Swedish Back Massage How To- Improve Health and Burnout PreventionSean Russell
Part of being healthy is bringing your body back into balance anytime it becomes unbalanced. The most common example here is that we daily put our body into stress, which is okay and normal, we just need to bring it back to balance. Massage is just one way to do this. Massages relax the body, increase circulation, and helps your body adjust itself to balance anatomically, physiologically and of course even mentally!
I know massages can be expensive, but if you shop around you may be able to find $30-$40 per hour with lower experienced people although you will probably see the value in paying higher amounts for more experienced practitioners and I recommend do this occasionally! Another great tip is to hook up with local massage schools. All the students need to practice so many hours per semester as part of their schooling, and of course this practice is free for you (they should also NOT even be taking tips at this time or ‘donations’)! Another great way is to ‘trade’ with someone else. Simply find another person willing to receive and give a massage a few times a week or month and you can both get massages for free!
Having a background of massage, I will outline for you how to preform a full body massage, starting with the back! I will have other posts for the neck, arms, legs, etc… with the links posted in the bottom of this post! Lets start with some history and technique!
Although many might not be acquainted with the term, Swedish massage is actually the best known form of massage. Developed by Henri Peter Ling, a Swedish physiologist from the University of Stockholm back in the 1800s, Swedish massage uses a gentle yet firm pressure to improve the person’s circulation, create relaxation, improve flexibility and ease tension and muscle aches. By understanding a few basics, you can give an effective Swedish back massage.
The first step is to get a good table. You can find professional massage tables online for $150 or less, my first one was under $100 and used ones can even be $50. If you plan to do a lot of Swedish massages, it’s worth investing in an adjustable table.
Put your table someplace with a lot of room so you can move around freely. You’ll want to have soft lighting such as candlelight or lamps so that you have enough light to see, yet without blinding the recipient of the massage. Allow the person to select some music and play it during the massage.
You’ll want to make the table as comfortable as possible. To do this, place a sheet between the person and the table, and drape covers over the recipient. Be sure to use plenty of blankets so the recipient stays warm. Also, use plenty of pillows: under the head and knees when the person is facing up and under the recipient’s ankles when he or she is facing down.
The right oil is important for a good Swedish back massage. Some clients like scented oils. If you plan to use them, have several different fragrances and allow the client to select the one he or she likes best. Some good quality oils can be found at stores such as Bed, Bath & Beyond. Some of the preferred options in oils include:
1. Sweet Almond Oil, which is one of the best-loved oils with professional massage therapists;
2) Apricot Kernel Oil, has a similar color and texture to Sweet Almost, but is also rich in Vitamin E. It has a longer shelf life than Almond Oil.
3. Jojoba Oil is a wax derived from the jojoba plant’s seed. It’s an especially good alternative to almond oil for those with nut allergies.
4. Coconut Oil
Not just any coconut oil–look for the word “fractionated” on the label. Most coconut oil tends to be thick and white. The kind you want, fractionated, is actually non-greasy, and light in color and weight. The word “fractionated” comes from it being only a part of the whole oil–or a fraction. The manufacturers have taken out the long-chain triglycerides and left just the medium-chain ones.
You’ll find this oil is not nearly as expensive as other massage oils (The price is about the same as almond oil). Like jojoba oils, it also holds its quality for a long time while in the bottle. Best of all, fractionated massage coconut oil does not usually stain sheets as many others will.
5. Sunflower Oil
A sunflower massage? You’d be surprised how perfect the oil of this beautiful plant is for massage. It’s light, low in grease, and as a result, doesn’t leave a greasy feeling on the skin. The sunflower’s oil is taken from its seeds and is rich in linoleic acid. It also has a good amount of stearic and palmitic acid, both of which are helpful for keeping the skin healthy. As a person ages, the linoleic acid in his or her skin declines it’s also often stripped away by harsh cleansers and soaps.
Unfortunately, sunflower oil cannot be stored for long before it goes bad. Therefore, buy it in small amounts and store it in a cool, dark room. Some people find that squeezing a bit of vitamin-E oil in the oil’s bottle helps to preserve it longer.
IMPORTANT: If you know the person has allergies, don’t use sunflower oil!
Once the recipient is on the table, before applying the oil, warm it between your hands. Start with just a little; it’s easier to add more than to take some off if you apply too much.
At this point, we’ll assume the recipient is face-down on the table and you’re ready with the scented oil. Before we take you through the process, let’s discuss what the most common Swedish massage techniques are.
They include kneading, long strokes, friction, percussion, tapping, vibration, shaking motions, and effleurage. The normal sequence of these techniques goes like this:
1. Effleurage, that is, using the palms, fingers or thumbs to perform smooth, sliding strokes;
2. Petrissage, referring to a kneading movements with the thumbs, fingers and base of the hands;
3. Vibration, that is, movements that vibrate or shake the person’s body;
4. Percussion, which refers to brisk tapping or hacking
5. And passive and active movements and bending.
So now, let’s take you through a session with an actual client:
Begin now up at the shoulders working your palms, thumbs and knuckles along both sides of the spine. Don’t just apply pressure on the spine, but rather, with your fingers, trace around the person’s shoulder blades.
You’ll find that a hand-over-hand or perhaps a thumb-over-thumb method of movement on the lower back is quite effective.
Gently move your hands down the back and sides, continuing to alternate between palms, thumbs and knuckles. It is traditional to begin the main massage on the left side of the back working with the effleurage technique described above alone the full left portion of the back
Then you will need to Petrissage, or the thumb technique moving alone the long muscle of the back needing with firm but reasonably soft motion remembering to ask if the pressure is suitable for the person receiving the massage.
The upper area of the back is next also spreading out to the shoulder blades, moving the blades themselves as well as the muscles. The whole back should then be given the effleurage treatment moving methodically and smoothly so as not to cause discomfort.
You will then need to reposition yourself on the other side of the table and begin the whole process over again on the right hand side of the back.
Light rubbing actions combined with the brisk tapping or hacking known as percussion, will finish the massage. This is the classic movie massage scene with fingers spread and palms turned vertically bringing them down in rapid succession moving up and down the entire back, creating a slapping or mild thudding sound.
That is all there is to the basics although great care should always be taken to not be too hard or aggressive and keep the back massage a very pleasant sensation for the recipient.
There are many other ideas and techniques you can adopt. As you master the art of Swedish Back Massage more and more, don’t be afraid to experiment–and watch yourself grow in your new craft.
Next move on to Swedish Neck and Face Massage
Afterwards go on with Swedish Chest and Stomach Massage