Back Stroking

By Sharon Truelove

What’s the secret to giving a yummy back massage?

There are a few things to address before we even start that will make a big difference between a good back massage and a great back massage.

Set the stage for your massage.  Being aware of your intention for the massage is first and foremost. Are you giving a sports massage or a relaxing spa application?

Try to achieve that massage where once you have laid your hands on the client, they don’t leave the client until the end of the massage. It should, idealistically, seem like one seamless long stroke from beginning to end.

Going slow will help you dial into a lot of the necessary massage elements and accomplish a quality massage session. Picking a good slow piece of music that you like can help you keep your rhythm and your pace. Going slow will also allow your client to relax and learn to trust you, thus allowing you to massage deeper.

With each stroke, listen to what the body’s tissues are telling you. Listen for a softening in the tissues…reciprocity.

Ok, all that said, let’s look at applying some very simple, tried and trusted techniques.

Rest both your hands at the client’s upper back, close your eyes and just listen. Take a few deep, slow breathes and begin by gliding slowly down the back to the waist and slowly return back to the shoulders.

















Do this repeatedly until you feel a softening in the tissues. Don’t think about how many reps, think about identifying the changes that you feel in the tissues as you travel the back. Close your eyes if you need to.

Another technique that is tried and true is using the forearm. Apply the forearm where you were using the hands.  This will take a lot of the work out of applying deeper strokes. Body mechanics is important. Always be on top of and behind your strokes. Slow is good. Be aware of your breathing as you apply the strokes. Always use the fleshy part of your forearm, as meeting a bony landmark with your ulna will not feel good to the client and may actually cause pain.


Lastly, using your thumbs, start at the lower back and apply pressure to the long muscles on either side of the spine pushing upwards as you travel up the back. You will probably feel tight spots and/or knots. Always keep you joints aligned (also known as “stacking the bones”) so as not injure yourself. If you have thumbs that hyperextend be even more protective of your thumbs and keep them straight when applying pressure.

After you become comfortable with these strokes you’ll soon be adding and changing the elements involved creating your own signature massage. Have fun!

Watch the video below and tell me what element you think makes this master massage therapist so successful!


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