How to Massage with Your Fists

If you use your elbow for deep work and you’re starting to develop neck, shoulder, elbow or hand pain, I have an elbow substitute for you.


I Got Hurt

A while back I used my elbow/forearm for a lot of my deep work. Unfortunately, it started to exacerbate old neck and shoulder injuries. It got so bad that I went to the doctor and found out that I had an unstable shoulder, cubital tunnel syndrome and cervical radiculopathy.


I Stopped Hurting Myself

So I started to pay attention to when the pain was the worst and soon realized that deep work with my elbow was a big problem.

For the next year, I went on a quest to find a substitute for my elbow. And fists prevailed!

Fists can substitute for elbows as an effective deep pressure tool. Click To Tweet

Here’s my 3 step process to having fists as a tool option for deep massage.

  1. Generate Pressure by Leaning

To use fists during a massage as your primary deep massage tool, you’ll need to lower your table. Why? Because you’ll need to be able to lean with all of your weight in order to generate enough pressure.

It’s not hard to do. It just takes some reps to get comfortable with leaning. Here’s a video that will get you up and running with leaning to generate pressure: Deep Tissue Basics of Massage—The Lean.

If you need more help, check out Table Height is Everything.

  1. Use two fists for a broad stroke.

Two fists together is a fantastic way to generate broad deep pressure. Having them side by side acts as stabilizers for hand, arm and shoulder joints.

Here’s how two fists together would look when working back muscles:

  1. Face the table.
  2. Place both fists down on the lumbar erectors, side by side.
  3. Lean and glide up.
  4. Before you start reaching, pause, move your feet, and then start gliding again.

You can see what I mean about moving your feet in this video: Moving Your Feet—Low and High In the Saddle.

  1. Use a fist and knuckles for focused pressure.

For focused pressure and a substitute for your elbow point (ulna condyle), position one of your fists so that the knuckles are pressing down. Once you get comfortable with a fist-hand and a knuckle-hand together, the sky is the limit for other combinations.

In this video, How to Massage with your Fists, I demonstrate double fists, a fist/knuckles combo and some of my other favorite fist combos.

Mix It Up

I’ve found that if you want to stay healthy and out of pain when doing massage, you need to eliminate the massage tools/techniques that hurt your body. And you need to find and use the massage tools/techniques that don’t hurt your body. The more tools you have in your toolkit, the better.

Fist Massage Checklist

Fist massage is a great elbow alternative. It can be used for broad deep pressure and focused deep pressure.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Lower your table.
  2. Lean to generate pressure.
  3. Use two fists side by side for broad pressure.
  4. Use a fist and knuckles side by side for focused pressure.

If you think this was helpful, please share this article with your friends. And let me know what else I can do to help you be a pain-free MT! Connect with me here, email or on our Facebook page.

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