I didn’t understand massage body mechanics when I was a massage student, and I thought every MT had hand pain.
My hands got to be such a problem that I went to my teacher, Telema, for help. She watched me work on a fellow student.
What she told me to do seemed too subtle to be important at the time, but it’s actually a cornerstone to keeping my body pain-free when doing massage today.
It was “relax your hands”.
I know, “relaxing your hands” hardly seems like an advanced massage body mechanics strategy, but there are layers. And the deepest layer can actually make your whole body feel better.
Layer#1: Relax the Hand that’s Working
The first layer is to relax the hand(s) that’s doing the work.
Back in the day, Telema would tap me on the shoulder when I was tensing my hands in a glide stroke or when I was over-squeezing.
As time went on, I realized that I tensed my working hands out of anxiousness because I was wasn’t confident in my massage. Once I gained confidence, I was able to relax my working hands.
Layer #2: Relax the Hand that’s NOT Working
Next, Telema addressed my non-working hand. To my surprise, whenever I had a hand to my side, it was tense, too.
Not sure why. Maybe it was playing Simon Says with my other hand. Regardless, paying attention to the non-working hand, and then relaxing it if it was tense, was an easy fix.
The Advanced Massage Body Mechanics Tip
The bonus to relaxing your hands while massaging is that it will help you stay pain-free when delivering pressure.
It works like this. The act of relaxing your hands becomes a trigger for you to relax your body.
When you relax your body you can be super-efficient at delivering pressure.
Layer #3: Relaxing Hands to Relax Your Body
There’s a big parallel between sports and massage here.
If you’re tense playing a sport, you’re performance will probably suffer.
Think of the times you’ve played in a game, competed in an event, performed on stage where having a tense body helped?
Okay, so you can’t be Gumby and ooze all over the place. There needs to be a certain amount of tension in your body. But excess tension wastes energy, is unnecessary and gets in the way of efficient execution.Relax you hands to relax your body to relax your client. Click To Tweet
Don’t Take My Word for It
Try this. Hold your arms out in front of you as if you were going to lean into someone on the massage table. Now make really tight fists.
Do you feel the contraction of those hand, forearm, arm and shoulder muscles?
With the tightened fists, lean forward as if you’re going to apply deep pressure to gluteus maximus and friends.
Keep those fists tight!
You should feel that your power (and strain) is coming from your arms and shoulders. That’s a lot of muscle work going on.
Advanced Body Mechanics: Relaxed Lean
Now, straighten back up. Keep the fists, but make them loose fists. Relax your forearms, arms and shoulders.
Think of each arm, from loose fist to shoulder, as one connected unit. Now lean, but stay relaxed.
Where does your power feel like it’s coming from?
It should feel like it’s coming from your lean with no strain in your shoulders and arms. And you should feel like you’re able to lean all your body weight easily.
The relaxed lean is super-efficient and easy on your body.
It All Starts with the Hand
The idea behind having relaxed hands is simple—conserve energy and tax you body less. You can do that in three ways:
- Relax the hand that’s working.
- Relax the hand that’s not working.
- Relax your hand to relax your body.
When you relax your hands, your forearms, arms and shoulders automatically relax, too.
That can be a signal for the rest of your body to relax. Once you’re in that relaxed zone you can become hyper-efficient at leaning to deliver pressure with a minimal amount of effort.
For more advanced massage body mechanics tips, techniques and strategies check out this video:
Or this article: How to Massage with Your Fists
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