Basic guidelines

The timing of a body massage is usually one hour but may be longer. The order of covering the body is usually:

^ right leg

^ left leg

^ left arm

^ right arm

^ abdomen

^ back of legs

7 minutes 7 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes

5 minutes

6 minutes 20 minutes

These timings are approximate and will vary to suit client needs. More attention may be required on some areas than others. For example, if there were oedema of the ankles then a longer time would be spent on the legs.

Tension in the upper back would require additional manipulations and a longer time spent on this area.

Head massage is now very popular especially for reducing tension, and many salons and clinics offer head and facial massage as part of a full body massage.

Massage of the abdomen is frequently omitted. During the client consultation ask the client whether s/he wants the face and head massage included, and the abdomen left out. This must be decided before the treatment starts as it will affect the order and timing of the massage.

The conventional order of massage then changes so that the face and head massage conclude the treatment as shown below (reading down the columns).

^ back of left leg

^ back of right leg

^ client turns

^ front of right leg

^ front of left leg

^ left arm ^ right arm ^ abdomen ^ décolleté ^ face ^ head

These routines are for guidance only; the length of time you spend on each area can be adapted to suit the needs of the client. The important point to remember is that there must be even coverage all over the body, and balance between the right and left sides. The right leg and left leg should receive the same number of manipulations at the same depth and rhythm; this also applies to the right arm and left arm. The client must not feel that any part has been neglected.

When performing massage it is important to visualise mentally the tissues that the hands are moving over and to sense variations in tension or abnormalities through the hands. A knowledge of the anatomical structure of the area is therefore essential. The following text identifies the important structures, lists suggested massage routines and highlights areas where special care is needed. The lists of manipulations are suggestions only. Manipulations should be selected to suit the client and personal preference or expertise. There are, however, basic rules and guidelines.

Comfort: massage must always be comfortable. It must not hurt or injure the client, even the vigorous and stimulating techniques.

Direction: pressure must be applied in the direction of venous drainage towards the heart and the direction of lymphatic drainage to the nearest lymphatic nodes. (Do not pull back what you have pushed along as this is counter-productive.)

Order: begin with effleurage, follow with applicable petrissage manipulations then percussion if suitable, and complete with effleurage. Effleurage and stroking may be interspersed among any of the other manipulations.

Continuity: massage should be continuous - the transition between strokes should be barely perceptible. The hands should not be lifted off the area once treatment has commenced until that area is completed. Move smoothly from one stroke to another.

Speed: this must be selected according to the type of massage required - slow for relaxing, moderate for a general massage, and faster for a vigorous, stimulating massage.

Depth: this must be selected according to the type of massage, as described -moderate depth for a relaxing and general massage, deeper for a vigorous massage. Depth must also be adjusted to suit the client and the desired outcome of the treatment. For example, young, fit clients will take greater depth than older clients; well-toned clients will take greater depth than those with loose, flabby muscles or thin clients; obese clients or those with specific areas of hard adipose tissue will require greater depth. Those accustomed to massage generally prefer a deeper massage than new nervous clients. (Always ask the client if manipulations are too deep or not deep enough.)

Rhythm: this must be consistent regardless of the type of client. The rhythm is selected at the beginning of the massage and maintained throughout, e.g. slow rhythm for a relaxing massage, moderate for a general, and a faster rhythm for a vigorous massage.

Stance: protect yourself from strain and injury by adopting the correct posture. There are two standing positions used in massage:

a) walk standing (i.e. with one foot in front of the other) is used when massaging up and down the length of the body b) stride standing (i.e. with the feet apart) is used when working across the body.

Always keep the back straight and the shoulders relaxed. Allow the knees to bend when necessary to apply body weight and to reach all areas. Increased depth and pressure must come from body weight transmitted through the arms, but not by pushing with the arms. Use a slight swaying body movement to achieve this. Keep the feet apart - this improves balance and provides stability, as it gives a wider base.

Concentration: maintain your concentration throughout the massage. Although massage movements become semi-automatic as expertise develops, it is still important to concentrate fully on the task in hand. Continuity and rhythm will suffer if there is a lapse in concentration, and this is transmitted to the client.

^^ Coverage: cover the whole area thoroughly. Do not neglect small areas as this will result in uneven coverage.

Practise all massage manipulations at various speeds, depths and rhythms. Practise on fellow therapists until you have perfected the technique. Ask the model to comment on or criticise your performance. Change over roles and work with different people - this will enable you to sense and feel the differences in technique and judge the most effective. Practise on different types of flesh - well toned and poorly toned, young and old, thin and obese, etc.

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