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Massage Techniques

Updated on August 13, 2009

Massage can be both therapeutic and relaxing. There are many different methods of massage and massage techniques to choose from. You can find a professional who specializes in whatever massage technique you decide on or you could take classes with a partner so that you can practice on each other. Another option is to utilize electric massagers in your home.  A professional who practices massage therapy techniques is called a masseuse if they are a woman or a masseur if they are a man. You can receive your massage services in a massage parlor, a spa, or a physical therapists office. The people who will benefit most from massage the most are people who suffer from chronic pain, anyone under stress, people who participate in heavy physical activity like athletes, or people who have sustained injuries and need to keep working their muscles during physical therapy and recovery. But everyone can enjoy a good massage. There are even massage techniques to induce labor.

General Massage Techniques

There are a few guidelines to follow no matter what variety of massage you decide upon.  First, the atmosphere should be relaxing and comfortable.  The rooms where you get your massage can be dark or bright, as long as it is peaceful.  Some massage parlors keep the lights low and burn candles to create a relaxing atmosphere.  Others take advantage of the scenery and perform their massages in room s with large windows and lots of light.  The table that the recipient of the massage lays on should be comfortable, but not too comfortable.  You need a firm surface so that when pressure there is an appropriate amount of resistance.  Resist the temptation to lie on a bed or couch because the massage techniques discussed below will not work as well.  Finally, the use of oils will greatly increase the effectiveness of the massage.  The oil ensures that your hands will flow smoothly over the skin of the person receiving the massage.

Swedish Massage Techniques

Swedish massage is one of the earliest massage therapies dating back to the early nineteenth century.  It is probably the most popular form of massage and you can find Swedish massage therapists on almost any spa or massage parlor.  Swedish massage techniques include long strokes, kneading, and friction techniques.  The pressure applied during Swedish massage is firm but gentle and only penetrates to the superficial layers of muscle.

Deep Tissue Massage Techniques

Deep tissue massage is appropriate for people who experience chronic pain, engage in heavy physical activity like an athlete, or have sustained an injury and need to keep working their muscles during physical therapy and recovery because it penetrates much deeper than other types of massage to deeper layers of muscle.  Deep tissue massage techniques are similar to Swedish massage techniques except they are applied with greater pressure and the masseuse sometimes uses knuckles, or elbows to get to deep muscles layers.  People who experience deep tissue massage can be sore or experience bruising a day or two afterward, but it should not be terribly painful.  If you are in great pain during or after the massage, then the person giving you the massage was not performing it properly.

A specific type of deep tissue massage is sometimes called sports massage.  Sports massage techniques are deep tissue massage techniques used to treat or prevent injury.  Athletes get sports massages before and after contests to keep from pulling, spraining, or straining their muscles.  Physical therapists will perform sports massage when a patient is going through physical therapy for an injury to keep their muscles supple.

Facial Massage Techniques

Facial massages can be very helpful in relieving the pain of headaches and the tension of high stress levels.  People who suffer from migraine headaches often use facial massage techniques to help manage the pain.  A facial massage usually begins at the scalp and works its way down the face.  The massage therapist will use all ten fingers to scrub all over your head and sometimes finish with long strokes of your hair.  The massage therapist will then put a very small amount of lotion on their fingertips and spread it across the face.  In general, the strokes used to massage the face are long, start in the center, and work their way out.  Another facial massage technique is to use the fingertips to make small circular motions.  This is especially common on the forehead and the temples.

Massage Techniques for the Neck and Shoulders

A neck and shoulder massage can be very relaxing at the end of a long day and is something that anyone can do if you know the right massage techniques.  Shoulder and neck massages are quick and not difficult.  The most popular is to squeeze the shoulders.  You start close to the neck and gently squeeze as you work your way out to the top of the shoulders.  You can also lightly tap on the shoulders and upper back with fists and with karate chop motions.  Be careful not to use too much pressure with is shoulder massage technique.  Some useful neck massage techniques include using lobster claws to rub and lift the neck muscles with alternating hands.  You stand to the side of your subject and pull the neck muscles away from the spine with alternating motions.  Another neck massage technique is to make circular motions with your fingers with one hand on top of the other.  You start at the hair line and work your way down to the tops of the shoulders and then switch sides.

Back Massage Techniques

The back massage can be very soothing for anyone who experiences back pain or just needs to relieve some stress.  There are four basic back massage techniques and they are effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, and friction.  Effleurage is a smooth rhythmic stroking done with the whole hand, the heel of the hand, or fingertips.  This motion should be continuous and you should never lose contact with the subjects back.  Petrissage is when you lift the skin up, press it down and squeeze, pinch or roll.  Friction is done with the fingertips or thumb pads.  You exert a decent amount of pressure with your fingers or thumbs in smooth motions.  All three of these are good massage techniques for lower back pain.  Massage techniques for sciatica relief are similar to massage techniques lower back.  The last technique is usually only used on the upper back and that is tapotement.  This is a tapping either with a fist or in a karate chop motion.

Foot Massage Techniques

Foot massage techniques are also very simple to learn. Using these methods, you should be able to make your spouse or loved one feel much better after a day on their feet. One technique is just to cup and rub the feet. Using your both of your hands, cup the foot and rub either from the heel to the toe or the toe to the heel. Be sure to use less pressure neat the toes and the center of the foot. Another technique is to walk your thumbs up the sides of the feet. You can put a medium amount of pressure as you walk from the heel to the toes with your thumbs. Do not use this massage technique in the middle of the foot where there are no tendons. You can also knead the bottom of the foot with your fist. One final foot massage technique is toe rotation. Gently pull on each toe and carefully squeeze and rotate it. Be sure not to be too rough or pull too hard because this could be uncomfortable.


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