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!


31 thoughts on “Back Stroking”

  1. I have used all these strokes and they are amazing and you do not have to use them in order. Do what comes natural.

  2. Ummm….really?
    I am thinking continuity!
    Love for the client.
    Stokes that are fluid and equal.

    Kiddos loved it.

  3. Sharon you’re so funny. The video was great. I think it is the great fur texture of this therapist that makes the massage, but by constantly using the same technique I’m afraid the therapist won’t last long.

  4. The video with the cat is very cute! And he is actually good at giving a massage 🙂
    The cat is a great massage therapist because he never looses contact with the client and his rythm is very consistant!

  5. Best part of a great back massage to me is deep, slow, percise intentions. Really tune into your clients. Have same pressure, and consitency is they best way to give a great back massage. And they do feel really good!!!

  6. Awww That makes me miss my cat. I would say I can do a better job than the cat because i would work on more of the back and all that, but I know how relaxing it is just to have a cat sit on your back. So I guess the answer is no. Cats are always the best.

  7. Hmmm I will definately have to try these little techniques out tonight when I’m giving them a great back massage. And let you know how it turned out??

  8. I love that the cat is so into what he is doing. I am sure he is keeping the client very warm. He never looses contact. I just was waiting for the cat to move to a different area.

  9. The techniques mentioned in the article are great. As for the video, I’ve had one of these massages before but unfortunately the therapist was not very professional and couldn’t keep out of my hair, he kept trying to eat it. The one in the video never seems to lose his focus or contact with the client.

  10. I loved the video! So cute! 😉 I really like how the cat was consistent and gentle. He never lost contact with the client and it seemed like the client was very pleased with her massage. I was waiting for the therapist to move to a different spot but whose to know that the client did not ask the therapist to work on that spot only. 🙂 I can tell the therapist had a lot of focus and loves doing what he does.

  11. Love the video, Ms Sharon, therapist appeared to have great intention and focus. Can’t beat the over all benifits of having our pets around, to slow down and enjoy whats going on around us. The information pre-video was also a great reminder of what we are feeling for, at the start and during to know we are being productive for the clients.

  12. TOO cute, he might be the best massage therapist ever. He was so focused and precise with ever step, and maintained a steady pace. I better take some lessons from him so that I can give a great back massage. I will be practicing this technique.

  13. Awesome!!! Not really a cat lover here 🙂 but would love to figure out way to have my dog allow me to give him one. The techniques given for the back is very much appreciated since so many people actually come in for that more than anything.

  14. loved the video! I have a cat that massages my tummy at night. The cat was really good at having even, relaxing strokes which is a good principle to have during your massage. The cat was also very slow and soothing, which should also be part of your massage.

  15. It is hard to pick a favorite massage stroke! My favorite is probably petrissage. I think this stroke is so yummy, especially when the client is prone and you move their shoulder in order to petrissage their neck with both of your hands. It really feels good and you can feel yourself working those muscles.

  16. i love doing the back strokes. and that cat was just to cute! i want to get a cat now, and train him to do that. but cats are so stubborn!

  17. I love the technique! I have the same therapist at home. Continuity is great The pressure is consistent and the price is right!!! However the appointments are far and few between.

    1. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. p.s. cats are trainable, just gotta figure out their fav food 🙂

  18. I do like all those back strokes. They feel wonderful.
    And that cat made me laugh! I really liked the video. He looked like he really knew what he was doing. =]