Techniques for Chair Massage
The strokes used in chair massage are a combination of Eastern acupressure and Swedish massage techniques. You will use a combination of acupressure, compression, friction, stretching, petrissage, effleurage, tapping, and feather strokes, all applied through the clothes without oil. Your goal is to release the tension that can sit in the back, shoulders, neck, hands, and arms, releasing muscle stress and congestion. Overall you will be providing relaxation.
Using Acupressure and Compression
Acupressure is the application of pressure to an affected area for the purpose of releasing congested fluid buildup from the tissues and stretching the muscle. The pressure is applied and held on a spot by your finger, thumb, or both, or sometimes all your fingers. Holding on a point helps to break up muscle spasms. This stroke works in conjunction with friction and kneading petrissage.
Compression can also be applied with the heels of your hands in a steady, even, press-and-hold technique. Mold your hand to the part of the body being massaged, and press down firmly with the heel of your palm. Hold for a moment, release, and press again, moving in small increments over the area being worked.
Friction is the movement of skin over muscle, and can be applied in a variety of styles. One way is to place both your hands on the area, palms down, and move back and forth in a sliding movement over the region. This quickly warms up the muscles underneath. Use this movement along either side of the spine, on the broad area of the back, along the shoulders, or up the arms.
Another way to apply friction is more of an isolating move. Rather than gliding across the skin, press your fingers into the muscles, hold, and push the skin over the muscles as you move your fingers. By pressing you are able to reach in deeper. As you become more familiar with this movement, you can actually feel the muscle underneath. This type of friction works well with acupressure, because it allows you to focus on specific pressure points.
There are three ways to use stretching in chair massage. One way is an active assisted stretch, which means you help your partner stretch a tiny bit more. For example, gently pull the receiver's arm as she stretches to open up the shoulder a little more. Another is an active resisted stretch, which means your partner resists the stretch as you gently pull. And the last one is the passive stretch, which means you do all the stretching while the person being worked on lets it happen. Be careful; do not push or pull aggressively. The passive stretch should be a smooth, gentle stretch that helps the muscle loosen. Pull gently, stop, and check with the receiver to see if the stretch is within her comfort range.
Be careful when you apply any stretching technique—move only as far as the joint will allow. The range of motion for any joint is how far it will stretch in any direction without causing discomfort. Do not move past that limit or you will injure your partner.
Petrissage is the kneading, rolling, twisting, squeezing, lifting, and pinching technique that gets in and breaks up the congestion. Petrissage can be applied in a number of ways. One style is deep kneading with the hands, which begins by lifting the flesh up into the palms and squeezing, using your fingers to push the skin. Lift, roll, and squeeze, grasping the flesh as you move along the area as one hand pushes the flesh in, and the other hand does the squeezing.
Another common petrissage technique is pinching with your thumb and fingers. Pick up the skin between your thumb and fingers, and roll along as your thumb pushes more flesh in to your fingers that are pinching in a constant rock-and-roll motion. Although it is important to move your body as you apply any massage stroke, kneading in particular feels better when combined with your body movement.
Using Effleurage and Feather Touch
Effleurage is used in chair massage to begin and end the session, as well as to assess the underlying tension. How firmly you glide depends on the “eyes” in your hands to feel and find where to glide deeper and where to stroke lightly. To glide more deeply, mold your hands to the body as you press along the surface in a smooth, rhythmic motion. To glide with a soft, feather touch gently brush your fingertips or palms along the region to calm the nerves. Effleurage may be used over most parts of the body and is especially great with chair massage because your hands can glide easily over clothing.
Tapotement in the form of tapping is useful in chair massage for the neck, head, and shoulders. Use your fingers to tap with either light or heavy pressure in these areas—either one feels good. Hacking (karate chops) works wonders on a tight back. Remember to keep your wrists loose and your hands limp, letting the sides of your hands and fingers do the work. You can also apply tapping with a loose fist, easily tapping over a broad surface. Cupping with your hands and tapping over the entire back provides added stimulation. Tapping is best applied by establishing a rhythm and moving over the area in time with the steady beat you have chosen.