Karen Iverson

  Therapeutic Massage


Massage Therapy Strokes



In addition to there being many different types of massage, therapists also utilize a wide variety of strokes in their practice.  Strokes vary in terms of the part of the body that he therapist uses to deliver the stroke, as well as in the part of the recipient’s body to which a particular stroke is administered.  Additionally, strokes may very significantly in the intensity of the stroke itself.  

Following is a description of several common strokes used by massage therapists.


Compression (Petrissage):  Compression uses a quick rhythmic pumping action to get deep into the muscle.  This causes the muscle to relax and become more pliable and spreads the tissue. It is generally performed with full contact 
of the hand.

Gliding (Effleurage):  This gliding stroke is used a great deal throughout the massage session to apply lubricant to the skin.  
It is used to relax and stretch a client’s muscles.

Kneading:  Kneading is a firm stroke used on a specific area 
to help release muscle tension and improve circulation.  The therapist gently grasps an area of the body (i.e. calf) with both hands and makes a kneading action similar to that of kneading dough.

Vibration:  Vibrating or jostling the muscle helps to get deep into the muscle.

Draining:  A light-to medium-pressure stroke which relaxes and stretches the muscles and improves circulation.  The therapist will use either the heel of the hand on larger areas (i.e. thigh) or the thumbs on smaller areas (i.e. forearms). With one hand following the other, the therapist applies firm and constant pressure while traveling slowly upward along the muscle.

Pulling:  This stroke can be used to pull and stretch the 
muscles of the torso and legs.  Using alternating hands in a pulling motion, the therapist gradually moves her hands up 
the client’s body.

Wringing:  This stroke is similar to "pulling", but, whereas pulling is performed in an upward motion, wringing is performed across the body or limb.

Friction:  Friction strokes are deep strokes used around joints and to release adhesions to the muscle.  This stroke is typically performed on dense areas of tissue by sinking the thumbs deeply into the muscle and using body weight to gently rock back and forth or in small circular motions.

Percussion Strokes/ Tapotement:  Percussive strokes, such as rhythmic striking, hacking, and cupping with relaxed hands and wrists stimulate the muscle, improve circulation, and release muscle tension.  These strokes are primarily used on, arms, legs, buttocks, shoulders and back (not on spine).


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