It is useful know the following terms if you want to take giving massage seriously. I have noded them to make references in my massage nodes a little clearer...


This is the most basic move in Swedish-style massage, and is a broad stroking movement made with one or both hands across the surface being massaged. Effleurage always aims towards the heart, the aim being to increase lymph flow. In reality, the main benefits are in relaxing the person you're massaging and warming up their tissues ready for deeper moves. In good effleurage your hands should never leave the skin - use firm, comfortable pressure on the stroke towards the heart, and much lighter pressure on the way back. Make all your moves slow and firm (this feels nicer and is less ticklish...).


This is a deeper massage technique, and is done using the balls of the thumbs or fingers, and sometimes the palms. It is used on tissues that have bone beneath them, the aim being to knead lactic acid and similar compounds out of the muscle. This is a particularly good way to get rid of knots, especially on the back and shoulders. Small circles are made with the thumbs in the muscle, working harder to a point that is comfortable to the person being massaged.

Several variations can be used on particularly stubborn (or tender) knots. The two thumbs can be moved around each other in the flesh, and on the back all fingers and thumbs can be used together (hold your fingers as if holding a tennis ball or baseball).


This move is derived from the medieval medical technique of the same name, in which heated cups were placed over the skin and allowed to cool, creating a partial vacuum. It is performed by cupping the hands (as if you were holding some water in each hand), and then making gentle slapping movements with alternate hands on the area being cupped. All the movement should be in the wrists, and the noise produced should be like a horse trotting - if it sounds like a slap, you're not holding your hands cupped enough - and it'll feel like it sounds. Suitable regions on which to use cupping are the thighs, shoulders, and upper back - it is very important to avoid the kidney region, and to keep talking to the person you're massaging to make sure you're doing it hard enough without being painful.


This is often done immediately after cupping, and on similar regions of the body. Another move that both looks and sounds worse than it really is, hacking involves holding the hands in a 'karate chop' pose, and then relaxing the fingers and making chopping movements from the wrists with the little finger and edge of the palm. If done correctly, the other fingers all slap into each other, so the move should feel gentle and not like being hit (if it hurts, you're either doing it wrong, or much too hard). The aim should be to make the two hands land as close to each other as possible, and as fast as possible - this sounds disturbingly like something else entirely...


This is a fairly gentle but deep move, and is used on large muscles such as those in the flanks and thighs. It is somewhat hard to describe in words, but effectively involves taking the muscle between thumb and fingers and moving it as if kneading dough. Both hands alternate over the same region, with the thumbs stationary close to each other and the fingers doing most of the work.