Ask the Massage Therapist

Basic Russian Massage Strokes: Circular Heel of the Hand Friction

If I could teach only one stroke to other massage therapists, it would be Russian circular heel of the hand friction.

Friction is seldom used in Swedish massage but used quite a bit in Russian massage. It's a great stroke and I consider it my "workhorse." I incorporate it liberally during full-body relaxation massage because it's relaxing and feels very good. It's great for muscles that are tight and sore. It's particularly useful with athletes. It's my favorite stroke.

Done properly, it's very comfortable for the client and very easy on the therapist. Remember not to do it too fast. It should be done at a moderate to slow pace. Too fast will take the sensation of depth out of it. Oil should be minimum, just enough to let you move along easily but not so much that you are sliding over the skin. There should still be a little friction.

Basic Russian Massage Strokes: Continuous Vibration on the Back

This is part II of a two-part video giving a brief demonstration of continuous flat effleurage and vibration on the back. Part I showed the effleurage; Part II demonstrates continuous vibration on the back.

Although vibration exists in Swedish massage, it seems to be seldom used. This is a shame because it is such a useful stroke. In Russian massage, we have very specific ways of doing the strokes. This video will give you an idea of exactly how we do it in Russian massage.

Russian Massage Basic Stroke: Continuous Flat Effleurage

This is the second in a series of brief videos introducing the principles and practice of Russian Medical and Sports Massage.

Our first video gave a brief Introduction to the Principles of Russian Massage. The second video, presented here, gives a brief demonstration of flat continuous effleurage on the back.

Continuous flat effleurage is very calming to the central nervous system and a good beginning and ending stroke. In Russian Massage, we are very specific about how the strokes are done. How the hand is held, how the fingers are placed, all enhance the stroke and make a small but significant difference. The continuous movement in one direction produces a unique feeling that is a little different from common Swedish effleurage. Since the hands are working alternately, each hand has a moment of rest between strokes. These brief periods of rest make the stroke less fatiguing for the therapist than in traditional Swedish massage, where both hands are always working at the same time.

Try it and let us know what you think.


Introduction to the Principles of Russian Massage

I'm excited to announce the first of a series of brief videos that will introduce the principles and practice of Russian massage.

Russian Massage is a medical and sports massage developed in the former Soviet Union and used in hospitals and clinics there. Based on research, Russian Massage works with the physiological processes of the body to promote desired change and recognizes the role of the central nervous system in bringing about that change.

This first video gives a brief introduction to the history and principles of Russian Massage and discusses how the practice of Russian Massage agrees with current understanding of neuroscience.

Special thanks to Will Stewart of 3-D Optimal Performance for making these videos possible.

I hope you like it. Let me know what you think!


Magical Thinking, Deepities, and Massage Therapists

About a month ago, I shared some of my thoughts about energy work from the point of view of an evidence-based massage therapist. To my surprise, that blog article got quite a bit of attention and sparked some fascinating conversations. The issue of energy work is one of the most divisive and yet, in my opinion, one of the most important issues in the field of massage therapy today. Unfortunately, when the subject comes up, the conversation usually gets pretty contentious quickly. I was pleased to see some discussion that was thoughtful and respectful.

Neuroscience, Russian Massage, and Remembering Zhenya Kurashova Wine: An Interview With Will Stewart

When Will Stewart, owner of 3-D Optimal Performance, asked to interview me, I was surprised and honored. Will recently began a series of webradio interviews with many of the "heavy hitters" in the field of manual and movement therapies and neuroscience. These are individuals who are bringing an understanding of what neuroscience knows about the brain and applying it to manual and movement therapies. Will has conducted some fascinating interviews with physical therapists, manual therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists, and even his piano instructor, all with an interest in understanding how the role of the brain and the central nervous systerm plays a part in their approach to their work.

Self-Help for the Neck Through Novel Movements

While low back pain may be one of the most common complaints seen by doctors, neck and upper back/shoulder pain is the most common complaint seen in my office. So many people spend their days sitting in front of a computer, head forward and motionless for hours at a time, it seems inevitable that eventually the neck and upper back are going to begin to  protest. I encourage clients to get up and move as often as possible and especially to move in directions that are different from or opposite to the direction in which they've held themselves for extended periods. The body wants to move and likes variety of movement.

Response to a Question Regarding What Do We Know For Sure (For therapists)

A colleague on a private forum asked the following questions in response to some thoughts I posted yesterday. In particular, he wondered about the description of an experience I had with a client. His question:

Having effect on the nervous system by stretching skin will relieve pain?  . . . [Is] Dianna [sic] relieving trigger points in this fashion? Seriously? Sixteen years ago, I never knew what was causing my pain. Doctors didn't know either. And then I ran into a PT who did know and mentored me. Trigger Point work, as I have benefitted, is painful. Paul Ingraham and Amber Davies agree, they hurt like hell when compressed. That "painful work" is the only thing that has ever given me tempory relief. I'm just not seeing where skin work is going to effect a mechanical release of myofascial contraction knots.....