Massage movements

Massage can be defined as the manipulation of the soft tissues of the body performed by the hands for the purpose of producing effects on the systems of the body. For therapy purposes general massage can be seen as a means of either inducing relaxation or invigorating the system depending on the choice and combination of massage movements.

Massage movements come under four main headings


These main groups can be further divided and most movements used will fall into one of these main groups.

Video clips are available of the different movements - see

The massage setting is important. Move the mouse over the image for for more information.

Effleurage consists of stroking movements. Effleurage movements commence and complete a massage routine and also linking in other movements. they are applied with the entire palmar surface of the hand and commence with superficial strokes. As the pressure used is light the direction of the strokes may be towards the heart or away from heart. the hand should contour to the shape of the area under treatment and exert equal pressure over the entire contact area.
The thumb and fingers are kept closed together in a flexible manner.


Effleurage on arm
Effleurage on leg
Back effleurage leading to thumb kneading on neck.

Petrissage consists of compression movements. These include kneading, skin rolling, frictions with finger or thumb and wringing. Petrissage movements are performed with intermittent pressure either with one or both hands. The pressure is smoothly and firmly applied, then relaxed. The movement is then progressed to an adjacent area and is then repeated.
Kneading may be performed in several different ways and is described by the part of an hand used to accomplish the massage, eg thumb kneading, palmar kneading. the pressure used must vary according to the purpose of the massage and the bulk of the tissues under treatment. The rhythm and rate of the movement are equally important as the pressure is applied intermittently. care must be taken to avoid pinching the skin at the end of the strokes and effleurage used freely to link together the movements.
Frictions are concentrated movements exerting controlled pressure on a small area of surface tissues moving them over the underlying structures. The movements are applied in a circular manner with the thumb or fingers. The movement completes several small circles over a limited area placing a degree of stretch in the underlying structures. For pressure is then relaxed and the hand moved on to an adjacent area without losing contact.


Finger kneading on neck
Thumb kneading on neck
Thumb kneading on palm
Thumb kneading on back
Finger rolling on trunk 1
Finger rolling on trunk 2

Tapotement movements include beating, pounding, cupping and hacking. all these movements a stimulating and should only be used if a general toning effect is required from the massage rather than relaxation. Cupping the is performed with hands forming a loose cups which rhythmically strike the body. Beating is when the hands are formed into loose fists dropping from shoulder level to strike the client's body. hacking is a light and fast movement performed with the hands at right angles to the wrists. The fingers touch and leave the skin's surface very rapidly with the outer three fingers of each hand the most involved. Hacking his very stimulating both to the circulation and to the sensory nerve endings.


Cupping on thigh
Hacking on gluteus
Vibrations include thumb vibrations and finger vibrations. They are fine trembling movements performed on or along the nerve path by the fingers of the thumb. Feathering on back


A comfortable couch with clean, tidy sheets makes a good first impression. Use a trolley with wheels. This way you can move it round the couch as you work on the client. This keeps you from stretching awkwardly. Keep a regularly emptied bin nearby for waste materials such as handwipes and cotton wool. Privacy is very important if your client is going to relax. Ensure the client feels relaxed and secure. Ensure the frame of the couch is sturdy and secure. It will be difficult for clients to relax if the couch moves during treatment.