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Tips and Techniques for Giving a Great Back Massage

March 23, 2015

The perfect way to bring joy to someone in your life is to offer them a soothing back massage. While you can give a gift certificate for a professional massage from a trained massage therapist, you can also do it yourself. Watch this video from a trained professional to learn the key beginner back massage techniques that can help you give a relaxing, memorable massage. Then, follow along below to learn more about massage and some proper techniques for massaging the back.

What Does a Massage Do?

Let’s delve a little into what massage is. Massage involves light stroking or deep pressure through rubbing, pressing and manipulating parts of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. The act of massage directly involves the:1

  • Skin
  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments

Massage is a pleasurable activity that has possible health benefits.

Possible Health Benefits of A Massage

Massages are considered a segment of integrative medicine that can be used in combination with conventional medicine. Possible health benefits for someone receiving a massage, the Mayo Clinic has said, include:1

  • Reduction of stress
  • Increased relaxation
  • Improvement in circulation and feeling more alert and energetic
  • Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improvement in immune function.

Massage may also prove beneficial to those suffering from other disorders such as headaches and pain experienced in the neck and upper back, to name a few. However, more research is needed to confirm these claims, the Mayo Clinic says, and notes that massage should never be used in place of regular medical care.

Beyond those possible health benefits of massage, people receiving a massage often find it pleasurable because it may promote feelings of care, comfort and help form connections.

Receiving a massage may also help to improve the quality of sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That’s because it may decrease levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.2

Possible Risks of Massage

While most may benefit from receiving a massage and are likely to enjoy it, it may not be good for people with certain conditions, the Mayo Clinic says. These include:1

  • Taking blood-thinning meds or if you have a bleeding disorder
  • Healing wounds or burns
  • Fractures or broken bones
  • Infections
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia
  • Deep vein thrombosis

If you’re unsure if it is safe to receive a massage or perform one on someone, it may be wise for the person who will receive it to first consult their medical provider.

Tips for How to Give a Good Back Massage

Here are some tips for giving a memorable back massage.

Create a pleasant massage environment

Find a stable, hard surface in your home and have your loved one lay down with their face towards the floor. You don’t necessarily need a professional massage table—any sturdy surface will do.

Lay towels, blankets, or other types of soft material on the surface to increase the comfort of the lucky person to whom you will give a massage.
You may wish to create a peaceful environment for the massage by including soft music, scented candles or flowers or herbs, and low lighting to make it more memorable. Have any massage oils or lotions you plan to use on the skin close by.

Massage oils

Only use high-quality massage oil for the back massage. Recommended oils include:

  • Olive oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Blended oils

Tip: Avoid strong fragrances for the best results.

Let the massage recipient decide what to wear for the back massage

The person to whom you will give the back massage can wear light clothing or be shirtless, whichever they prefer. On that note, you may also want to ensure that the person feels comfortable with what you plan to wear while giving the massage.

Step-By-Step Guide to Giving a Back Massage

These instructions are for massages you will be giving to a person who has opted not to wear a shirt or other clothing covering the back during the massage.
Tip: Because the point of a massage is to deliver a pleasurable experience to the recipient, encourage them to let you know if something hurts or feels good as you move through these steps.

1. Begin the back massage.

Begin by rubbing a bit of massage oil into your hands and lightly and evenly spreading the oil across the back.

Spreading the oil in a figure-eight motion can help ensure that you’re covering the entire area. Gradually increase the amount of pressure that you’re applying as you continue with the back rub.

Tip: Moving your body while you apply pressure on a person’s back during a massage can help you maintain your stamina. It can also help prevent you from accidentally injuring yourself.

2. Move on to using gliding strokes.

Move into your next gliding stroke by firmly moving your hands up the back to the shoulder and then down the back again.

3. Use your body weight.

Use your body weight to create additional pressure. Do this in a fluid motion without removing your hands from the person’s back.

If you want to go deeper with each gliding stroke, using your knuckles can help.

Important tip: Take care not to press too hard on bony structures, such as the spine or shoulder blades.

4. Apply more pressure to the muscles along each side of the spine.

Also be sure to apply pressure to the shoulders. Shoulders are an area of the body where a large amount of tension tends to be held.

Hold the upper shoulder muscle in your hands and apply varying amounts of pressure, depending on the comfort level of the person you’re massaging.

5. Finish up the massage by returning to the initial figure-eight stroke.

Consider a Career in Massage Therapy

If you love the idea of bringing joy to others through the art of massage, you may want to consider becoming a licensed massage therapist. Carrington College has an excellent massage therapy training program. Request information today to take the first step towards your new career path.

Sources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743
  2. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-massage/

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