Massage is an excellent overall body therapy. Back and neck massage is a good combination to rejuvenate your whole system by inducing relaxation, improving blood circulation and alleviation of musculoskeletal aches and pains. The trapezius muscle is usually the most tensed muscle when dealing with the back and neck. Its upper fibres are located at the top of the shoulder, and are the ones that often become sore and painful. When these muscles are tight, it will bring about back pain that radiates into the neck, and even induces bad headache in severe cases. Here are some easy steps to give a relaxing back and neck massage.
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Things you need
- Massage table or firm mattress
- Relaxing music or sounds
- Clean, soft sheet and towels
- Firm pillow
- Massage oil
Find a suitable place to perform your massage. You should choose an area that's free from any external stimuli such as noises and crowd--to enhance more relaxation. It would help if you change overly bright lightings into mild candle lights. And if the client wants to hear soft meditative sounds, you can play it to make her feel more at ease. DVDs and CDs that play soft sea breeze and other nature sounds are good choices.
Set your massage table at an obstacle-free space. Avoid an inappropriate set-up such as pinning the massage table against the wall. See to it that your massage table is positioned in the middle of an area where you can move around as you do your massage strokes. Set aside any stuff that gets in your way such as unwanted chairs or anything on the floor that may hinder your moves as you perform your massage.
Observe proper draping of your client. It is advisable for clients to be nude when massage is done, but not all are into this idea. If your client does not want to remove her clothes, it won't hurt if she has her trousers on, since all you need is just an access to her back and neck. If your client is still hesitant to remove her bra, just leave it as it be. It may be a bit difficult to perform your strokes with that in the way, but it's not impossible.
Provide a comfortable surface for your client to lie on. Make sure that the bed of your client is cosy and provides proper body support. First prepare a firm pillow and soft sheet. Place the firm pillow on the area where the client is to place her chest, leaving enough space to move her head. Then cover the massage table and pillow with a soft sheet to provide more comfort and also to catch oil drippings.
Position your client properly. Have your client lie on her back with her chest underneath the pillow. Prepare three towels. Fold one and place it under the forehead to keep your client's neck in proper position. Roll the other towel and place it under the ankles to keep the lower back in proper position as well. Then place the third towel over the lower extremities, and tuck it on your client's trousers to prevent oil from soaking that area.
Place some massage oil on the client's back. Squeeze an ample amount of massage oil into your hand, and warm it up by rubbing it in between your palms. Spread the oil on the patient's back with a light stroke. Make sure to cover the entire back and shoulders.
Do the soft fan stroke. Position yourself on the left side of the patient, at the level of her hips, and facing her head. Place your hands flat just above the client's hips. Apply a light pressure from your palms, sliding your entire hand upward beside the spine up to the upper back, curved out to the shoulders, and then back to starting position. Repeat this about three to five times to prepare the back muscles for deeper massage strokes. Your fingers should be kept in straight position and facing on the same direction to avoid scraping or poking the client.
Perform the circular stroke. Position one hand flat on the left lower back perpendicular to the spine, and place your other hand on top of it. From here, do circular strokes going up, and then back down to starting position. Repeat this motion three times. Make sure that your arms are extended, with elbows slightly flexed during the procedure. As you do your circular stokes, allow your waist to move with the motion to avoid straining your shoulders and upper extremities.
Apply the muscle lift technique. Remain standing on the left side of the client, but now facing her back. Prepare both your hands for the procedure by widening the space between the thumb and index finger--this will allow an easy lift as you do the motion. Position your left hand on the middle of the back, and slowly slide it in the direction of the client's hips while gently cupping or lifting her muscles as you do. As your left hand completes one gentle swipe, slide your right hand from the lower back going up (opposite to the direction of the left hand). Do these opposite motions simultaneously, going up and then back down. Repeat three times as you cover the whole left side of the back. Make sure to not pinch the client as you lift her muscles. Move your body along with the direction of your hands to ensure a rhythmic motion.
Execute the knuckle technique. With arms extended, position your knuckles side by side on the left area of the back (parallel to the spine). Then slide your knuckles from starting position to the upper back, up to left shoulder and then slowly drag your knuckles back down. Ensure a rhythmic motion by moving your body forward as you do the movement. Repeat this method three times. Avoid exerting too much pressure on the lower back.
Change your position to perform massage on the right side of the client's back. After doing your third knuckling technique, perform kneading along the client's left shoulder. Perform an alternating grasp of the muscle using both hands. As you do this, you are at the same time changing your position to the right side of the client's shoulder. After doing a few kneading strokes on the right side of the shoulder, perform Steps 2 through 4 of this section on the right side of the client's back.
Do some finishing strokes for the whole back. After doing the massage on the right side, position yourself on the head of the bead. Place your thumbs on either side of the spine, and slide them all the way to the lower back with constant pressure. Slide your thumbs back on the top, and then do two more strokes, with the space between the thumbs getting farther away each time. Then spread your fingers and do a light stroke from the lower back going up. Repeat this three times.
Standing on the head of the bed, do the upper back massage as a preparation for neck massage. Perform three light circular strokes around the area of the client's scapula. Then use an alternating stroke using your thumb to massage the space between the spine and the scapula, going the upward direction. As one thumb completes its stroke upward, the other starts its course. Do this procedure on both sides of the scapula. Repeat three to five times.
Perform effleurage around the upper back and the top of the shoulder muscles. With your hands positioned flat on the upper back, do a soft glide using pressure on your palms and pads of your fingertips. This will promote good circulation from this area going up--preparing the muscles of the neck for some massage.
Extend the effleurage method from the upper shoulders to the neck. Position your hands from the upper shoulders and then softly glide your hands up to the neck of the client. Then go back down to the shoulders again. Do this alternate relaxing stroke three to five times.
Apply petrissage on the neck area. Position yourself on either side of the client's head. Then perform a kneading stroke (a variant of petrissage) by gently grasping the muscles at the back of the neck. Do this grasping technique using an alternate movement of your hands. Repeat it three to five times. Make sure to not poke or pinch the client's flesh as you do the motion.
Do the knuckle stroke on the neck. Stand on the head of the bed and position your knuckles at top of the shoulder just beneath the neck area. Then slowly slide your knuckles up the client's neck, and then back down again. Repeat the motion three to five times. Make sure you have enough oil on the client's skin to avoid unwanted abrasions.
End your neck massage using a light stroke. Starting from the area below the base of the neck, gently slide your hands on the neck area going up to the head. As you reach the occiput (base of the head), massage your fingers alongside its edges, and then back to starting position. Do this motion three to five times.
Tips and warnings
- Apply proper body mechanics when doing massage. Keep your back straight through out the session. It is easier to place one foot in front of the other so that it will be easier to move your body in the direction of your stroke--avoiding strain on your arms, wrists and hands.
- Never apply any direct pressure on to the clients spine.
- Aside from using a massage table, you can also perform your massage in an open floor space with a firm and supportive mattress.
- Before starting your massage session, instruct your client to inform you about anything that she may find uncomfortable or painful.