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10 Simple Tips For Giving A Great Massage

By Irene Diamond, R.T., Creator of Active Myofascial Therapy - The Diamond Method™


As your fingers and palms move over their skin it’s important to use your whole hand and let it follow their curves. Lighten your pressure as you go over boney areas and modify your hand or finger position as you move into smaller areas such as behind the neck or around the elbows.


As you go along, ask your partner to tell you if they want more or less pressure. Different areas of their body will require different amounts of pressure. For example, in the muscles of their back they will tend to want a firmer pressure and in their arms and legs, you might need/want to lighten up. Apply steady, secure pressure. You can also use your entire hand, not just your fingers or thumbs.


Watch to see if your partner is tensing up their muscles under your pressure. If so, this means you are pushing too hard.


Lubricant can be anything you have at home or you can buy sweet almond oil from the health food store. Any lotion or massage cream can also be used. Choose a lotion that will provide a nice glide across their body. If it is not oily enough, you will have to re-apply it more often, which breaks the rhythm of your massage. (If they're hairy, you'll need to use more lotion!)


Whenever you apply your strokes in a massage, keep in mind these three variables so you and your partner don’t get bored. You can mix and match any combination of these:

  1. Fast / Slow
  2. Deep / Light
  3. Short / Long

Keep in mind, each variable will have a different effect and produce different results and you should consider your partner's needs.


Light Massage is often referred to as Swedish massage. It is used for people who want to relax, increase circulation and de-stress. It is also used on athletes who have just recently concluded an athletic activity because their muscles will be fatigued and possibly even have slight muscle tears due to the physical exertion that was extended. It is ok to massage someone immediately after an event and even after surgery, but be aware of their pain levels, inflammation, etc. (When in doubt, ask their doctor if it’s ok for them to receive a massage)

Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is often referred to as Sports massage is used with people who have knots, spasms, chronic contracture of their muscles, limited joint range of motion due to soft tissue shortening or muscular aches or pain. As long as there is no bruising or swelling it is appropriate for you to use deep pressure.

Deeper pressure should be used only if someone has had massage before and is familiar with a deep pressure. If your partner has tight areas, which they ask you to go deeper into, then it is probably ok to do so but ONLY to the point of a "good hurt". If they are tensing up against you, back off a little and see if they can relax into your pressure. The deeper you go – the slower you need to go so it won’t be uncomfortable for the recipient!

When in doubt, don't go deep and just focus on creating a relaxing, nurturing massage. After some practice, when you feel confident to do so, you can apply deeper pressure, but in the beginning just use light pressure!

I recommend you always keep in mind that the amount of pressure you apply should elicit a feeling of contentment, not pain. If the recipient feels it is too painful, it actually defeats your intent to relax the tissue. Remember, deeper is not always better! At Diamond Wellness Center we use a 0 -10 pain/discomfort scale and believe deep tissue massage should be at about a 7 or 8 on this 0 – 10 pain scale. (9 or 10 are too much!)


I always suggest you start massaging the back since this is where most people carry their tension. The sooner you can get them to feel better and relax the better and the easier your job will be!

Stand or sit near their head facing their feet. (If you have a massage table it will allow you to have better body mechanics.)

Apply the lotion to their back. Then:

  1. Place both hands on their back with one hand on either side of their spine and start at shoulders and slowly glide down to their hips. (If you’re a short person glide as far down as you can reach.)
  2. Once down at their hips let your hands go out to the side and pull up along their sides to their arms and then slide out over their shoulders and up their neck.
  3. Repeat this 4-5 times.
  4. Start at their shoulders on one side of their spine and with both of your thumbs make small circles working your way down to their hips. Repeat this 4-5 times.
  5. Repeat other side 4-5 times.
  6. Repeat ‘a’ and ‘b’ again


Stand or sit near their feet. Do everything to one leg and foot and then switch to the other leg and foot…Have them lie either face up or down. Most people will actually want deeper pressure on their feet than you might think, so be sure to check in with them and ask if they want more or less pressure. (You need very little lotion on feet)


(Client is Face Up) You sit or stand near their head facing them.

Again, it is important to note that as long as you are not inflicting pain – they will love you for your efforts and it really is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it!


Table: Set up the room with either a massage table (if you have one) or an area where your partner can lie comfortably. Have a blanket to cover them to keep them warm and only expose the area you are massaging. The room should be warm, with soft lights and relaxing music. Some people like to use candles for a nice effect and even aromatherapy such as incense or scented candles or lotion.

Supplies: You can do your massage on the bed or floor, but of course the right tools make it easier on your own body and provides a better experience for your partner.

Lotions – You can use any lotion or oil you like, scented or not. We prefer a lotion with a nice 'glide' so it is not too slippery but you also don't want to keep re-applying cream every few minutes. (Quick tip: Put the cap back on immediately after you have put some in your hand so it doesn't spill!)

More Insider Secrets To Giving The BEST Massage:

  1. Start with the recipient face down. If you are not using a massage table with a face cradle, have them turn their head to one side so they can breathe.
  2. Use as many pillows as needed to assure they are comfortable!
  3. Start slow and move your hands less than you think, don't rush through it.

5 Things NEVER to DO:

1) Don't pull their hair unintentionally with your hands or arms
2) Don't have your breath exhale directly onto them
3) Don’t 'crunch' their ears as you are holding their head.
3) NEVER press directly on BONE! (Only press on soft tissue of the muscles.)
4) Don't press so hard your partner tenses up!
5) Don’t press into the soft side or front of their neck. (only massage the back of their neck)

Remember – You really Can’t Mess Up!
Just tune in to your partner …
Everything will be great!

About the Author:

Irene Diamond, Exercise Specialist, is CEO and director of the First Wellness Center in San Francisco, Diamond Massage & Wellness Center. The center specializes in pain management and injury rehabilitation, weight management, fitness and ergonomic education programs along with in pre and post natal wellness programs.

You may contact Diamond Wellness Center at 1841 Lombard St, San Francisco CA. 94123 or call 415.921.1290 or visit The rehabilitation technique Ms. Diamond developed can be found at http://