7 Massage Strokes: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn about 7 different types of massage strokes - petrissage, friction, tapotement, vibration, effleurage, shooting & petrissage techniques - & how they can help relax & relieve muscle tension.

7 Massage Strokes: A Comprehensive Guide

The challenge isn't just knowing how to do massage strokes, it's understanding the different types of massage strokes and how they can benefit your body. Petrissage, friction, tapotement, vibration, effleurage, shooting, petrissage techniques, waxing, acupuncture, Thai massage, lymphatic drainage massage and ashiatsu massage are all types of massage strokes that can be used to help relax and relieve muscle tension. Petrissage refers to kneading, rolling and twisting tissues with the massage therapist's thumbs and knuckles. It works very well to release muscle knots and can also increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage in the area of the body being worked on.

Friction is another common massage movement used to loosen muscle knots. The massage therapist will rub both hands with quick movements along the part of the body being worked to generate heat and help the muscles relax and rest. Tapotement involves the masseur gently and rhythmically touching the body with his fists, the side of the hands or the cupped hands. Vibration involves the massage therapist using the fingertips or the heel of the hand to perform a back-and-forth motion on the skin.

It can be done quickly or slowly, depending on your personal preferences and the purpose of the massage. Effleurage is a gentle glide of the hands over the skin and is the most common stroke in massage. It is a back rubbing technique, in which one hand is placed on each side of the back and both are used to scrub the hair. Tapotement is a blow massage that encompasses a number of more specific techniques.

It is especially used in warm-up massage for sporting events but is generally an important part of Swedish massage. Some of its effects may be due to the way air is compressed against the skin with each blow. Shooting is something like slapping with a hollowed out palm. Hitting allows you to use your fists on the patient.

Petrissage techniques consist of short, circular movements that lift and tighten muscles. This improves blood flow to muscles and can also help muscles to remove their waste products. Waxing involves gently lifting part of the skin and then allowing it to slowly slide back between your fingers. When it comes to deep tissue massages, it is important to ensure that the blows are made with the same forces and intervals. Making them too hard can be uncomfortable and therefore cause a “tension” reaction that is not ideal.

However, a certain degree of strength seems to be beneficial. Tapotement is best done on areas of the skin that do not have bones or particularly sensitive spots just below. Acupuncture is much more direct than other forms of massage therapy and is excellent for delving deeper into deep fascial layers. Thai massage works the whole body through a sequence of movements similar to yogic stretches.

Lymphatic drainage massage is a type of gentle massage that stimulates circulation of lymphatic fluids through the body. When it comes to chronic low back pain, deep tissue massage “was a statistically significant therapy better than therapeutic massage compared to ODI and VAS” according to one study. However, many centers do not offer massages to women in their first trimester because of risk of miscarriage during this period. While almost all types of massage movements are designed to promote relaxation and relieve muscle tension, there are some key differences between them. Experiment with different types of massages and with different massage therapists to find what best suits your needs. Your therapist can hold a stone while massaging different parts of your body using Swedish massage techniques with gentle pressure.

David Everhart, PTA, LMT, practices massage therapy at Structural Elements in Hagerstown, Maryland adding that deep tissue massage creates positive changes for health.

Meagan Furgerson
Meagan Furgerson

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