Back massage sequence



The starting point for a sequence is the question, what is the aim of the massage? The techniques and their application should flow from the answer to this question. The section below sets out the aims and basic requirements for a new massage sequence.

  1. The new sequence must address the interacting and sometimes conflicting aims below, so it must be able to achieve a re-balancing of the body/mind or enhance a particular aspect as required;
  1. The sequence must be commercially viable, 15 mins as part of a full body massage or 30 mins as massage on its own.

  2. The massage or multiple massages must not physically stress the therapist. For example avoid to many deep movements or repetitions of similar movements that may lead to a repetitive stress injury.

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Criteria of the sequence

The problem with sequences containing 20 or more movements is that they try to cover all eventualities, which is difficult, or they are not flexible enough to cope with specific problem without detracting from the main aim of the massage. It would be better for example to have 10 basic movements that can be varied in speed to relax or stimulate. These 10 or so movements would cover the main muscle groups such as shoulders, lower back and erector spinae.
The 10 moves could be expanded to 20 or so bring in techniques to target a particular problem, enhance a mental effect or be a full sequence as a back only massage. Completely different techniques could be brought in by the therapist if needed. This type of sequence has the potential to be far more versatile and adaptable to a clients needs and the personality and style of the therapist.

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Physiological aims of sequence

  1. The first part of the sequence sets the "feel" of the massage and works on the superficial muscles.

  2. The second part works on the deeper muscles and tissues.

  3. The final part concentrates on clearing the waste and toxins by massaging in the direction of the circulation and towards the heart. Refreshing the nervous system and balancing the client will also take place in this section.

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Sequence pattern

Section one

This sets the "feel" or mood of the massage. Physically, the sequence starts work on the superficial muscles such as the trapezes, latissimus dorsi and the deltoids. Follow the direction of the muscle fibres and move in the general direction of the circulation and the heart. Also pay attention to the spinal and cranial nerves as well. For this section use the following techniques;

Section two

The first part of the massage relaxes the superficial muscles and makes it easier to work on the underlying tissue and deeper muscles i.e. rhomboids, quadratus lumborum and erector spinae. Move in the same direction as for section one, using the following techniques;

Section three

This section is concerned with encouraging the removal of waste products. For this the massage move in the direction of the heart. Rejuvenating the nerves is achieved with light stroking and finger work following the nervous and circulatory systems. For this section use the following techniques

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Back massage routine

Section one

Relaxing and warming, working on the superficial muscles.

  1. Light circular stroking, whole back. Spreading oil.

  2. Effleurage. Up the back and across the shoulders. Slightly arch fingers and apply pressure across the shoulders.

  3. Palmer stroke/effleurage laterally from spine to sides, working down. Start deep and ease pressure for in between ribs. Deep for q. lumborum.

  4. Stroke up. Palmer knead or sqeezing of shoulders.

  5. Thumb frictions from C7 to occipital.

  6. Palmer knead neck pulling from bone.

  7. Thumb frictions between vertabrae from occipital to lumber. extend thumb action to pull out muscles.

  8. Do moves 8 to 10 then change sides. Stroke up. Elbow behind back. Sweep hand around scapula using inner edge of hand. Follow through with thumb and apply pressure with fingers as sweeping across top of scapula.

  9. Palmer stroke deltoid with heel of hand.

  10. Reinforced finger kneading or thumb rolling teres major/minor, continue over scapula and top of shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

  11. Palmer knead whole back with alternate hands.

Section two

Deeper tissue and muscle.

  1. Skin folding. Flat hands linked to form a circle. Palmer stroke to side. Work back towards spine drawing fingers towards thumbs to fold over skin.

  2. Reinforced palmer stroke to top of buttocks, medial to lateral swing up towards waist.

  3. Wring sides.

  4. Iron the back with reinforced hands.

  5. Circular knuckling up erector spinae, sweep over shoulders.

  6. Facing feet, use sides of hands ( knife hands ) to sweep both sides of the neck and across the shoulders. With both hands on shoulders give a gentle push towards feet.

  7. Facing feet. Circular thumb knead from occipital ( or C7 if no face hole ) to sacrum. Use wide movement to knead surrounding muscles. * Can be extended to knead around sacrum *.

  8. Palmer knead whole back.

Section three

Circulation and nerves.

  1. Skin roll with opposing hands. Across body then up body.

  2. Pulling from sides to spine, both hands working up the back. Start slowing down.

  3. Effleurage up the back, lightly but a little firmer when coming back across the shoulders.

  4. Stroking down the back lightly and gradualy tranfer to the finger tips and slow down.

  5. Rest hands at the base of the neck and spine. Slowly release.

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Techniques explained

  1. Thumbs. The hand is open with the palm in contact, pressure is applied with the thumbs.

  2. Hacking. Repetitive ( karate type ) chopping using the sides of the hands.

  3. Sawing. Sawing motion using side of the hands.

  4. Kneading. Squeeze with the fingers while rotating with the heel of the hand.

  5. Forearm. Use the forearms in a sweeping motion outwards across the shoulders.

  6. Petrissage. Three finger massage useful for following the contour of muscle and skeleton. The three fingers of the other hand on top of the massaging hand can be useful for deeper work.

  7. Heel rub. Lateral and/or rotating movement with the heel of the hand, can also use the finger as a pivot.

  8. Chinese Roll. Put both hands around a limb, i.e an arm, in a grab hold. Roll the hands around the limb in opposing directions.

  9. Pinch. Use thumb and fore finger and squeeze, can also rotate at the same time.

  10. Windscreen Wiper. Use the heel of the hand as a pivot and massage with the ball of the hand.

  11. Effleurage. Long, stroking movements performed using the flat of the hand or fingers.

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Gary Hollands ICHT 2001