How To Give A Back Massage
There’s a good reason massage therapists charge what they do. They’ve undergone intensive, long-term training that involves learning anatomy and physiology. They’ve practiced for months or longer, hours per day, to develop the understanding and the skills to detect body problems. They’ve learned a demanding trade.
But sometimes dedicated amateurs can emulate their skill to a lesser degree, making those needed sessions a little fewer or farther between. Here are some tips on how to do that, when giving a back massage.
The Fan Stroke
Generally performed with oil to decrease friction, simply kneel astride the subject, who is facing down on a comfortable surface. Put the palms of the hands in the mid back, fingers facing away from the spine. You’ll be asserting pressure on muscle groups called the latissiumus dorsi and the trapezius. Be sure not to press directly on the spine, but alongside it.
Move the whole hand (palm and fingers) with moderate pressure up the back, along the shoulder blades and out, away from the line of the spine. Move back to the rib cage on the back and repeat. That’s a fan stroke. Increase the pressure moderately, seeking feedback to keep it within a range that’s comfortable for the recipient.
The Circling Hands
Starting on the lower back, again with the hands flat, move at right angles to the spine. Then, right away, circle the right hand counterclockwise with gentle pressure as you move up the back. Keep the fingers pointing away from the spine as you make the circular motion.
Replace the right hand with the left hand and repeat the motion, on the right side of the recipient’s body. Then start over with the right hand on the left side of the body. Make the circles, then replace with the left hand and repeat.
As one hand trails the other, move up the body on the right, then left, then right again.
Petrissage in professional massage circles is a motion that kneads the flesh and muscle. In this technique, the idea is to move ‘clumps’, but also to smooth out ‘knots’. Working on more localized areas, with smaller surfaces (such as the thumbs, fingertips, even elbows if applied lightly), move up and down the back.
Oil will help avoid pinching and tugging. If you see the skin ripple, you need a little more. Take care over areas where the muscles are thinner, such as the rib cage.
Grab a portion of a muscle group and squeeze, then move to the next, working your way gradually around all areas of the back from low to high, left and right. Change hands and repeat.
Rest your hands on the recipients shoulders. Using the fingertips, with the fingers spread apart, move both hands down the back, ‘raking’ the flesh. Then use one hand moving up, the other moving down simultaneously. Rake alongside the spine, but not on it.
The net effect of all these is to relax the muscles, warm up the skin and improve circulation. That brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to them, removing toxins. The body is relaxed and the mind soothed.