If your hands are hurting after a normal week of massage, I have some good news. The main cause of your hand pain could be your massage technique. It was for me.
Here are three quick ways to get your hands feeling good again: 1. Use your non-dominant hand more, 2. Add in bracing techniques, 3. Incorporate hand-held tools.
The Tool On The Other Side Of Your Body
About 10 years ago, my right thumb started to bother me. When I think back it makes perfect sense that it would. I used it a lot—especially when doing deep, detailed work. For a long time, I simply accepted thumb pain as the price to pay for doing massage.
But as the pain increased, I realized that if I didn’t change something soon I was going to be in trouble. One day during a massage my right thumb was really aching and I had to give it a break. So I stuck my left thumb in the cervical erectors. It was awkward BUT my left thumb didn’t ache. (Hey, I could get used to this!)
I began to experiment with my left thumb to the point where it started to hurt. Eventually, I found that if I followed a thumb workload formula of 60/40 (60% dominant thumb/40% NON-dominant thumb) my thumbs felt great.
Sprinkle in Power Tools
Splitting the workload to 60/40 between my thumbs was a big improvement for reducing pain in my right thumb. However, it didn’t solve my problem of achy and stiff fingers.
There was one move that really made my hand ache. The move was squeezing and rolling the upper trap edge between my thumb and fingers. One day I was doing the move and my hand ached. Without thinking I reached over with my other hand to help with the squeezing.
Hmm…it sure was a lot easier squeezing with two hands.
I soon discovered that anytime I used a right tool (fingers, thumbs, knuckles, fists, elbow/forearms) together with a left tool to squeeze or press, my hands felt better.
I called this combining of right and left hand tools–power tools. (My wife, Lisa, is not a big fan of the name. I’m open for suggestions.)
Power Tools Are Individual
There are no right and wrong power tools. It depends on the individual and is influenced by anatomy (e.g., big knuckles versus small knuckles) and preexisting conditions.
My favorite hand-saving PRESSING power tools are
Third knuckle and thumb:
Braced knuckle and fist:
T-Bar and L-Bar
Changing tools and using power tools made my hands feel better. But adding in hand-held tools allowed me to increase my massage volume without injuring my hands.
The hand-held tools that I use are a T-bar and a L-bar. Here’s what they look like:
These tools were designed by my massage colleague and friend, Matt Johnson.
Admittedly, T-Bars and L-Bars can look a little intimidating at first. But start to work with them and you’ll never want to do another massage without them!
A Little Longer Each Time
The great thing about massage is that you can get paid for on-the-job training. With a paying customer use a non-dominant tool, add in a power tool or incorporate a hand-held tool.
Then with the next massage use the new technique a minute longer. After 5 massages, you’ll feel a difference. After 20 massages, you’ll be comfortable with your new techniques—and your hands will feel good!
If you get stuck, I’m here to get you unstuck. Leave a comment here or email me–firstname.lastname@example.org