Main menu


Massage | Basic Massage techniques

               Basic Massage techniques


Massage techniques can be divided into five basic categories: effleurage, kneading, friction, tapping, and vibration.


The glide of the palm of the hand and the fleshy part of the fingers on the skin, compressing it, without ever losing contact with the surface to be massaged.


This is the basic technique of massage. The effleurage is performed in a slow, rhythmic manner, using both hands together (the hands should be flat, with the fingers linked but flexible) with a small space between the thumbs. Massage sessions are often started and ended with this technique. It is also the best method for accustoming the patient to the contact of the therapist's hands on his body and his skin. It is important that the hands stay in contact with the skin for as long as possible as they move from one part of the body to another. If the therapist wishes to use only light pressure, he will use the palms of the hands or the fingertips with light sliding motions, working away from the heart. Light sliding movements have a relaxing effect on the nervous system. For increased pressure, the joints or the thumbs can be used in a movement towards the heart. Stronger pressure has a greater effect on blood circulation and the nervous system. The firm, rapid brushing is used to stimulate blood flow, improve flexibility, and warm muscles. It is often used as a warm-up before participating in sport.


A massage maneuver consisting of strongly feeling a muscle or a group of muscles.


The kneading is performed with the pulp of the thumbs and fingers and the palms of the hands. It is ideal for relieving sore or tense muscles, especially the trapezius muscles between the neck and shoulders. Both hands work together, in a rhythmic motion, alternately, taking, squeezing lightly, and rolling the tense muscle. It is used to release tension in the superficial and deep muscles, and to increase blood flow to the area. The kneading action becomes deep enough to stimulate the lymphatic system and release the buildup of lactic acid. Athletes often have a buildup of lactic acid in certain muscles, which can cause cramps. Kneading movements are particularly effective on deep muscles such as shoulders, buttocks, hips, and legs.


Massage technique practiced with one or more fingers, and consisting in exerting more or less strong pressure on the muscular masses or the joints, with an analgesic aim and in order to improve the local circulation.


The purpose of friction is to break the bond between the tissues and to relax all contracted muscle fibers. It is therefore often used in trigger point therapies, such as around the shoulders and neck. The friction is carried out with the pulp of the thumbs, never the tips. A small, deep, circular motion, in which the pulp of the thumb remains in contact with the same area of the skin, is used to crush the contracted tissue against the underlying tissue or bone. It is the only massage technique that can cause pain (often described as "sweet agony"). A variation of this technique is to simply press with the pads of the thumbs and fingers rather than massaging in small circles (known as "squeezing"). Friction is often used on dancers and athletes who experience ligament or tendon problems because it stimulates blood flow and also improves joint flexibility. This method should not be used on parts of the body that have been injured in any way, for example, bruises.

Tapping (or percussion)

Massaging maneuver carried out by means of the hand placed in the shape of a spoon and which strikes the surface of the skin.


Tapping is derived from the French word taper which means "to drum" (similar to fingers on a surface). A typical example is done with the edge of the hand with a quick movement as if one wanted to chop (like karate), although the movements are not strong. In fact, percussion covers a variety of movements ("hatching", "spoon-shaped hand", "flapping"…) which stimulate the skin and light tissues and increase blood flow in the worked area. This type of massage is used on areas such as the buttocks, thighs, waist, or shoulders where there is a large area of flesh.



The vibration consists of shaking the muscular masses by impressing on the hand or on the pads of the fingers resting on the skin rapid oscillations. Used on the back, buttocks, and upper thighs, this maneuver, stimulating for the nervous system, can be advantageously replaced by vibration devices.