Classification of Massage Movements

June 21, 2011 - 4 minutes read


Derived from the French word ‘effleure’, meaning ‘to skim over’. Effleurage can be deep or superficial, depending on variation of pressure. A stroking movement performed with the whole palmar surface of the hands with fingers together, contouring the area. Hands may be alternatively or both together. The movement must be smooth and rhythmical, following the course of the venous and lymphatic vessels from distal to proximal ends, ending whenever possible at a group of lymph glands. All pressure is towards the heart, decreasing on its return journey away from the heart. Used to commence, link and complete manipulations to an area, the contact should remain intact until the final removal of the hands, which should be so gradual as to be imperceptible.

Effects: Effleurage increases the arterial, venous and lymphatic flow, desquamates dead skin cells, improves skin texture and induces relaxation.

These are compression movements performed with the pads of the thumbs and/or fingers. Intermittent pressure is applied firmly and then relaxed before moving to an adjacent area without losing contact. Surface tissues are squeezed against underlying bone, the pressure depending on the bulk and type of tissue present. If performed over muscle, it usually travels from insertion to origin.

Effects: Compression causes filling and emptying of blood vessels, muscles are relaxed as waste products are removed, skin and muscle adhesions are loosened and accumulated fluids around joints eliminated.

A compression movement performed with the entire palmar surface of one or both hands. The degree of pressure is dependant on the bulk and type of tissue present. There are several different types of kneading but all pick up or squeeze the tissue, much like the kneading of bread dough.

Effects: Kneading increases the arterial, venous and lymphatic flow, nourishing and decongesting. Tense muscles are relaxed and toned.

Can be carried out using either one or both hands and either whole palms or just the finger tips. Palms of hands/fingertips are placed on the muscle and, with firm contact, moved briskly up and down or from side to side.

Effects: Helps release pain and tension. Can be soothing or stimulating, depending on the desired result. It can literally surprise the muscle into releasing its tension.

A sharp, rapid movement performed with elbows bent and arms away from the body, the fingers are relaxed and facing each other, striking the area alternately. Only used on areas of sufficient bulk and avoiding bony prominences.

Effects: Stimulating to nerve fibres and blood flow, resulting in tingling warmth, so raising the metabolism and toning the muscle.

As with all percussion movements, the wrists must be flexible, with the palmar surface drawn into a ‘cup’ which alternately strikes the body drawing the flesh upwards towards the vacuum. In so doing, a distinctive ‘clip-clapping’ sound is made. Sufficient bulk must be present.

Effects: The tissues are stimulated to cause erythema and rise in temperature, softening fatty tissue, increasing nourishment to the area and decongesting.

Light, fast tapping whipping movements performed with the fingertips over sufficient bulk on delicate areas such as the face.

Effects: Stimulation is given to the vascular network creating erythema, congestion is removed, glandular activity is increased and skin texture improved.

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