Back Massage Techniques

Emma Chui
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Massage therapy is rooted in ancient history and became a significant part of modern medicine in many cultures. According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association in 2007, more than 25 percent of all American adults had at least one massage in 2006. Most of these people wanted to heal from injuries or relieved from pain symptoms.

There are more than 80 massage therapy styles with a wide variety of techniques, pressures and movements. All the different back massage techniques involve rubbing, pressing and manipulating soft tissues and muscles. Back massage techniques are typically performed for stress control, relaxation or pain relief.

Popular Back Massage Techniques

Swedish massage is the most common style. It is both energizing and relaxing and involves short rhythmic tapotement as well as long kneading strokes.  Swedish back massage techniques include:

  • Friction: circular, deep movements to break down scar tissue and improve blood flow
  • Effleurage: long, gliding strokes to relax the soft tissue
  • Petrissage: kneading, squeezing and rolling
  • Tapotement: rhythmic percussion done with cupped hands to help release lymphatic build up in the back

Swedish massage techniques release tension, and gradually break up adhered tissue and muscle knots. It also decreases muscle toxins and increases the level of oxygen in the blood.

Craniosacral Back Therapy

The techniques used in craniosacral massage therapy mainly focus on the upper spinal column and skull. Light pressure helps stimulate the muscles and fluids around the spinal cord. This technique relieves headaches, eases joint inflammation and helps for neck and back pain. 


According to a study published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, craniosacral back therapy significantly decreased migraines and improved sleep of participants.

Prenatal Back Massage

Prenatal techniques are usually gentler than the general back massages and involve long, gliding strokes to relax the soft tissue. The best way to lie down on a massage table is a side-lying position. Effleurage massage technique will relieve the sore back pregnant women experience almost every day.


It is best to avoid a prenatal massage if your doctor or midwife has advised you against it, have pregnancy-induced hypertension, or if you have previously had a premature childbirth.

Best Massage Techniques for Bronchitis, Emphysema and Asthma

The techniques used in therapy for bronchitis, emphysema and asthma include gliding strokes, percussion, kneading, friction and vibration. Precise massage of the back, shoulders, chest and neck may improve breathing. Remedial massages are well-known for opening the airways and restoring a good posture.

Massage Techniques for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia sufferers experience widespread pain, fatigue, cognitive problems (also referred to as “fibro-fog”), stiffness, sleep disruptions, irritable bowel syndrome and headaches. Soreness is the main symptom of this sickness and is mostly described by sufferers as severe, chronic, radiating, tender, shooting or aching.


Pain often gets worse during or after physical activities. Treatment may include acupuncture, chiropractic care, an exercise program, psychotherapy or massage. Techniques for fibromyalgia should focus on the upper and lower back, buttocks and neck.


In a study in 2003, methods of massage therapy reduced the need for painkillers for back pain by thirty-six percent. Massage therapy and spinal manipulation are recommended by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians.

Aromatherapy Back Massage Techniques

Aromatherapy involves volatile or essential oils to enhance emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. The best oils for massages include:

  • Bergamot or citrus bergamia
  • Chamaemelum Nobile or chamomile
  • Frankincense or Boswellia carterii
  • Lavender or Lavandula angustifolia
  • Rose damascena
  • Ylang ylang
  • Vetiver

Lavender is one of the most popular oils and has a long history of use. Topical use of Lavandula angustifolia oil is generally considered safe for most adults. Oils are often mixed for aromatherapy. For stress relief, you can mix two drops of lavender, eight drops of lemongrass oil and four teaspoons of jojoba or coconut oil. Research conducted by Ohio State University found that lemon scent has a positive effect on mood.

Various methods for health benefits are used in aromatherapy and may include:

  • Swedish massage promotes general well-being
  • Neuromuscular massage restores the autonomic nervous system
  • Lymphatic massage increases the flow of lymph
  • Acupressure removes blockage in the body
  • Shiatsu is a massage with finger pressure
  • Reflexology, also called zone therapy, where pressure is applied on certain points on the feet
  • Rolfing massage focuses mainly on connective tissue

According to the US National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy is used in combination with standard treatments for symptom management and for the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects of volatile oils.

Best Deep Tissue Back Massage

Apply volatile oil on the area of the back where you plan on massaging. Use long, gentle strokes across the back and let your hands glide over the skin. Apply light pressure with closed fingers at first. Spread your fingers apart and add more pressure to the strokes. Avoid the spine and bone areas.

Massage from the bottom of the back along the muscles to the shoulders by using the fingertips in a light rocking motion or small sideways strokes. Apply pressure with your forearm along the outside of the spine and glide in a fluid motion from the upper body down the back.

As you reach the bottom with your forearm, turn it sideways and apply pressure as you go up along the outer edge of the back. Always be careful not to go too near the spine or bone areas. Add less pressure it the person reacts in a painful manner. According to the Mayo Clinic, deep tissue massage improves muscle damage from injuries or severe muscle tightening.


Back massage techniques are usually for stress control, relaxation or pain relief. Massages are customized depending on your condition, special needs, goals and age. A customized massage may include selecting the best back massage techniques with light, moderate or deep pressure. You can choose if you prefer the work focused on a certain area, or if you would like a full-body massage.


Emma Chui

Emma Chui

Emma is a freelance copywriter and content writer from Washington, DC, who specializes in blogging, email marketing campaigns and sales pages. She loves to show her creativity and ideas by means of writing. Emma is also passionate when it comes to music and she also loves cat.

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