Effleurage (from the French effleurer, 'to skim over') means long, soothing, flowing or gliding stroking movements which are performed using the flat of the hand or the padded parts of the finger tips. Following a fairly slow and continuous movement is essential.
This stroke is used to apply oil evenly to the entire body. By applying slightly more pressure when the therapist takes the stroke in the direction of the heart the stroke improves circulation and lymph flow.
Effleurage is used at the start of a massage, to help sooth the client and allow the client to get used to the therapists touch and has a calming effect when performed slowly. Effleurage massage strokes are used to warm up the muscles and can be firm or light without dragging the skin. It also gives a relaxing finish, if used at the end of a massage. Used during the massage in between other strokes, it is used as a linking move between the different strokes and movements.
Petrissage (from the French pétrir, 'to knead') is one of the five basic strokes of a Swedish Body Massage. The movements involve various ways of kneading, rolling and picking up the skin and muscles such as, wringing, skin rolling, compressing and lifting, and is performed using kneading movements with the whole palm or finger tips. Petrissage is usually applied vertically to the muscle tissue.
These movements help in strengthening the structures by stimulating the deep layers of tissue, and also help in increasing the supply of blood to the area. At the same time, they also improve the flow of lymph. Other benefits include the warming of tissue for deeper work, increased circulation, increased supply of nutrients and oxygen to muscle, softening of the superficial fascia, a decrease in muscle tension, restoration of mobility by decreasing adhesions.
It believes in working out a single group of muscles, or an individual muscle, at a time. It is performed by starting first with the fingers pointing away from you, then pressing down with the palm, grasping the flesh between fingers and thumb and pushing it towards the other hand. A continuous action is followed which involves alternating the hands to squeeze and release. Light kneading eases the top muscle layers, while firmer kneading works on the deeper muscles.
Frictions use the thumb, fingertips or knuckles, to apply deep direct pressure to one particular site of muscular tension. It is very useful for focusing on specific areas of tightness and muscle spasms in the back.
Static pressure is applied by leaning gradually into the muscle, slowly deepening the pressure. Pressing for a few seconds, then gradually releasing the pressure. Knuckling on the other hand is used in a loosely clenched motion, to release tension up the sides of the spine and in other areas.
The fast and stimulating movements of massage are termed as Tapotement, or percussion movements. They include cupping, hacking, and pounding (also called pummeling). Tapotement is not used on a particularly bony area or on broken or varicose veins. The key to perfection is to keep the hands and wrists relaxed. These movements stimulate the blood circulation, and tone and help strengthen sagging skin and muscles, especially to the soft tissue areas, such as thighs and buttocks, which are prone to cellulite.
Cupping, uses a gently curved hand to make a loose-cupped shape, bending at the knuckles while keeping the fingers straight and firm. The cupped palm, makes a cupping action against a fleshy area, and by alternating the hands quickly, you thereby create suction against the skin.
Pounding (or pummeling), uses a loosely clenched fist, again keeping the wrists relaxed. The therapist can then use the wrists to either stroke the client with the outer edges of the loose fist or with the front of the knuckles. The speed and rhythm of the movement is brisk and firm, alternating the hands, without too much thumping.
Hacking, uses the outer edge of the hand to stimulate the area by striking it quickly with alternate hands. The movement is brisk, working rhythmically and rapidly over muscles using very relaxed wrists and figures, and uses the sides of the palm rather than the fingers. Hacking also helps in toning up the muscles and dispersing the fluids.