Massage for Two: Part 1

zen basalt stones and bamboo with dew

I believe massage is therapeutic whether it’s a rub-a-dub between friends or a formal one with a professional. With over twenty years of experience as a massage therapist and acupuncturist, I’d like to share four key points on giving and receiving a massage as well as specific techniques for headaches.

1) COMMUNICATION

Communication is the MOST important aspect in massage. For example, I’m working on my husband, Kraig, and he says, “Wow, that’s really sore.” What exactly does that mean? Well, it could mean a couple of things:

A) That’s too hard. It hurts. Stop.

B) That’s the area bothering me. Keep rubbing.

As a receiver, if the pressure is too hard, say so. If it’s not quite in the right spot, say so. HOWEVER, try not to over direct so much that you don’t enjoy the touch of the massage. Be in the moment, take slow deep breaths, feel, and enjoy.

As the giver, every so often ask about the pressure. Try not to get offended if your partner gets bossy. Gently say, “Okay, now try and relax,” or “Okay, I think your time is almost up.” The latter will usually shut him or her up … just ask Kraig.

You each need to make the experience pleasant for the other, so it doesn’t seem like a chore. Oohs, aahs, and moans are permitted and encouraged.

2) QUALITY NOT QUANTITY

You don’t have to do an hour massage to be beneficial. A ten or fifteen minute head, shoulder, or neck massage works wonders. The massage can be done on a bed/massage table in a quiet room with relaxation music or sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite show.

3) ALTERNATE YOUR PRESSURE

During the massage, start with a light touch, work deeper, and then lessen your pressure again. For the receiver, it’s more comfortable. For the giver, you don’t need a lot of hand strength to be effective. The routine doesn’t have to be perfect as long as you remember to alternate between light and deep pressure.

4) THE DEEPER YOU WORK; THE SLOWER YOU WORK

This technique causes less pain because you’re gradually working into troublesome areas. Some may want more neck massage while others want shoulder massage. Your partner may want only light pressure while you want her to use her elbow and body weight to dig into that sore spot. Massage is specific to the person. Always ask and always say. We’re not mind readers, right?

With these key points in mind, let’s get started. At home, Kraig usually sits on the floor while I sit on the sofa. I’ve also had him sit in a chair while I stand behind him, and I’ve even had him stretch out face up at the foot of the bed where I can sit comfortably in a chair.

Today, I’ll describe the headache routine as if standing behind the seated person. You’ll massage the different aspects of the head with this routine. Then, you can concentrate on the specific pain areas later.

FRONTAL HEADACHES:

1) For comfort and stability, have your partner lean back against you. With your fingers, use gliding strokes above the eyebrows on the forehead. Start in the center, gently pull up slightly, and work towards the sides.

Massage for two Picture 1-001

2) Press on Yintang (located between the two eyebrows) for headaches, insomnia and nasal congestion.

3) Massage or thumb glide from the sides of the nose under the cheekbones towards the ears.  Bitong (located beside the sides of the nose) is used for nasal congestion. For sinus pain, press on Yintang and Bitong, pinch along the eyebrows, and press just below the inner point of the eyebrow.

Massage for two picture 2-001

4) Finger glide from the sides of the chin along the jaw line.

5) Use your thumbs to slide down from the ear/cheekbone area.

6) Rub in a circular motion (round rub) at the corner of the jaw. Stress, headaches, and a clenched jaw all seem to go together.

TEMPLES & PARIETAL HEADACHES:

1) Round rub the temple area. Taiyang (located in the depression to the side of the eye and eyebrow) cools and clears the eyes and relieves sinus pain.

2) Massage along the sides of the head above the ears. Start in the front and work towards the back of the head. The muscles in this area are connected with chewing and clenching of the jaw, so it will be tender. Start light.

3) Massage the ears. Gently pull upward, outward, and downward.

VERTEX HEADACHES:

1) Press along the top of the head starting at the hairline (or in the case of my bald hubby the upper forehead) to the vertex of the head.

2) Press on Baihui located at the vertex where many sutures meet. It’s also considered the soft spot for infants. In adults, pressing on this point relieves headache, vertigo, tinnitus, nasal congestion and even hemorrhoids. (This point has an up-lifting effect hence the reason it helps with hemorrhoids.)

3) Press or round rub Sishencong the four points surrounding Baihui. These help headaches, vertigo, insomnia, and poor memory. Tap this area while studying or taking an exam. I’ve seen a room full of acupuncture students doing this during a test. Yes, I’ve done it, too.

massage for two picture 3-001

OCCIPITAL HEADACHES:

1) Stand to the side of your seated partner. Placing your hand on the forehead to support his head, use your thumb and fingers to squeeze along the back of the neck at the base of the head.

2) Next locate Fengchi in the depression at the occiput between the neck muscles. It’s the midpoint between the ear and the vertebrae. Pressing or rubbing this area helps with headaches, vertigo, insomnia, pain, and neck stiffness.

In Part II, I’ll share the general massage routine for your neck and shoulders. Until then, practice the four key aspects for massage and have fun. A special thanks to Kraig for being my demo person for the pictures. Although with the promise of a shoulder rub, it didn’t take much arm twisting.

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