Most home-practiced masseurs set to massaging with such vigor and verve that they are the ones who wind up with overtaxed muscles. This way everybody loses. The key to an effective rubdown without tiring yourself out is to keep the hands relaxed and, more important, to follow through with the entire body instead of merely moving the arms. The masseur uses one or a combination of handholds, depending on the size of the muscles to be worked on and their accessibility. The simplest, in spite of its sophisticated name, is effleurage, a rhythmic stroking motion of surface muscles with both hands. When the ache is in the large muscles of the back (SI, June 6) or arm or leg, masseurs should use the entire hand. But in a limited area like the neck, massaging is done with the fingers or the palm of the hand alone.
As a rule, every rubdown begins with effleurage. Then, to relax and loosen up the deeper muscles, petrissage or kneading is used: the skin and a portion of the muscle is picked up from the bone and gently rolled between thumb and fingers to help stimulate blood flow through the muscle so as to remove waste products. Diagramed below is this theory applied to a stiff shoulder and kinked neck.
With one hand, lift up a segment of muscle from the shoulder and roll it between the thumb and fingers using a moderate amount of pressure but not enough to cause pain. Before releasing the muscle, grasp another segment with the other hand. Work in rhythmic fashion, so that one hand is constantly kneading for five to seven minutes. Before massaging, lubricate skin with mineral oil; finish with rubbing alcohol.
With fingers together, cupped to contours of the neck, stroke muscles which run down the sides and back of the neck, starting at the base of the head and moving to the shoulders. Keep hands moving together in circular pattern and always in contact with the skin. Apply moderate pressure with each downward stroke, light touch when returning up neck to the hairline. Continue the massage for five to seven minutes.
Next week: massage to limber legs and ease tired feet