One of the greatest pleasures in life is receiving a massage at the hands of a professional. It’s an extravagance not everyone allows themselves, but the indulgence is oh so worth it. While you may not schedule one for yourself, receiving a gift certificate for a back or full-body massage can be enough to get you hooked. This is a fantastic present to bestow upon anyone, but what if you could perform the service yourself, and give a proper massage, especially for a loved one? 

If you’d like to learn how to give a massage, this tutorial should have you and your magic fingers on the way in no time. Just be forewarned: once your secret is out, your new-found skills will be in high demand, and you might just be expected to practice them regularly!

Setting the mood

Here are the first steps to getting started. Once you square away these considerations, you’ll be on your way to plenty of oohs and aahs

  • Find a relaxing location. This can be anywhere that is calm and quiet, free from distraction. Dim lighting and soft, soothing music are also recommended. You see, it’s not just the physical aspects of the massage that are so beneficial, but the atmosphere it is received in can make all the difference in the world. The combined sensation is what you’re striving for.
  • Prepare a surface for performing the massage. Of course, not everyone is going to have a masseur’s table handy, but sometimes a bed can be too soft. The person you’re working on shouldn’t be sinking into the surface too deeply. Instead, there should be some resistance, so that when you’re applying gentle pressure, they’re not moving away from you. This problem can be solved by having the recipient lay width-wise across the foot of a bed, where the mattress tends to be firmer.
  • Also, you’ll want to cover the surface with a towel or even a doubled sheet you’re not worried about mucking up, because you’ll be using lotion or oil on your subject.
  • Choosing a skin lubricant to use is also something to put thought into. You want a product that will glide effortlessly over the skin, not ball up or flake off. Oils are often preferred for this reason, but you don’t want anything too heavy. Another thought is fragrance. This is something that is more of a personal preference but knowing your subject, and their tastes in aromas should guide you in your choices. Just avoid anything that will heat the skin, unless the massage is a form of physical therapy for sprains and strains, and steer away from minty or wintergreen smells that smack of Bengay for sensual massages. Nobody wants to think of grandpa at a time like that. 

Note: Make sure the person doesn’t have any allergies to whatever you’re using that could create hives or other adverse reactions. Talk about a mood killer.


How to Give a Massage

It’s time to get those hands slicked up and begin. With a deep tissue massage, you’ll be applying pressure through the use of your hands, arms, and your body weight to the person’s muscles. You’ll want to begin by ensuring the participant is relaxed first. This is where the atmosphere we discussed earlier comes into play. 

Deep tissue massage can be performed on the back, arms, and legs where there are large muscle groups. It’s vital that you don’t apply too much pressure. Discuss with your partner the fact that they need to guide you along regarding this point, and to pipe up when their threshold has been reached. They’re supposed to enjoy the experience, not feel as though they’ve been Rolfed.

  • A drape or sheet is considered standard, but—depending on who the recipient is—the person you’re working on may not require one. Assuming they do, it is placed lightly across the body from beneath the armpits to below the knees. 
  • Regardless of the drape, once the subject is lying face down and comfortable, apply the massage oil to your hands. You don’t need a lot to begin with, and you can always use more along the way. Rub your hands together for a moment to heat it up before placing your hands on them. Nobody likes cold hands or oils assailing their warm body, and all your efforts to get them to relax are out the window. 
  • Start with broad, sweeping strokes across your friend or partner’s back to help spread the oil. Each pass of your hands will help heat the lubricant as you go. These gentle, broad strokes should help put the person at ease, aiding them in further relaxation. 
  • Next, continue with the same gentle gliding motion along the backs of each leg and work down to their ankles and feet. 
  • Now, ask them to flip over on their back and apply the same technique to their arms, working down to their hands and then each individual finger all the way down to the tip. 
  • Move onto the fronts of each leg, again working slowly and softly down to the tips of their toes. This is the warmup to the deep tissue portion of it. You want to finesse the body first, not put it into shock. 
  • Once you’ve completed this first circuit, now you can get ready to release some pressure and work the kinks out. You’ll be applying more strength now, so bear in mind it’s helpful to work with your fingers placed more closely together than spread apart. Otherwise, you’re more likely to pinch the muscles, creating pain and discomfort. 
  • Placing the person back on their stomach, walk around so that you are standing in front of their head. Next, lean forward so that you can place each palm on their upper back in the area of their shoulder blades. Now, use the palms of your hands, combined with your body weight, to add pressure to the strokes. Gradually work your hands along the muscles that run beside either side of the spine, applying pressure in slow, even strokes down the entire length of the back. 

Note: Do not put pressure directly on the spine or any boney protrusions.

  • Now, walk around so that you are beside or behind them and start working up the back using your fingertips. You can try using tiny sideways strokes or a gentle rocking motion along the muscles running your hands from the bottom of the back up to the shoulders. Remember to keep your fingertips together. This will create more of a pinpoint effect while helping to avoid pinching any nerves or muscles.
  • At this point, you should be ready to really start working it, so get prepared to use your forearm to apply pressure to the back. Beginning with the shoulder, place your forearm on the inner part of the back. You can start on either side of the spine, but not across it, and work slowly down using your body weight to apply pressure. In essence, you’ll be running your forearm atop the muscle that travels alongside the spine. If performed correctly, your arm should glide from the shoulder down the back and up again in a fluid motion.
  • After doing this on both sides, start with the base of the back, with each hand placed on either side of the spine, and slowly work your way up. On your way down, as your forearm reaches the bottom of the back, turn your arms sideways just above the buttock region. Then run your arms up along the outer edges of the back and around to the shoulders. If it’s easier for you, you can perform this on one side at a time. But once you reach the top of the shoulder, with your hand pointing down, run your forearm back down the shoulder and out towards the chest with a flourish as you finish the routine.
  • Return now to the legs or arms. Assuming you start with the legs, continue to use your forearms to apply pressure. Beginning above the ankle on the back of the leg, you can apply the same strokes with your forearm running vertically up the leg. Remember to use your body weight. You can perform this maneuver up along the back of the calf, all the way up to the thigh, and then pause for a moment just under the glutes. After that, you’ll sweep your forearm in a smooth, fluid motion around the hip. 

Some people prefer a tad more pressure in the hip area, due to the fact we tend to store our stress there, so feel free to use the back of your elbow and the lower portion of your upper arm to dig in a bit, if need be. Always be mindful of the recipient’s pain tolerance, though. The point of learning how to give a massage is to avoid hurting anyone in the process.

  • Moving back down to the calf, begin applying pressure through the use of your thumbs. This can be accomplished by placing your hands on either side of the lower leg with your thumbs centered in the middle of the calf muscle, one thumb placed behind the other. Now move your thumbs up the calf, focusing the pressure up the centerline as you go. There’s actually a groove that can be felt between the two-headed gastrocnemius muscle, so it’s easy to follow. 

Note: You can also use your knuckles if your thumbs start getting tired.

  • When you’re ready to move on to the arms, the subject should be placed on their back again. Begin by pressing up along the upper arm with the heel of your palm starting at the elbow. Using this method, move along toward the shoulder, continuing with your body weight to ensure you’re applying pressure. Again, you can use your knuckles if you must. Either way, use small circular motions.
  • Now it’s time to address the forearms. Beginning with the wrist, place both of your hands with the thumbs on top of either side of the forearm. Then work your hands slowly up the arm towards the elbow, applying pressure with your thumbs all along the outer edges of the arm. You can also try using both of your thumbs along the top of the forearm by pressing them in a single line up the center, one leapfrogging over the other in a continuous motion.  
  • Believe it or not, massaging the hands with the thumbs is one of the most pleasurable aspects of a massage for many people. You’ll approach this by placing both thumbs next to each other on the inside of the wrist. Next, move them together in slow, circular movements over the wrist and down along the lifelines into the palm. Concentrate on the muscled areas, including the area located at the base of the thumb where the fat pad is. There’s muscle beneath it that often becomes strained and tired with repetitive use. When you’re finished, flip the hand over and gently work your thumbs in from the wrist down the back of the hand to the tips of the fingers and give each digit a gentle tug.

Note: Some people prefer to work from the hands up to the shoulder, but working down to the fingertips is preferable. The sensation is out of this world when they’re done.

Massage relxation

Double Their Pleasure

If you really want to blow their mind, finish up with a neck and head massage. Most masseurs will tackle this while the client is laying on their back. You’ll begin by sitting or standing at the head of the table. This way, you’ll be behind them looking down at their head. Gently slide your well-oiled hands, palms up, beneath their shoulders and begin to work your fingers into the tissue. You should be able to run your fingertips along the muscle where the shoulder blades attach on either side of the spine. Don’t overlook the rounds of their shoulder caps while you’re at it.

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Next, move your hands up along the back of the neck, pulling one hand behind the other repeatedly for a minute or two. From there, work your magic fingers up the back of their skull, around the sides, and eventually up to the crown of their head. Don’t forget to give their temples a little bit of attention with some gentle circular motions and just a tiny bit of pressure, too. A scalp massage stimulates blood flow and makes everything feel better.

    Massage Tips

    Remember, you can always add more lotion or oil along the way, just don’t get too carried away. The purpose of it is to allow your hands and arms to glide effortlessly over the skin without hanging up, pinching, or creating rub burns. Otherwise, it can get pretty messy.

      Deep massage

      On a more serious note, learning how to give a massage comes with responsibilities. It’s crucial you don’t get carried away and that you exercise caution with your new skills. Case in point: be very, very careful whenever you’re massaging someone’s neck. This is an area you can easily injure, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, either avoid it altogether or massage it as if it’s as delicate and fragile as it actually is.

      Now that you know how to give a massage properly go forth and make someone’s life a little brighter today.