Massage Tips & Techniques for Beginners

Anyone can give a massage, but it takes skill to give a good massage.  If it's your first time giving a massage, you may not be sure how to go about it.

Without the training of a masseuse, you are not going to be able to replicate a professional massage.  Still, with a little bit of studying, you can give yourself or someone else a relaxing experience.

Let's talk more about why you should do massages at home and give you a few massage tips for beginners that will help you get started.

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Benefits of Massage at Home

It might be tempting to book an appointment for a massage rather than learn to do it at home, but investing some time and effort in improving your massage skills can be well worth it. You may not be able to give a professional massage but it can still help you (or the recipient) relax and feel better.

Not only can you save money by not needing as many expensive spa appointments, but you can also have more massages.   Regular (or even daily) massages have many benefits both for your mental and physical health.  

You don't have to choose between professional massage and massages at home.  Ideally, you would want to do both.  If you do get professional massages, incorporating home massage may prolong the benefits and provide relief in between sessions.

bottle of massage oil, lit candle, and towel - ready for a massage at home

Tips for Preparing for a Massage

The person receiving the masage needs to be relaxed for the best experience.  Here are some tips to do when preparing for a massage that will help:

  • Practicing deep breathing.  Just a few minutes can make a difference.  Try one of these exercises.
  • Clothing is optional.  If you do wear clothes for the massage make sure it is comfortable and loose.  You don't want movement to be restrained.
  • Adjust the temperature in the room so it's warm but not too hot.
  • Consider incorporating essential oils in the massage.  You could mix the essential oils into the massage oil or lotion.  Alternatively, use a difuser.  The benefits will depend on the essential oils that you use.
  • Set the atmosphere with music and candles.   Dim the lights.  Play the music softly and be careful not to get candles with too strong of a scent.
  • Decide where to do the massage and make sure it's comfortable.  A massage table is best, but since you might not have one at home, think about using a chair.  The person receiving the massage sits on the chair backwards.  Use pillows for extra padding.
  • Watch what you eat before the massage.  It's not a good idea to have a big meal.

Self-Massage Tips

You don't need someone else to give you a massage, you can do it for yourself.  Here are a few general tips that will help make it a better experience:

  • Rub your hands together to generate heat which will help relax the muscles.   Use a small amount of lotion or massage oil to reduce friction and make it easier to move your hands over your skin.
  • Pressure should be strong but tolerable.
  • Invest in massage tools if you can.  Even a massage ball which is very affordable can make a big difference.  A handheld massager could help you reach spots you wouldn't otherwise be able to.
  • Make time for self-massage daily.  It make take time to feel the results.
  • If you have a medical condition or pain that is intense, you should consult your doctor before trying self massage.

Self-Massage Techinques for Beginners

When you first start doing self-massage, you might be unsure how to do it.  Here I will provide some specific techniques that you can try for different areas that you may want to target.

Head Self-Massage Techniques

Giving yourself a head or facial massage can be one of the best ways to relieve headache pain.  Here are some suggestions for techniques to try: 

  • Use your thumbs to apply pressure high on your cheekbones.  While your thumbs stay put use your index fingers to gently apply pressure in a circular motion to your temples.  Continue making circles while your fingers move along your hairline to the middle of your forehead.
  • You might also like to try Indian Head Massage or a Japanase Tanaka Face Massage.
  • Consider getting a face massager or eye massager.

Neck Self-Massage Techniques

It's not uncommon to get tightness in your neck, especially if you are sitting looking at a computer screen all day.  Luckily, there are some easy self-massage routines you can do:

  • Clasp your hands together behind your neck and use the bottom of your palms to apply pressure to each side of your spinal cord. Rub up and down slowly.
  • Tilt your head to the right.  Then withyour left hand press against the left side of your neck and slowly move down all the way to your shoulder.  Repeat on the other side.
  • You might also like a neck and shoulder massager.

Back Self- Massage Techniques

It can be difficult to give yourself a back massage because you can't easily reach some spots, but it is not impossible.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs crossed (or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.)  Place your thumbs on each side of your sacrum.   Using small circular motions move your thumbs up and down your sacrum.  If you feel any tense spots, apply a bit more pressure, pause, then release.
  • If you have a massage ball, place it between your back and a hard surface like the wall or floor.  Roll slowly, pausing anytime you come across a tense spot.
  • There are lots of effective back massage tools that can help you target knots.

Hand Self-Massage Techniques

Hand pain and injuries are becoming more common these days with our technology driven lives.  Luckily this is one of the easiest areas to massage yourself.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Using your thumb and index finger,  massage each finger (on the other hand) using circular motions starting at the base and working towards the nail.  When you reach the tip, pull the finger gently to stretch.
  • Gently squeeze the web of tissue that connects your thumb to the rest of your fingers and gently move it up and down.
  • Place your index and middle fingers from one hand on the heel of the palm of your other hand and applying pressure in a small circular motion.  Start on the pinky finger side and move towards your thumb.
  • You could also try a hand massager.

Foot and Calf Self-Massage Techniques

After a long day, your feet and calves can be singing, especially if you are wearing high heels.  When you need them to feel better fast, self massage might be your best option.  Here are some methods you can try:

  • Sit down and cross one leg over the other.  You are going to use both thumbs to push along the length of your sole starting from the heel moving to your toes and back. Start by working  in a line towards your big toe. Then move up and down the foot in line with each other toe.
  • Gently at first, stroke upwards starting from the ankle to the knee.  With every upstroke, apply a little more pressure.  As the muscles loosen, you can add some kneading using your thumbs, fingers, knuckles.
  • You could try doing a foot reflexology massage at home.
  • Place a massage ball under your foot, apply a bit of weight, and roll back and forth.  If you feel any spots with tension stop and press a little firmer.
  • There are several pieces of equipment that can make foot massage easier, especially if you have flexibility issues.  Try using a foot massager, calf and foot massager, or even a foot spa massager.

Tips for Giving a Massage

You can use a lot of the self-massage techniques that we have discussed when you are giving someone else a massage but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to start the massage with very light strokes and end it the same way.
  • Put the oils or lotion in your hands and rub together to warm before applying it on their body.
  • Ask for feedback so that you get an idea of what the person likes.
  • Don't put pressure on any bone or the spine.  Also avoid massaging the front of the neck, the abdomen, and the inside of the upper arm. These areas are more vulnerable than others, so it's best to avoid them.

Learn More about Massage

Once you master some of these tips and techniques, you may be eager to learn more.  If you are interested in building your knowledge, check out these books about massage.

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Natalie Bell
 

Natalie was introduced to massage therapy and manual therapy after health issues of her own. After she experienced the power of massage first hand, she decided to study the art of massage and formalized her knowledge in Arizona Western College.

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