How to do One Hand Massage

I give my mom credit for helping me embrace one hand massage.

When I was a kid I’d sometimes give her the sass face, and she’d say: Your face is going to get stuck like that!


I stopped.

For a while. Then I decided to check in the mirror after I made the sass face. Hmm…nothing seemed to be stuck.

Many years later in massage school I was taught to keep two hands on the client all the tiime.


I’m not entirely sure…maybe because the client was paying for two hands, not one.

Anyway, I did two hand massage forever. Then one day my shoulder hurt and my subconscious must have remembered my mom’s horrible, life scarring lie to me about my facing freezing as I sassed her, and I lifted one hand off my client and continued the massage.

Interestingly, my pain went away. And when it was time for my client to pay, he didn’t demand a 50% refund.

Thanks to my mom, one hand massage has made me a durable MT and kept me out of pain.

One Hand Massage Is Not Complicated

One hand massage is not a massage modality.

It’s a strategy.

Here’s the strategy: at select times when doing static pressure use one hand.

Here are two things you’ll need to do:

One Hand Massage Basics

(1) Lean to generate pressure.

That means you’ll need to have your table low enough so that you can leverage your body weight. More about that here: Table Height is Everything.

(2) Press with a with a thumb, knuckle(s), fist, fist-thumb (same hand), or massage tool.

We all know what knuckles and thumbs look like, but a fist-thumb may be new for some. Here it is:

A have a very relaxed hand when using a fist-thumb. Notice that my fingers are not balled tight.

With a fist-thumb you can adjust where the focus of the pressure goes by simply directing more pressure into the fist or thumb.

Okay, Mark, we’re getting a little deep here. Before I invest anymore eyeball time into this article, how’s this going to save my body?

Fair enough.

One Hand Massage Saves Your Body

The first way it will help save your body is pretty obvious.

1. You can rest the hand that’s not working.

A 15 or 30 second break is sometimes all your fingers need to feel less taxed. And if you become ambidextrous with one arm massage, you’ll get to rest both hands during the course of a massage.

2. You can change positions.

When doing a massage stroke, you either face the direction of the stroke.

Back stroke from lumbar to cervical.

Or you don’t face the direction of the stroke.

Back stroke from lumbar to cervical.

Either way, both hands are down and you’re locked into one position.

This means that you glide in that one position.

You press in that position.

You sort of become that position, right?

But look what happens when you switch to one hand.

You can put your body in a different position and get a break from having two hands down. And here’s the bonus.

3. You can make postural adjustments and stretch.

Think of one hand massage as an office workstation break. It’s time to get up from your desk and stretch.

For us, MTs, it’s a time to be less hunch-y and more vertical.

If you breath in and lift your rib cage up while doing one hand massage, you can reset your posture.

And if you raise the other hand, you can reach up, extend your back and counter chronic, back flexion.

Whoa, Mark! You’re getting a little carried away here. Remember, you’re actually doing a massage.

Hey, I’m not slacking.

My pressure is precise. And I’m leveraging my body weight with which allows me to sustain any pressure with minimal effort.

One Hand Massage Example

Here’s an example of one hand massage in action.

Your gliding with deep pressure on Maria’s back. You hit a tender spot and she wants you to hold that deep pressure.

You do. But your body has been in that one massage position too long and things are starting to cramp up.

So you switch to a one-handed position and lean into the tender spot.

She asks for a little more pressure. You move your body so that you’re in the best position to transfer your body weight. Then you lean in.

In this picture I’ve maneuvered so that I can effortlessly lean in with all my body weight if need be.

Now I’m adding the stretch.

Oh, one more thing. You can even throw in a tool.

One Hand Massage Quick Start

If you want to add one hand massage into your work, start with areas that are easy for you to access with one hand.

For me, these areas are neck, back, and hammies.

  1. Find a tight/tender spot.
  2. Lean in with one thumb, knuckle(s), fist, fist-thumb or massage tool.
  3. Adjust your body position so that it feels comfortable.
  4. Make postural correction and/or add a stretch.

To transition out of one hand massage, simply move your feet so that you can comfortably put the other hand back down. Then continue on with two hands until you need another break.

If you need a little more motivation to keep you going, jump in my email group. I’ll send you links to updates, tutorials, workshops, downloads, everything! It’s free and you can opt out whenever you want:-)

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