Effleurage is used more than any other stroke in massage techniques. It assists the therapist in evaluating the client’s soft tissue for areas of tenderness and tightness.
Petrissage is used to knead, or press and roll the muscles under the hands. This kneading motion of petrissage serves to milk the muscle of waste products, which collect due to abnormal inactivity, or over activity and assist in freeing adhesions.
Friction is used to massage deep into the joint spaces, or around bony prominences such as the patella (kneecap). It is especially useful to break down adhesion of well-healed scars.
It is believed that an ancient Chinese book, The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse, of which a French translation appeared about a century ago, was probably the foundation both of our modern massage, and of the manual Swedish massage. Since the French brought Chinese massage to the West, most of the world continues to use the French terminology for massage strokes. It is these different strokes that make up Swedish massage. These strokes can be used for deep tissue work or they can be use in a slow gentle relaxation way depending on the rhythm and pressure the massage therapist uses. The strokes which glide are called effleurage, those which knead are called petrissage, strokes which strike are called tapotement, strokes which compress are called friction, and those which shake or vibrate are call vibration.
Tapotement is used when stimulation is desired, and can be very relaxing after a body part is massaged. There are several different methods of Tapotement: hacking, which is bringing the sides of the hands on the body in an alternating fashion. Cupping, which is the rapid alternation of the hands in a cupping position (the thumb and finger of the hand are slightly flexed) on the body. Slapping, which is rapidly alternating the four fingers of the hand flat on the body. Beating, which is rapid alternation of the hands with a closed fist on the body keeping the force of the blows light and bounding. Pincement, which is rapid, alternate, gentle pinching that picks up small portions of connective tissue between the thumb and the first finger. Tapping, which is done with the tips of the fingers or the tips of moderate fingernails in a rapid alternating motion.
Vibration is used for a soothing effect, particularly in treating peripheral neuritis, by following the path of the nerve. Vibration is often used at the ending of a massage for the relaxation it brings. Shaking is another variation of vibration in a much coarse degree for clients who have difficulty relaxing. Gently shaking a limb back and forth will encourage relaxation.