How do massage therapists manage to go all day without aching hands? The key is making sure you’re positioned high enough above your partner. “If you put all the weight in your thumbs, you’re going to run out of steam,” says Burgess. “The massaging movement should come from the whole body — your shoulders, back and even legs — and you can only do that if you’re standing or kneeling.”
Probably the most quintessential massage technique, you’ll rotate your thumbs and fingers simultaneously in circular movements. “For the neck, use your thumbs to push downwards and away from the skull to help lengthen the muscles,” says Burgess.
“The muscles on either side of your shoulders are notorious for carrying stress,” says Burgess, “so you want to give this area some attention.” Simply wrap your hands around your partner’s upper arms and squeeze in segments of three, gradually increasing the pressure.
Essentially a hand chop, this technique is a good closer after you’ve worked a particular section of the body. “Keep your wrists loose and relaxed and work within an evenly spaced, timed pattern” says Burgess. “This will properly stimulate the nerve endings and help increase blood flow, invigorating the muscles."
This is essentially just using the palm of your hand or forearm to lean into a muscle group. “The best place to use compression is on the area between your neck and shoulders,” says Burgess “This is a great way to warm up the tissue of your trapezius and levator scapula."
Great for smaller areas such as the back of the neck or arms, stroking is a more superficial technique. “You’re really addressing the skin here, not so much the underlying muscle fascia, so you don't have to stick to a standard rhythm or direction,” says Burgess. Simply cup your hand and move your fingers in a circular motion.
These long, gliding strokes are also very superficial, but feel amazing. “As you’re rubbing up and down, be sure to always maintain contact with the body,” Burgess says. “Press firmly in one direction, then glaze your palms across the skin to come back to the starting point. It’s as if you’re creating a long petal shape.”
Known as a “pick-up stroke,” which pulls the deepest layers of fascia and muscle, pinching works well in areas where tension pools such as the hamstrings and calves. “Just remember there is very little fat in the calves, so ease in by gradually picking up deeper layers of tissue and not diving right in,” Burgess says.
Video by Project Dstllry