How to Use Your 11th & 12th Fingers

How do you stop burning out your thumbs when doing detail work? Add a finger to each hand. The L-bar and T-bar are your 11th and 12th fingers. They make detail work (light or deep) EASY—and they will save your thumbs.

The T-Bar and L-Bar

The T-bar and L-bar are massage tools.

T-bar and L-Bar pic(Thank you Matt Johnson for designing and making these T-bar and L-bar tools!)

As you can see in the picture, the T-Bar shaft is in the middle of the handle and the L-bar shaft is offset. Having the shaft in the middle of the handle or as an offset provides different options to access muscles and muscle attachments that are tough to reach.

Grip

In general, you want to grip the massage tool lightly and with fingers/thumb next to the tool’s end as a guide. Your guide fingers help you sense how much pressure you are applying and help you find the tight spots. For a deeper dive into holding the T-bar and L-bar, check out Tools Can Save Your Hands.

The 11th and 12th Fingers

One day when working on a client’s lumbar multifidus and rotators, I wondered what was the least amount of gripping that I could do while still using the T-bar effectively. I started to experiment with loose grips and found that a 6-points-of-contact hold (five fingers and the tip of the T-bar contacting the client’s back) was comfortable and easy to do. To the client it felt as though I had 6 fingers on him. Here’s a picture of what I mean:

6 Finger Pic

This grip is super easy on my hands and still allows me to deliver any pressure needed.

Detail Work In the Neck and Back

I work neck and back muscles using a variety of grips. I imagine that the massage tool is an extension of my body and I lean to generate pressure. I use the table to regulate how much of the lean (pressure) goes into the area I’m working.

As I’m leaning, I relax my hand(s) around the tool. My goal is to stabilize the tool in my hand—not grip it.

Here’s a demo video showing how to use the T-bar and L-bar when doing detail work in the neck and back: Using A T-Bar and L-Bar in the Lamina Groove .

Doing Detail Work in the Trapezius

Squeezing an upper-trap edge is killer on fingers and thumbs. In this next video, I demonstrate how to get the trap detail work done using a T-bar “squeeze”. You can check it out here: Upper Trap Release Using A T-bar.

Demo Massages

Lastly, if you’re doing demo massages where clients remained clothed, the T-bar and L-bar will allow you to apply precise pressure (light to deep) through clothing. And it’s painless to do! When I use a T-bar and/or L-bar during demo massages, it’s an absolute differentiator between my work and MTs who don’t use massage tools. Without massage tools you just can’t be as precise.

Going Pro With Massage Tools

Test out your 11th and 12th fingers (T-bar and L-bar) on a work colleague or family member. When holding the massage tool, use your guide finger as a pressure gauge.

When you feel that you can sense the pressure you’re applying with your guide finger, take the massage tools in with a paying customer. Once you find a tight and/or tender area, apply pressure with the massage tool. If you’re not getting a relief cue, like the client sighing in relief, ask her how that feels? Adjust accordingly, but don’t be surprised if the client says: That feels great.

Once you start using tools for detail work, you’ll never want to go back to burning out your thumbs and fingers.

Need some help? Post in the comment section here or shoot me an email (mark@makethemostofmassage.com). If you have a favorite massage tool, I’d love to see a pic–and tell me how you use it. Let’s save some hands!

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