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November 29, 2017 Amelia Wilcox

Chair Massage Techniques to Save Your Thumbs [video]

To guarantee a long-lasting career, you’ll want to use the best body mechanics possible.

One common mistake that massage therapists make is to over-use their thumbs. To protect your joints, you will want to make sure that you are not generating the force behind your massage with the strength of your thumbs alone.

Using your forearms and elbows as tools instead can really save you and your career!

In this article, we’ll cover some ways you can keep your thumbs safe when giving a massage.

Keeping Your Thumbs Safe: Techniques for Massage Therapists


Tip #1: Adjust Your Stance

During chair massage, you will first want to adjust the massage chair so that it is angled comfortably for you and your client. It should support your body mechanics so that you can lunge into each compression without straining your body.

By mindfully adjusting your chair in this manner, you will be able to use more pressure on your clients by manipulating your own body weight.

Generating this pressure should start from the power of your stance. As you lunge into each movement, you will be able to more effectively reduce their muscle tension through deeper massage techniques, and also save yourself from easily prevented injuries and self induced pain that may arise if you are using improper body mechanics.


 Chair Massage Techniques to Save Your Thumbs


Tip #2: Warm Up Client Muscles

Next, introduce your touch to your client in a gentle way. This will help them feel more comfortable with you, and additionally warm up their superficial muscle tissues.

Then, once your client is comfortable and their muscles have started to release, you can go in with deeper pressure by using your fists. When compressing with your fists, check to see that your wrists are straight, your elbows are straight, and that you are using your body weight to lean into each compression.

Compress your client’s back from their shoulders down to their lower back muscles at least three times.



Tip #3: Use Your Forearms & Elbows

To further work the client’s shoulders, bring your fingers in and roll back towards the heel of your hand, pulling their trapezius muscles together. This technique does not require the use of your thumbs at all.

To add in a deeper technique, you can incorporate your elbows. Lay your elbow at the bottom of their scapula, next to their spine, and gently hook in. Then roll up onto their shoulder blade with your forearm. Then do the same along the top of your client’s shoulders.

Since this is a technique that uses deeper pressure, make sure to ask your client if the pressure is comfortable.

While performing this technique, try to keep your own back as straight as possible as you lunge, and generate force by pushing off of your back leg.




Tip #4: Safely Address Trigger Points

After you have incorporated these elbow techniques, then palpate with your fingers to check for any remaining triggers points. In this technique, you will only use your thumbs as anchor points.

Try to keep your fingers stiff and hold them together, making a C shape with your hands. Palpate in circular motions with your hands around the client’s scapulas and along the tops of their shoulders.

To massage the lateral edge of the scapula, you can use your thumbs to compress, but always make sure that they are straight and that your joints are stacked.

If you find a trigger point, you can place your fingers on it lightly and keep them extended straight and firm. Monitor that point and move your client’s arm back so that you can hold a stretch if it is fitting, or do some range of motion techniques to help quickly release the muscle. Working the shoulder joints and muscles along the client’s collar bones can release corresponding tension.

Ready to learn more chair massage techniques?

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Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)