How to do Short Stroke Massage

If you have iffy shoulders, elbow or thumbs, then try short stroke massage.

Yep, I made up the name “short stroke massage”.

Think of it as a strategy. Basically, you’re going to cover less distance in a stroke—a lot less distance.

WTF, Mark, that’s going to be the choppiest massage ever!

Not after you make one adjustment. I’ll get into that later.

The Bad News

First, I need to tell you that if you do short stroke massage, you’re probably going to abandon some go-to moves that you’re really good at.


Because some of those go-to moves are beating the snot out of your body.

Dr. Liu and Chinese Massage

Early on in my career, I learned this vicariously. I had a back injury and went to see an acupuncturist, Dr. Liu.

I admired Dr. Liu. He was born in China, became a US citizen, had a medical degree, did research at a prestigious university and was well-known in our area.

He knew I was a massage therapist, and one day he started to lecture me about how Chinese massage was sooooooooooo much better than American massage.

I was curious and asked him if he could show me some Chinese massage techniques.

But instead of showing me techniques, he simply explained how Chinese massage strokes are done.

But I’m a massage therapist, right? Less talky and more showy, Dr. Liu.

So I pushed him: Can you show me how it’s done?

That’s when he confessed that he didn’t do Chinese massage any longer because it kills his wrists and hands.

Moral of the story: Make sure you’re a licensed acupuncturist if you continue to do massage techniques that hurt your body.

Short Stroke Massage Rules

Answer: Super-short strokes. Question: How do I stop shoulder pain when massaging? Click To Tweet

Short stroke massage is a body-saver because no matter where you’re working (arm, back or leg), you’re always in a position to keep your joints stacked (aligned).

Leaning with stacked joints is an efficient way to deliver pressure and is easy on your body.

More about leaning here: How to Do Really Deep Pressure Without Hurting Yourself.

Short Stroke Massage Steps

Here’s how you do short stroke massage:

  1. Stand facing a side of the table with the body part you’re using to deliver pressure down. (In this position, you will NOT be facing the direction of the stroke. Fist, knuckles and thumbs work great with short stroke massage.)

  1. Lean and glide (or use static pressure) going left or right, but don’t travel more than a few inches either way.
  2. Pause at the end of your mini-stroke. (By the way, that was my other option for a name for this strategy: mini-stroke massage. You can see why I went with “short”.) Move your feet. Then continue to glide.

Pretty easy, huh?

Short Stroke Massage Secret

Oh, and this how you can make short stroke massage NOT choppy: Slow down.

Think Zen. Think turtle. Think almost falling asleep. That’s the pace you want.

If your pressure is consistent and focused and you’re moving slowly, 20 short strokes from foot to head will seem like one continuous long stroke.

If you’re new to the idea of shortening your stroke, check out: I Broke a Massage Rule–And I Liked It!

One More Time

If you’re ready to give short stroke massage a shot, here are the steps again:

a. Stand facing a side of the table.

b. Lean and glide a few inches to the left or right.

c. Pause at the end of the stroke, move your feet to position yourself for the next short stroke, then continue the stroke.

Good to go?

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