display | more...

The following is a series of tricks and techniques I've learned from various sources. I am not a professional masseuse, and nor do I claim to have studied any professional technique. Please apply these tips under that context.

For the sake of simplicity, I universally describe the reciever in this WU as female. The techniques here are equally useful for both men and women (and I have massaged both).

Massage Tips & Tricks

Learning to give a good massage is probably one of the coolest skills anyone can develop. Never mind the erotic possibilities; being able to make a friend feel good about herself by simply touching them is an absolutely incredible feeling. People tend to like the guy (or girl) who's great at massage. And, believe it or not, the skill is extremely easy to pick up.

First, I whole-heartedly recommend you check out a massage course if you are serious about becoming good at this. Most universities offer courses for a reasonable cost (a twelve-week course at the University of Maryland was only $90), and the practice and technique you learn from a practicing masseuse or professional can be invaluable.

Now, the number one thing that you must learn about massage is this: it relies entirely on proper communication between the giver and the receiver. This communication is not entirely verbal; body language and the feeling of the muscles themselves are often extremely helpful in determining how effective your current maneuvers are.

So how do you make sure you're not screwing up? Ask the receiver how what your doing feels, and follow any instructions she provides. If the receiver asks for more pressure, then by all means press harder! Likewise, the receiver may ask for you to focus on a specific spot or do things a certain way. Since nobody knows what feels good more than the person receiving this massage, do what she says.

Now the body will provide you with certain clues as well, particularly the muscles. If things feel tight or knotted, then you've found a spot that would definitely appreciate some deeper work. Over time you can expect the muscle to relax and loosen up; this is a good thing. Over time the receiver may become more and more deeply relaxed, and you'll notice a definite shift in the way they breathe, the way the look, and most definitely the way they talk. Congratulations; you're doing well at this point.

Now that the concept of proper communication has been pounded in, we'll go on to some general concepts surrounding massage. Covering all aspects of massage in a single write-up would make it far too long, so instead I'll do my best to cover a few general areas.

Shoulders & Upper Back
This is the traditional 'back rub' that most people start off doing. You sit the subject in a chair, and knead the top of the shoulders down to the base of the shoulder blades. Considering the stress that most people experience in their upper back, this feels really good when the tension is relieved. There is very little you can do wrong here, so feel free to experiment. Light neck work (explained further below) can also be done at this time. The best position to massage the top of the shoulders is by having the receiver sit in a chair and have the giver stand behind her. Back massage is best done by having the receiver lie down.

Lower Back
The lower back (actually most of the back) is best done by having the receiver lie face down (usually with a pillow or something else soft), and approaching from the sides. The most important thing to remember about the back is to NEVER APPLY PRESSURE DIRECTLY ON THE SPINE. This is bad, hurts a lot, and is not very nice. You can, however, knead around the spines (which feels really good). Just don't press down directly on the spinal cord.

With that warning out of the way, there are several things you can do to relieve tension in the lower back. A favorite technique I use is to kneel at the side of the receiver, place my palms on the side of the receiver's spine away from me, and then press down as I slide down her side. Repeat up and down the spine (and don't forget to switch sides), varying pressure as requested. Kneading and pressing can also be used to great effect down here.

One final option is to crack the receiver's back. A form of deep work, this requires the active participation of the receiver. First, ask if she would like her back cracked. If yes, place your palms on either side of her spine around the middle of the back. Have the receiver breath out, and when she's fully exhaled press down using your body weight in a relatively fast motion. Done properly, you'll be rewarded with a loud *CRACK* and a moan of relief. It is recommended that you start of pressing lightly, and the work your way into deeper pressure as you become more confident. Having a partner who doesn't mind being a test dummy is always a good thing.

WARNING: Goldenboy26 requested that I emphasize the potential dangers of cracking someone's back. In short, improperly doing this can result in you breaking their spine or killing them. The massage node has a few other dangers posted.

Addendum: machfive sent me this little tidbit: "Just an observation - There was this neat trick an ex of mine used to do, where she'd make fists with her hands, then use the knuckles to run up and down the back, one hand on each side of the spine, the fists positioned vertically. She'd kinda rock the fists back and forth, so the knuckles would roll up and down along each side of the spine - it felt delightful."

Legs & Buttocks
Yes, you can massage the buttocks. And it feels absolutely wonderful when done properly. Just make sure your partner is comfortable with the concept of you touching her there. Most people have no issues with it, but there are some who may consider that going to far. Asking first will never get you in trouble, and offers a considerable amount of reassurance.

Position-wise, it's generally best to have the receiver lying down. I usually go straight from the back to the legs, then have her turn over after I finish the feet. See what works for you, and stick with it.

Since the rear is essentially one large muscle, kneading and pressing is particularly effective. Some people may be ticklish or sensitive here, so using widely dispersed pressure through your palms is best. My favorite technique is to start at the center of the buttocks near the small of the back, and press down and out across the cheeks. This feels incredibly good.

The thigh also benefits from both kneading and pressing with your palms. Long strokes up and down the thigh are particularly effective.

The inner thigh and outer thigh should not be ignored, as they both often benefit greatly from kneading and pressing technique. Unless you're extremely familiar or comfortable with the person you are massage, I would recommend not going too far up the inner thigh. That's another write-up entirely.

The calves are similar to the thighs in technique, although it should be noted that they benefit greatly from a long stroke. The space behind the knee is particularly sensitive to touch, so using a gentle kneading here is recommended.

It must be emphasized that you must not press down on the front of the kneecap. This hurts, may cause permanent damage, and is generally a very bad thing.

Ankles & Feet
The position I most generally use with the feet is to have the subject lying down (usually on her back), with her feet in my lap.

A proper foot massage is possibly one of the most revered experiences known to man. Consider the extensive amount of stress that feet receive every day from walking, and you'll understand just why a good foot massage is so sincerely appreciated.

It's recommended that, unless you are using lotion, you leave the socks on. This prevents chafing, as well as hides some of the odor that traditionally comes from tired feet.

Technique-wise there are several things you can do to relieve tension in the foot area. The most basic is to use your thumbs to apply pressure between the bones of the foot, particularly in the sole and the arch. Stretching and moving the whole foot are also rather effective. Spreading the toes and working each one individually (pressing gently at the base of the toe, and pulling your fingers forward, is good) will also relieve stress. More than anything else, communication between the giver and the receiver will produce the most effective results.

Don't forget to pay attention to the top of the foot. Many bones connect there, and it's an excellent place to work.

The ankle should also receive attention. A gentle knead at the back of the ankle (where the foot connects) produces wonderful results. Feel free to experiment around the entire foot and ankle; with the guidance of the receiver you should produce wonderful results.

Finally, simply holding each foot for a few minutes has also been found to produce results. Grasp the foot in an encompassing hold, and simply hold it for a few minutes. Repeat with each foot.

Stomach & Chest
For work on the front of the torso and the abdomen, having the receiving lying down on her back is the best position. The giver can either straddle her thighs, or kneel to one side.

The abdomen is extremely sensitive to deep pressure, so take care and listen carefully to the receiver. When massaging the stomach, it's important you follow the digestive track by going in a clock-wise motion as you apply gentle pressure. Although it feels a bit odd at first, massaging the stomach in tiny circles eventually feels terrific. Studies have also shown it to aid in the reduction of pain during menstruation.

As is the case with the buttocks, be sure your receiver is comfortable with you massaging her chest (this is less of an issue with men, but it pays to ask). If the massage is platonic (and the receiver is female), it is not recommended that you massage the breasts. Instead, focus on the pectoral muscles (the chest muscles holding the breasts up). Kneading these, as well as the sides under the arms, works well. The armpit is also an excellent place to knead; place your palm right above the armpit on the shoulder, and use your fingers to massage the muscle underneath. For men, the entire chest is fair game. Don't forget the sides of the abdomen and torso as well.

Arms & Hands
Arm and Hand work can generally be done from any position, but I find having the recipient lie on her back is usually most effective. Plus she's usually already there by the time I get to her arms.

Working arms is very similar to doing the legs, only on a smaller scale. Particularly nice areas are directly on the deltoids, and underneath the upper arm. Kneading and pressing are both effective on the upper and lower arm, with fingers generally being more effective than palms because of the smaller size.

Hand massage, like foot massage, is another aspect of massage that produces wonderful results from very little effort. The techniques are very similar to foot massaging, with an emphasis on kneading and communication. Using your fingers to separate the bones of the hand, combined with pressing and pulling the fingers (always, gently) works well.

Hand massages are especially appreciated by people who use their hands often. Pianists, computer programmers, artists, everyone can benefit from a proper hand massage.

Addendum: TheChronicler just gave me a rather interesting tip for the video gamers among us. In his words: "grabbing people's hands like a control pad and massaging their palms is quite possibly the easiest and one of the better feeling massages. People store a lot of stress in their thumbs, especially if they're geeks (video games). I've been to a masseuse who's done this.

Head, Face, & Neck
Please be sure your hands are clean before doing face work. Starting off a session with a face massage is one such way to accomplish this; it also relaxes the receiver considerably. The three main parts of the head we're going to work with are the face, scalp and hair, and the neck.

The optimal position for a face massage is to have the giver sitting down on the floor with his legs spread, and the receiver lying down with her head comfortably located between the giver's legs. It is also recommended the receiver have his back to a wall for support.

For the face, I generally use light kneading with my fingers in small circles over the cheeks. There's honestly very little that you can do wrong when it comes to working the face; just be gentle (unless the receiver indicates she'd like more pressure) and you'll do fine.

Special attention should be paid to the scalp and the ears. Holding each ear between your fingers and gently massaging them by moving your fingers back and forth feels great. A considerable amount of tension is also stored in the scalp (just think of how many times people furrow their brow); pressing down with your thumbs as you move back and forth across the scalp is an excellent way of relieving this. The temples are also good places to work.

Have you ever considered just how good it feels to scrub your scalp as you wash your hair? Believe it or not, that's actually a massage technique in and of itself. Spending a few minutes simply passing your fingers through the receiver's hair, gently scrubbing her scalp, is an excellent way of initiating a massage.

The final item to cover is the neck, where a great deal of tension is stored. When the receiver is sitting up (during a shoulder massage), you can knead the neck or do a variety of sliding pressure techniques. During a face massage, you can come at the next from an entirely different angle, using the weight of the receiver's head to apply pressure. To do this, curl your fingertips underneath the base of her neck, and gently lift her head up. Slide your fingertips up the sides of her neck, allowing her head to once again rest on the floor. The angle of a facial massage also allows you to massage the base of the neck where it comes into contact with the tendons located at the top of the shoulder blade. Care should be taken not to press into the front of the neck (where the jugular is located). Holds similar to those used in foot and hand work can also be applied.

Bringing It All Together
The best massages combine all the different components into a single, flowing form that cohesively relaxes the entire body. This tends to come through practice and familiarity, as you develop a system of movements that combine the individual parts into a whole.

Personally, I find starting with a face massage, then moving down the shoulders to the back, legs, and feet followed by moving up the front of the legs to the abdomen, torso, arms, and finally hands is effective. You'll find your own style through practice.

A Word on Lotions
Massage oils and crèmes are a powerful additive to massage. My experience with them has been relatively limited; based on the recommendation of my teacher I use BioTone Dual-Purpose Massage Crème. It can be ordered from http://www.biotone.com, and is reasonably priced (IMO). I have yet to have a complaint about BioTone; it's wonderful stuff.

Massage crème provides essential lubrication for skin-to-skin contact; it prevents chafing and actually enhances the experience. Without crème, I generally prefer to massage through clothing (which produces inferior results). If you have the opportunity to use some form of oil or crème when massaging, I wholeheartedly recommend you try it.

Some Thoughts on Giving
Studies have shown that giving a massage is actually more relaxing than receiving one; my own experiences tend to support this. During a massage, my mind seems to focus on the task at hand and filter out irrelevant issues that may have distracted me before. My voice becomes extremely relaxed and quiet, and my demeanor follows suit.

It's an extremely rewarding experience to be able give a good massage. The look on someone's face as they simply relax and go completely slack is priceless; more often that not a part of me zens out with them.

If anyone has any questions, tips to share, comments, or ideas, please message DelayedReactionMan. And remember: Only through practice will you improve.