Friday, September 17, 2010

My Favorite Massage Strokes

My favorite massage strokes include effleurage, petrissage and compression. In reading the textbook by Mosby, compression is listed as a separate type of stroke, though the author acknowledges this is controversial. I use effleurage to relax the client’s body, but also to achieve compressive force over a broad area.

When massaging a person’s back, for example, I use effleurage strokes utilizing the whole hand. I start at the top of the shoulders and go down, in one long fluid motion, through to the lower back. Putting a hand on either side of the spine, with my thumbs in the laminar trough, and making a slow, compressive movement I am able to affect the trapezius, rhomboids, teres major and minor, erector spinae, external abdominal oblique, and the iliac crest. This stroking movement is one of my favorites, as I am able to use my body weight as leverage to lean on the client in order to cover a wide area. Many clients have expressed how good the stroke feels to them. I believe having the thumbs into the laminar trough and the whole hand pushing down and forward of the stroke is very therapeutic as it both follows the fiber direction of some muscles and in a cross-fiber direction on others.

A second stroke I enjoy using is petrissage, especially when working on the clients’ calf and thigh. I utilize kneading, rhythmic rolling, lifting and wringing of the muscles as I massage these two areas. Standing perpendicular to the client and grasping their calf/thigh with both hands, I move my hands in a figure eight pattern. I keep tension on my fingers gently squeezing the muscles while grasping with whole hands to get the lifting and wringing movements in with the rolling and kneading. I also move my body in rhythm with my hands, in effect, incorporating my whole body into the stroke. I can adjust the amount of pressure I use by leaning my body more or less, as I perform the stroking motion.

Compression is a third stroke I enjoy. I like to work on trigger points in the supraspinatus, infraspinatus and levator scapulae areas of the body by pressing down with finger and thumb tips, single index finger knuckles, palm heels, and elbows. Now that I can fairly easily identify trigger points by feel in those areas, I am working to learn to identify trigger points in other areas of the body as I perform the massage. Because, I think, most people carry their tension in their neck, shoulders, and upper back, the trigger points are easier to find there. I also use a compression stroke and a scooping motion when doing the pushaway technique in the laminar trough. Using the heel of my palm, I am able to push down into the laminar trough, the amount of compression determined by body leverage, and work that area of the spine.

These three strokes are my favorite ones. I am able to incorporate them into many of the techniques I use while giving a massage.


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