How to give a sweet massage!

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You don’t have to be a Licenced Massage Therapist (LMT), or even Napoleon Dynamite (although that might help) to give a sweet massage to a friend or family member. Great massage techniques are easy and come very naturally with just a little practice.

Let’s start with the basics:

Tip #1: A little pressure goes a long way
You might be tempted to press as hard as you can into the muscle area when you first start with the massage, but by taking your time and easing into the pressure, going from lightest to heaviest, your partner will be the most comfortable and it will be the most effective. It also gives your partner’s nervous system time to adjust to what the body is receiving. Once your partner is comfortable with the pressure you are using, communicate with them and ask if they would like a little more or if they are OK where it is at. Talk with them to find out what feels best–everyone is different, so dont assume–ask!

Tip #2: Work the muscle, not the bone
Deciphering the difference between muscle and bone takes a little practice, but it is worth the effort because direct, heavy pressure on bones and joints can be dangerous–and won’t feel good to your partner. Sometimes muscles that are extremely tight (or hypertonic) might feel a bit like bone, but with a little palpation (feeling the body area using a soft touch) before you begin will help you figure out the difference. Muscles will generally feel a little softer and more moveable than bone, and you will be able to manipulate muscle under your fingers. After palpating the area, if you still arent sure which is which, ask your partner to move a joint while you palpate the area. This should help identify what is muscle and what is bone (the shoulder blade on the back is an area that often gets mistaken for muscle). Remember, if you can find a bone, you can palpate around that bone to find the muscles that attach to it and work on those instead! And NEVER press down on joints or the spine directly!

Here is a great video of how to do a palpation of the back and shoulder blade area.

Tip #3: Work slowly, thoroughly and gently!
Once you have found the muscles you want to work with, take the work slowly, and try to work the muscle all the way to the end (until you reach bone). Working slowly instead of quickly helps trigger the body’s Parasympathetic nervous system — the one that helps us rest and relax. Working the muscle its full length will help release tension in the muscles attachment areas.

Tip #4: Use little oil or lotion sparingly
Most often it is a good idea to use some kind of oil or lotion while you are giving a massage to bare skin. It helps reduce friction and is much more soothing than massage without any lubrication. However, using too much oil or lotion can reduce friction so much that the effectiveness of the massage is reduced. Use only the amount of oil or lotion that is needed to make the glide over your partners skin smooth, but not so much that they are slipping out from under your grasp. Try to use a vegetable or nut based oil such as Avocado, Sweet Almond or Jojoba. If you are using a lotion, make sure it will be viscous enough to give you some slide on the skin.

So now that we know a little bit about how to approach our partner while doing a massage, here are a few technique videos and tips to help make your next massage a sweet one.

Massage #1: The Back Rub
Video Demonstration

Anyone who sits at a desk or a computer for a large period of time during the day, or anyone who does heavy lifting or repetitive retractive arm movements will most likely have sore Rhomboid, Trapezius, and Posterior Cervical muscles. These muscles are the most commonly over exerted muscles in the back, neck and shoulder areas, and ones that most people find great relief in having massaged. The Rhomboids are the muscles that run in an angle from your upper spine to the edge of each shoulder blade (or Scapula) on each side. The Trapezius is one of the biggest muscles in the body and covers the top of the shoulders, the back of the neck and part of the upper back. The Posterior Cervical muscles are the neck muscles that run from the base of your skull to the upper part of your back.

Massage #2: The legs and feet
Video Demonstration

There is very little that feels as good as a nice leg and foot massage! It seems to melt all your troubles away in a very short amount of time. The feet contain a dizzying array of nerve endings and can trigger a relaxation response to your whole body. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that Reflexology massage can help heal your body of illness and toxins because the feet are channels to the major organs. When you do a foot massage, be sure to include the ankles (gently!) and the lower leg. Tip! Some people have sensitive calves and lower legs, so be very gentle and avoid any spider or vericose veins.

Massage #3: The arms and hands
Video Demonstration

Most of us work on computers these days, and all that tap tap tapping and mousing can really take a toll on tired hands and forearms. Like the feet, the hands and wrists hold many nerves. These nerves run up through the upper arm, forearm and through the chest and on to the shoulder area in many cases. When the nerves in the wrist or hand become entrapped from overuse or repetitive motions, they can cause pain in the arm and neck, and restrict full range of motion there.

Now you are ready to give your partner a sweet, safe massage with your mad new skills! As Napoleon would say…“LUCKY!”