Want to give a back or neck massage that is almost professional? Read on…
A proper back rub focuses on long muscles along the spine, flat muscles near the top of the back and lower neck, and the band of muscles that connect the spine to the side of the back. Avoid any rough massaging on the spine itself, under the armpits or near the kidneys.
Have the person lie on the floor on cushions. This lets you kneel comfortably beside them and gives you balance that a bed would not. First warm and loosen the muscles. Kneel above the head and use your palms to smooth out the long muscles along each side of the spine, with some pressure. Smooth from the neck to the lower back and up again (repeat several times), then expand to the sides, shoulder and neck.
Then kneel to the side of their waist (your body facing their head) and perform the same movements (your hand will be reversed, fingers facing up). Be consistent with how fast you are moving and with your pressure.
With your hand over the spine, put your index and middle finger on either side of the spine, in the groove between the spine and the muscle. Stroke down the back, deeper than the smooth technique. Rub with your thumb as well, so that you have three fingertips directly working the muscle.
Switch to using fingertips for circular motions on the muscles, instead of the up and down pressure strokes. From the lower back moving up, try using your elbows for controlled, slow massaging of those muscles. Work gently and keep your elbow away from the spinal bone.
For muscles on the sides of the back, use both hands to massage the muscle — have one hand pushing down and the other, beside it, pulling back. Do this for a while, then do only pushing strokes, followed by strong pulling strokes.
Finish with knuckle strokes along the spinal muscles (stay off the bone!), all the way down and back up, then smooth the back out again and finish with calming feather-like strokes from the lower back to the neck.
And of course everyone loves a neck massage. For that, have the person lie down face up. Place hands under the head, on the neck. Avoid rubbing any bones in the neck and never massage the front of the neck (a.k.a. the throat). Use gentle pulling motions, squeezing the neck between fingers and thumb where there is not bone.
Use fingertips to make circular massage motions along both sides of the spine. Then lift the head with your fingers, allowing gravity to make these circular motions even deeper. Then try pushing down on the shoulders with one hand while supporting the head with the other. Switch hands when you switch shoulders. Try to find any tight muscles in the neck — they will feel like thick spots or bands of tension.