth movements of the hands over the skin of the receiverSwedish massage is performed on a massage table and most sessions are between thirty and ninety minutes long.
Prepare the Room and Your Body for Comfort
The room should be warm- 72°F- 74°F (nOC-23°e) is optimal-and with at least 3 feet (91.4 cm) of the cleared area on each side of the massage tableThe table height should be set where you can place the backs of your fingers from your knuckles on the table surface as you stand up straight and allow your arm to hang down loosely
If you find you are elevating your shoulders when you apply massage strokes, you should lower the height of the table; if you are bending over, bring the table height upHave a chair or stool ready at the head of the massage tableIts height should allow you to place your forearms on the surface of the table with your shoulders in a neutral, not elevated, position.
It may be useful to perform some hand and arm stretches and do some lunges and squats to warm up your legs before you begin the massage, as flexing your knees is the best way to adjust your own height relative to the table height as you are massaging.
Receivers Should Bathe, Not Eat, before a Session Your partner should not have a large meal immediately prior to a massage session and may want to shower or bathe so that the lubricant, which is nutritive for the skin, may remain on her body and be fully absorbed, preferably for several hours or overnight.
Use Light Pressure and Slowly Deepen Swedish massage begins with large, broad movements and gradually moves into smaller and more specific actions as the tissues warm up and become
You apply massage lightly, or superficially, at the beginning of a session, while you are spreading the lubricant and introducing yourself to your partner’s body; you gradually deepen the pressure as you palpate or feel for inconsistencies and “issues” in the muscles
When in doubt, always work with less pressure than you think is required and apply the strokes slowlyWatch for any indication that something is uncomfortable, such as facial grimaces, changes in breathing patterns, or clenched handsAsk your partner if she is experiencing any discomfort and adjust your strokes accordingly.
Swedish massage does not work deeply into tissues and heavy people require no more pressure than thin onesAmateurs should not work on athletes; they are likely to injure themselves trying to work deeply, when in fact, athletes benefit more in performance and after events from superficial, repetitive work.
LINENS, LUBE, AND LIGHTING
Use mostly cotton or flannel twin sheets on the massage table; your partner will lie on the fitted sheet with the flat sheet covering her bodyA blanket or bath towel measuring about 4′ x 6′ (1.2 x 1.8 m) may be used over the sheet if your partner becomes chilled as she relaxes, which often happens.
A pillow for use under his/ her knees should be close at handSome people enjoy having a bowl of rice or flaxseed-filled eye pillow or neck roll, which may be microwaved to provide soothing heatThe eye pillow may also be placed in the freezer for a refreshing, cool eye compress
Have lubricant available, warmed to room temperatureBuy small portions of various types so that you can determine which lotion you prefer.
Some manufacturers of professional massage lubricants will provide you with a small sample size at an attractively low priceAdd ing two or three drops of fragrant lavender, tangerine, bergamot, grapefruit, or ylang-ylang high-quality essential oil from your local health food store can provide a relax ing and refreshing quality to the massage
Lighting should be low, not overheadQuiet, slow music is a nice addition to the experience
Swedish Strokes and Repetitions
Use your intuition to determine the number of stroke repetitions to use throughout the massageUsually, at least two or three repetitions of a particular stroke are required for someone to relax into them and know what to anticipateRepeating a stroke more than ten times will get boring at best and aggravating at worst, so somewhere between three and six reps is a good guideline.
Effleurage-Using the flat palm with fingers together, you glide away from your torso with neutral (not flexed or hyperextended) wristsEffleurage strokes may be performed with one or both hands or with forearms in some areas of the bodyWhile most effleurage strokes are one long flowing excursion along a body part, pushing strokes are short strokes with alternating hands; one hand chases the other along an area of the bodyPushing strokes are alternating effleurage with the palms.
Friction-Small circles or short back-and-forth movements applied with the fingers or thumbs
Stripping-Short friction strokes applied in the direction of the muscle fibers.
Petrissage-Kneading, lifting, and squeezing muscle tissue with the palm in full contact with the skin
Spreading strokes-A type of effleurage stroke in which the hands move apart to stretch the skin and underlying muscles
Compression-Pressing downward into the tissue, with fingers, thumbs, or palms
Wringing-Grasping an area, usually of a limb, and working for your hands in opposition to each other, as if wringing water out of a towel
Supine Upper Body Sequence
The goal of all Swedish massage is relaxation, stress relief, and overall well-beingThis face-up sequence addresses tension in the head, face, neck, and shoulders and relieves discomfort in overworked arms, hands, and legs
Many people think of massage as starting face down, but relaxing the head and neck has the effect of relaxing the whole person, which is a productive way to begin.
1PREPARATION AND FEEDBACK
When your partner lies on the massage table, have her lift her knees and place a pillow beneath them and her lower thighsThis will reduce strain on her lower back
Make sure she is comfortable and warm enoughAsk her to give you constructive feedback on your massage, letting you know what feels especially good and what adjustments you could make in your strokes to improve her massage experience
Begin seated at the head of the massage tablePlace your hands lightly on your partner’s lateral shoulders or upper chest or cup her head without placing your hands on her earsYour hands should be relaxed in this contact hold and stationary for about three to five breaths.
This gives you an opportunity to bring your focus on her by following her breath and allows her to relax well into your initial touchBegin and end each section of her body with a contact hold.
Open the Chest and Lengthen the Neck Bring your hands to the center of your partner’s upper chest and perform a spreading stroke all the way out and around her shoulders (Image A and B)Rotate your wrists laterally and come under her shoulders to her neck, with your palms up
When your hands arrive at the back of her neck, cup the palm and fingers of one hand around your partner’s neck and glide all the way up to the back of her head.
As that hand comes past the base of her skull, use your other hand to cup her neck and follow your first hand, supporting her neck fully before you take the first handoff (Image C)Continue with alternating hand-pulling strokes up the back of her neck for two or three repetitions.
Your hands should graze the surface of the massage table, keeping your partner’s neck in a neutral position as you perform this profoundly relaxing, lengthening stroke
If your partner has difficulty relaxing her head and neck, ask her to allow her head to be heavy in your handsRepeat this move from the center of the chest at least three times
Most of us are so accustomed to holding tension in our necks that receiving lengthening massage strokes can help the body remember how to relax and avoid chronically tight necks and resultant headaches.
2MASSAGE THE FACE, HEAD, AND NECK
With your palms facing down, bring your thumbs closer together in the middle of your partner’s foreheadLinger there with light pressure for breath; then perform a spreading stroke all the way out to where her cheek meets the front of her earSpreading the forehead two or three times can help alleviate the troublesome vertical lines between our eyebrows that result from squinting or frowning.
Perform a Face Lift
Bring your fingertips together under your partner’s chin and sweeps your hands slowly up the side of her face to the top of her head a few times, which works like a little facelift.
Bring your fingers to the side of her nose and trace below her cheekbones out to the front of her earYou will feel a small indentation right in front of her ear
This is an acupressure point you can compress gently for about thirty seconds to help relieve head painTwo other acupressure points lie along the same path you have traced: At the nose crease and midway between the nose crease and the headache point, right below the cheekbones are sinus points.
Compressing them lightly for thirty seconds frequently will relieve nasal congestionMake a few tracings below your partner’s cheekbone laterally, pausing on the points if they feel good to her.
Soften the Jaw Muscle The only place on the face you should perform downward strokes is on the lateral face at the jaw (Image D)The masseter muscle is one of the strongest muscles in the body, and if you have your partner clench her teeth briefly it is easy to find
Make several short, downward stripping strokes on this muscle to help create length and ease in it, but don’t use so much the pressure that you aggravate the muscle tensionTension often lodges in this muscle, as does anger, and grinding the teeth or chewing gum can create jaw, neck, and head pain that may be relieved by massaging this muscle
Try some circular friction strokes on the masseter as well and end with a stationary compression for a breath or twoCircles on the Base of the Skull Bring the backs of your wrists to the table surface so that your fingertips curve upward at the base of your partner’s skull (the occipital ridge) and apply circular friction back and forth across the ridge with your hands mirroring each other
Close your eyes and really allow your fingertips to do all the “seeing” for you, feeling for taut bands and knots, and pausing to just compress them for breath when you detect them
Continue the circular friction up and down your partner’s neck on each side of her spine, still palpating for areas that are tight or knottyTension stored in the neck from emotional stress, working at a computer, driving, and many other work activities may be eased by compressing the tight areas you find while you instruct your partner to visualize directing breath into tight areas, or “breathe into the area;’ loosening the knots and bands, which will seem to melt under your fingers.
If you feel your partner tensing her neck at all, seek her feedback on how it feels and lighten your pressure while reducing the speed of your circles on her neckCoin Rubs around the Ear Now for those intentional ear strokes: Take your partner’s ear lobes between your thumbs and forefingers and make small circles with your fingertips, gradually moving up and around the whole external ear
Then position your hands so that your partner’s ears are between your index and middle fingers and make about an l -inch (2.5 cm) stroke downward toward her jaw, easing the pressure as you slide your fingers back up; repeat this stroke four to five timesYour partner will enjoy this relaxing stroke as much as your dog does, but perhaps she will not drool.
You Don’t Need to Be a Pro
Swedish massage is the most basic form used by almost all of the professional massage therapists, but it is also a very accessible form for nonprofessionals to use on friends and family members for wellness and stress reduction
It has positive benefits for all the physiological systems of the body and is a wonderful form of massage for reducing discomfort, exercising creativity, and enhancing the connection with another person.
Pulling Strokes for the Neck
Perform several more alternating hand-pulling strokes on your partner’s neck; then take her head to the left, holding it at her occiput, while your right-hand glides all the way down the side of her neck and around her shoulder from front to back.
Then back up to her ear a few times, lengthening the muscles of the lateral neckRepeat on the other sideBring your partner’s head back to the centre and place your palms very lightly over her eyelids for a few breathsThis can be very relaxing for the eyes.
3LUBRICATE AND LENGTHEN THE RIGHT ARM
Move to your partner’s right side and spread lubricant from her fingertips up her arm and all the way around her shoulder with your left hand while you hold her right hand in your own (Image E).
Keep enough downward tension on her arm with your right hand so that you do not force her shoulder up toward her ear with the application of several superficial effleurage strokes with your right handGlide your hands much more lightly as they return from her shoulder to her hand on each stroke, as you want to encourage circulation back toward her heart
“Milk” the Hands and Fingers
Using both your left and right hands, perform a milking stroke on your partner’s hand, alternating squeezing pulls on the thumb and pinky sides of her hand for a few times each, allowing her wrist to rotate and move from side to side
This loosens the wrist and may improve flexibility and comfort in the joint, which we use constantly in almost all of our daily activities.
Squeeze each finger, using a twisting motion as you move from her knuckles to her fingertipsGlide your thumbs from her knuckles to
the dorsal wrist on both sides of each metacarpal bone in her hand; these bones descend from each finger through the hand.
Strokes Return Blood to the Heart
Since Swedish massage is a circulatory type of massage, it is important to perform strokes toward the heart on the arms and legs so that blood and lymph are encouraged to return toward the heart
The intention of providing relaxation informs all the movements in Swedish massageThe variations in Swedish massage come from differing qualities of strokes, including direction, length, speed, rhythm, continuity, depth, pressure, duration, and sequence, making it possible to creatively customize a session.
Circular Friction on the Wrist
Apply circular friction on the back of your partner’s wrist, increasing the pliability of the retinaculum, which is the connective tissue that encircles the wrist like a braceletFirmly hold your partner’s wrist between your right thumb and fingers, with your thumb on the top of the joint
With your left hand, flex her wrist downward, allowing the skin and connective tissue to slide under the firm pressure of your thumbMove your thumb medially and laterally along the back of your partner’s wrist as you repeatedly flex her wrist to pull the retinaculum through, loosening it (Image F)
Maintaining malleability in the wrist can be valuable in helping to prevent carpal tunnel syndromeYou may also wring your partner’s wrist; this move is like the Indian burns children give each other, but with lubricant, the experience is much more pleasant.
Stretch the Palm Strokes Return Blood to the Heart Since Swedish massage is a circulatory type of massage, it is important to perform strokes toward the heart on the arms and legs so that blood and lymph are encouraged to return toward the heart
The intention of providing relaxation informs all the movements in Swedish Allow your partner’s arm to move away from the side of the table as you rotate her palm to face upward; otherwise, keeping her arm straight at her side will bind her elbow, which is uncomfortable and not the way the elbow naturally seeks to move.
Apply circular friction with both of your thumbs to her palm, as you spread her palm by placing the pinkies of both of your hands between her thumb and index finger on one side of her hand and between her ring finger and pinky on the other sideThis may
feel awkward at first, but you just need to have your fingers between hers enough to spread her palm open
Most people are unaware of how much the small muscles in the palm are used until you begin massaging themAll of our gripping and manipulative gestures with the hands close the palm; stretching it open as you massage it will create greater flexibility and will make the whole hand feel much more open.
Knead the Forearm
Hold your partner’s left hand in yours so that her wrist is almost above her elbow and use your right hand to knead the muscles in her forearmJust as with the neck, you are likely to find lots of ropey areas and knots in the forearms because most of the muscles that give us fine-motor dexterity in our hands are located there
Allow your fingers to linger and compress any tight areas you findSwitch hands and hold her left hand in your right hand while you petrissage (lift, wring, and squeeze) the forearm muscles on the other side of her forearm with your left hand.
Fold the Arm across the Chest
Lay your partner’s arm loosely across her torso and apply gentle pressure with your left hand on the back of her upper arm (Image H)Reach under her shoulder with your right hand and curl your fingers around the medial border of her scapula (shoulder blade), applying firm circular friction as you rock her upper arm away
from youYou can find your partner’s rhythm by rocking her arm away and experiencing how quickly it moves back to you when
you release pressure but keep your hand in contact with her arm for the rocking motion.
As your right hand loosens the upper back muscles between the shoulder blades, your partner’s arm will gradually move closer to her chest, letting you know you have released the upper back muscles, which may be tight from general tension or from lifting activities
Knead the Upper Arm
Lightly grasp immediately below your partner’s elbow with your right hand and come to the head of the table, holding her forearm while you petrissage the back of her upper arm (the triceps muscle) with your left hand (Image G).
Her elbow should be directly over her shoulder because it will feel balanced there, and she will be less likely to try to hold it up for youThen switch the holding hand and knead your partner’s upper arm (biceps) with your right hand
Put gentle traction on her arms overhead before you walk it back around to her side and apply some more effleurage strokes from her hand to her shoulder and back to give her arm a feeling of connectednessThose who engage in yoga or work out at a gym frequently have tight, sore triceps, and kneading them will feel really delicious
4OPEN THE CHEST WITH LONG AND SHORT STROKES
Placing your left hand on your partner’s shoulder, apply effleurage across her upper chest, and back for a few strokesIf her shoulders
are lifted off the table because her pectoralis (upper chest) muscles are tight, spend extra time on that area with circular friction and lean into the effleurage strokes more to encourage length in the chest muscles.
5.REPEATTHE SEQUENCE ON THE RIGHT
Repeat the arm, shoulder, and chest massage on your partner’s right side
Reduce Arm Numbness and Tingling
Many people who spend a lot of time at a computer or driving will have tightness in the chest, which can translate into the upper back discomfort and poor posture.
Keeping the chest open with massage can help remedy these problems and may help prevent or improve a repetitive strain condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that can cause numbness and tingle in the forearms and hands, often mistaken for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Supine Lower Body and Abdominal Sequence
When you massage your partner’s feet, legs, thighs, and hips, you will find that she frequently is unaware of tightness and discomfort residing therefrom the demands of work or recreationIncreasing circulation to the lower extremities often reduces swelling and makes the limbs feel more awake and alive.
FREE THE HIPS
Use the leg as a lever to address the back of the pelvis and create a welcome feeling of freeing the hips
Lift Legs to Roll Them Inward
Move to your partner’s right leg and thighNotice whether her feet point roughly up at the ceiling or whether they are turned strongly out to the sidesIf they turn significantly outward, reach under her waistline with your left hand, almost to the vertebral column, and under the broadest part of her hip with your right hand, palms up
Lift your fingers strongly upward and pull her pelvis toward you, which will roll her leg and thigh inwardRepeat at her hip and upper thigh, then at her thigh and leg, each time rotating her thigh
and leg a little farther inward (Image A).
After you have completed these pulls, her foot should be less turned out and she will feel as though there is a pleasant openness in the posterior pelvisRepeat the broadening action on her left side; then return to her right leg and thigh
This broadening helps to counteract the effects of sitting with legs crossed, which shortens the posterior hip muscles and can create tightness and discomfort in the hips and low back.
1EFFLEURAGE AND PETRISSAGE FROM RIGHT TOES TO HIP
Perform several effleurage strokes with both hands from your partner’s toes to her hip to spread lubricant and begin to palpate for tight areasStand at the side of the table with your hips facing the direction of your strokes and remember that your strokes toward her heart should be considerably firmer than those toward her feetStand at the side of the table near her thigh and knead her thigh muscles (quadriceps) with the full, firm palms of both hands, feeding the tissue back and forth from one hand to the other, lifting and squeezing rhythmically until you feel a softening of the quadriceps muscles.