Principles of Applying Therapeutic massage

Therapeutic massage has a lot of benefits including Physiological and Anatomical. Generally, the application of any massage stroke involves six elements or considerations, which are depth, speed, rhythm, duration, direction, and frequency. All aspects are included in Principles of Giving Therapeutic massage.

Principles of Applying Therapeutic massage

Beginning massage therapists will have to consciously work at incorporating these considerations into their massage. With practice and experience, however, these considerations will become second nature, and the mechanical feeling will evolve into one of fluidity. 


Depth or depth of pressure is the amount of force a stroke applies to the tissue. Regardless of what implement is used (thumb, the heel of the hand, or forearm), the amount of force you apply to the tissue depends on the desired result. If the stroke is performed with the intent of spreading lubricant, the depth of pressure will be less penetrating than if the intent is to reach deep into the tissue and break up adhesions. 

The depth of pressure should be increased with great care and gradually. As opposed to a punch in the arm, imagine a friend giving you a "high five". The "high five" is a warm gesture that is received amicably, while the punch is startling. In an attempt to protect itself the body flinches, recoils, or withdraws with the punch. In the same manner, muscles react; they contract to guard themselves.

Muscle contraction produces a protective mode that is counterproductive to effective work on the muscle. Depth of pressure also depends on the client’s tolerance. You should periodically ask your Patient about the pressure. Always watch for signs of discomfort, such as making a fist, holding your breath, or tightening your facial muscles. 

Clients do not often verbalize pain; they think that you know what is best, as a trained professional. Finally, with the same client, the depth of pressure may change from one area of the body to another. A lot of individuals can put a lot of pressure on their backs, but very little pressure on their legs.


How quickly or slowly a stroke is carried out is the speed of the stroke. Any stroke can be applied slowly or quickly, depending on the desired reaction, relaxation or invigoration. Compression applied with slow, rhythmic presses, for example, flushes lactic acid out of a muscle, while compression done quickly pumps and prepares fresh blood into the muscle for action. In general, while fast strokes "wake up," slow strokes soothe.


The regularity or constancy with which a stroke is applied is rhythm. As with speed, rhythm, depending on the desired outcome, can be slow or fast. Rhythm can speak to the massage's overall tone; therapists have to refrain from working in a herky-jerky way.


Duration is the length of stroke and its twofold; during its application, it can be the length of time each stroke lasts or the length of time the stroke remains on any given part of the body. 

Again a slower and longer stroke is used if the desired result is relaxation. Longer, here, refers to the amount of tissue traversed from the foot to the top of the thigh, for example, the entire leg. Second, the amount of time spent on any given area denotes duration, such as the entire time spent on the leg.


The direction is the path or track of the stroke. On the extremities, the direction is centripetally or toward the heart. (Blood flows to the heart through veins, which have one-way valves. 

Pressure on these valves must be exerted in one direction only; hence, application of any massage stroke pushing blood through these valves must be toward the heart.) For example, effleurage up the leg is applying effleurage from the foot, over the lower leg, and over the upper leg to the upper thigh (toward the heart).


Frequency is the number of times every stroke is carried out. The rule of three generally applies: each stroke is carried out three times before transitioning to another stroke or body region. Effleurage, for example, is applied three times to spread lubricant, followed by the transition to another stroke such as petrissage.


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    -Massage Therapist Croydon

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