Keys to Giving (or Getting) a GREAT Massage
Having taught massage for many years and professionally practiced massage for more years than we taught we know the benfits a good massage can impart. There are some key points we like to emphasize in order to make the massage experience as therapeutic as possible.
Start with these ideas:
Goals of the session
Discuss the goals of the massage. What areas are in need of work? Get a clear idea of what areas you intend to address.
Where are you going to perform the massage? If on the floor, it is best to have a padded surface for the recipient to lay on and for you to rest your knees on. A padded futon, sleeping bag, air mattress, exercise mat, or cushions from a couch are some possibilities.
Other surfaces you can utilize are:
On a couch; on a bed (at home, in a nursing care facility, in a hospital); in a chair ; in a wheelchair. Massage tables are designed to support a large body in comfort. They also allow the massager to protect their back from overexertion and to use their body leverage to apply pressure with less effort. For guidelines in choosing a massage table click here.
Use of oil, cream or lotion
Are you using a lubricant on the skin? You can use a good quality vegetable oil such as olive oil, grape seed oil or sesame oil. There is a wide choice of oils, creams and lotions on the market formulated for use in massage. Choose one that contains little or no preservatives or synthetic ingredients. Make certain there are no ingredients which you or your partner has allergies to. The addition of essential oils to your massage oil can enhance the effectiveness of the massage.
Have pillows and towels handy
Use pillows and/or towels to bolster the body for support and comfort. Place them under the knees, hips, head and neck as needed. If your partner is lying on their side, pillows provide great support and comfort creating a more relaxed environment to receive the massage.
Make your massage effective
Be on the right spot
You have to be massaging the right area for the best therapeutic outcome. Identify the tightest or most glued/adhered areas in a muscle or connective tissue and address them specifically. Sometimes the area that is experiencing pain or discomfort is actually a referral zone of a muscle located somewhere else. See trigger point discussion for an explanation. Trace around bones to feel for tight muscle attachments. Trace above and below joints to identify glued or adhered tissues.
Press down to an effective depth
Your pressure has to be deep enough to feel the tight areas in the muscles. Positioning a joint or limb to relax the muscles can allow you to press deep enough to identify the tightest areas. Use pillows or towels to bolster the body in comfortable positions. Do not press too deeply into an area so as to cause tensing in your partner. If your partner reports a burning or numbing sensation due to your pressure – stop pressing on that area.
Alternate the direction of the massage strokes
In order to effect a change in the texture of tight or glued tissues you must move across the direction of the fibers to spread them apart and in the direction of the fibers to lengthen them. Alternate the stroke directions periodically.
Stay with an area long enough
Address each tight or adhered area long enough to change the texture of the tissue. Stay with an area for one or two minutes if you feel progress being made. Do not overstay your welcome. It can be counter productive to irritate the area or create excessive soreness. Gluing of tissues does not happen over night, it is a process that happens over time. Releasing the gluing is also a process that happens over time. Play with the tissue repeatedly over several weeks rather than trying to change it back in one session. Once you learn how to do it yourself, you have the time to let it change slowly and at a pace that is manageable.
Stay focused and in contact
Stay in touch with your partner and keep your focus/attention on the contact with the tissue. Note if your partner tenses up in response to your pressure. Maintain conversation with your partner concerning pain tolerance to the pressure you are applying and back off when it hurts too much.