Understanding Basic Massage Techniques and Terminology
The art of massage has been around for thousands of years and is still popular today. Massage requires trust, connection, and the proper application of technique. The techniques used, however, vary. Each technique has its own name and specific way to be performed. When studying to become a masseuse, massage specialists are required to learn these techniques and become familiar with their terminology.
For clients who receive massages, knowing the name of specific techniques can be beneficial- especially if one technique hits the spot where other techniques might have missed the mark. To help you, as a client, understand which technique is being used on you, here is a breakdown of some popular massage techniques and what they are called.
The effleurage technique comes from Swedish massage and is categorized by being a smooth and gliding stroke of the hand. Effleurages are hand-over-hand motions that can be used over the entire body and are particularly good for the back, legs, arms, chest, face, and throat. Most massages start and end with light effleurage motions, as they serve as a warm up and help the client relax.
Kneading is another popular technique. If you’ve watched anyone get a massage on TV, you’ve probably seen the massage specialist kneading the client. Kneading is when the therapist squeezes muscle tissue between his or her hands and fingertips, and then lets it go. Kneading is done rhythmically, using one hand first and then the other and is great for areas such as the calves, thighs, shoulders, buttocks, and upper arms.
The friction technique is when a therapist massages a specific part of the body– usually where a knot has formed- with his or her fingers. Friction has a kneading motion- however, it is more targeted and can be applied directly to a specific location. The action in question is usually circular in motion. It can also be performed across the muscle which is called cross-fiber friction. This is the technique that makes massages hurt but feel good at the same time.
The stretching technique is exactly what it sounds like. The masseuse takes the client’s arms or legs and stretches and flexes them, taking care to carefully bend the muscles. This technique is commonly used in Asian style massages, and is sometimes used in Swedish deep tissue massages.
Percussion techniques are strong and striking movements. A classic example of this is the commonly seen on TV “chopping” motion that is done with the side of one’s hands. The goal of this technique is to stimulate the body.
Other percussion techniques include tapping- light tapping on the face of arms- and slapping.
The rolling technique means that the massage specialist lifts his or her client’s skin between the fingers and gently rolls over the lifted area. This technique is used to release restrictions between the skin and tissue beneath it. Rolling can be used to help relieve knots and tension in combination with friction techniques.
Cupping is used in Asian massages, but can be used in Swedish massages as well. Cupping is performed when the masseuse creates a cup with his or her palm and fingers and uses the cup to chop at an area of the body that is tense or stressed. Cupping is commonly done on the chest to relieve mucus build up from various sicknesses, and can be done lightly or with force.
Plucking is similar to pinching, but shouldn’t be painful or leave any red marks. Plucking is done successfully when the specialist uses outstretched fingers to grip and lift small areas of skin. For plucking, both hands are used and take turns completing the motion in rapid succession.
While it isn’t essential to know the name of massage techniques, it can prove to be helpful in case you want to request that a certain technique be used on you. Even if this isn’t the case, knowing about what your masseuse is doing to your body and why can create peace of mind and provide the basis for good, educated, conversation.
Of course, there are other techniques that are used, but the ones listed above are some of the most common.