The 5 Basic Massage Movements (Explained)

5 Basic Massage Movements

In the past few years, I have visited many spas and wellness centers, clinics, and gyms that offer Swedish massage.

One thing that caught my eye is that massage therapists use lotion oil and then begin the therapy with general strokes. After that, they transition to specific strokes to help relieve affected areas of a client’s body.

It was at this time I came to know about the 5 basic massage movements or strokes. As usual, I did in-depth research on them.

In this article, I will explain all you need to know about these massage movements.

Let’s get started now!

What Are The 5 Basic Massage Movements?

The five basic massage movements are as follows:

  • Effleurage 
  • Petrissage 
  • Friction 
  • Tapotement 
  • Vibration 


These movements connect and complete the massage routine. This type of movement is done with your hand’s entire palm, applying even pressure to the area.

Besides, the pressure is applied toward the venous and lymphatic flow. 

Another thing is for your hands to be flexible and perfectly controlled so that the entire palm is in contact and in line with the area you are going to massage.

The movement includes:

  • Superficial effleurage
  • Superficial stroking
  • Deep effleurage
  • Deep stroking.

Benefits And Effects:

  • You can obtain a general feeling of relaxation via the reflex response of stoking.
  • This movement stimulates the sensory nerve ending, which leads to a reaction in the skin’s circulatory network.
  • It promotes desquamation and relaxation.
  • This movement supports venous circulation through mechanical response to pressure.
  • It helps you to get accustomed or comfortable with the therapist’s touch.
  • It aids arterial circulation, which is enabled by the removal of congestion in veins.
  • It improves lymphatic circulation, which aids in the removal of waste products.
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#2. Petrissage

Petrissage is an effective technique that puts pressure on tissues and muscles. Petrissage kneading, stretching, and squeezing techniques boost blood circulation, reduce muscle spasms and knots and improve muscle function. 

This type of massage movement can help relieve muscle pain, relieve tension, and enhance recovery. Petrissage also boosts circulation and thus nourishes and feeds the tissues.

Benefits and Effects:

  • This movement loosens and stretches soft tissue making joints more mobile.
  • When it’s performed slowly, it can have a sedative, relaxing, and soothing effect.
  • Also, it can help relieve low back pain where no medical condition exists.
  • It improves digestion and also aids flatulence and constipation when applied to the abdomen.
  • Petrissage is mainly used on sizeable loose muscle groups hence enhancing tone elasticity.


This specific technique is commonly used in Swedish massage. This is a rhythmic percussion that you can apply most often with a cupped hand, edge of the hand, or fingertips.

Tapotement strokes are highly stimulating. And you should only use it if you need a toning effect instead of relaxation. 

These movements include the following; hacking, beating, pounding, pinching, and cupping.

Furthermore, when applying this technique, ensure you keep your wrists mobile and loose. That way, you keep your movements stimulating, light and springy.

Benefits And Effects:

  • Tapotements help break up fatty acid deposits and add a healthy glow to the area being treated.
  • This movement boosts blood flow and skin condition.
  • This stroke produces a stimulating effect on the circulatory system.
  • It helps to loosen mucus to hollow organs like your lungs.
  • This type of movement helps to tone up sagging muscles.
  • It improves the temperature and promotes circulation of the area treated.

#4. Frictions

In this type of massage movement, you only use thumbs and fingers to perform specific manipulations back and forth on small areas of the body. The frictions are applied both deeply and superficially, depending on the desired result. 

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Deep friction techniques are performed with force across the affected tissues. Also, you circularly perform this movement using your fingers, palm, or thumb pads.

Benefits And Effects:

  • Friction movements can help stretch and loosen your scar tissue.
  • If you apply this type of movement at regular intervals helps to prevent the formation of fibrositis
  • This movement is essential in breaking down fibrositis conditions or stiff joints usually found in the back.


Vibration refers to an effective massage technique used pre-event for stimulation. This massage movement aims to enhance flexibility, boost circulation, and improve mental readiness for activity and performance. 

Specific massage techniques, such as vibration, are used to create a short but specific massage treatment.

Vibrations can release muscles at high speeds to prepare them for activity and promote performance.

Benefits And Effects:

  • Vibration helps restore blood flow to the muscles and multiply the number of new blood cells in the area, thereby stimulating the healing process.
  • Vibrations help to stimulate and clear nerve paths.
  • Vibrations relieve tensions and bring about relaxation.
  • Vibrations help reduce tight muscles by promoting blood flow and increasing the temperature of the soft tissues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the five basic movements of Swedish massage?

The five basic strokes are enumerated below:

  • Effleurage
  • Tapotement
  • Petrissage
  • Vibration
  • Friction

What are the four areas of manipulation in massage techniques?

The four basic massage strokes are as follows:

  • Effleurage(light or deep stroking)
  • Petrissage (kneading)
  • Tapotement (gentle slapping)
  • Frictions.

Why is Tapotement used in massage?

Tapotement is used commonly because it has a hyperemic effect. What this means is that it improves local blood circulation. And this, in turn, softens the underlying tissue. Also, when you use Tapotement alongside other massage techniques, it helps to reduce fatty deposits and also tones down flabby muscle areas.

When should you not use Tapotement?

It would help if you didn’t use Tapotement over bony areas. Instead, it would be best if you used it over fleshy areas of your body.

What is the effect of vibration on your body?

Vibration movements can lead to changes in your joints, muscles, tendons, and bones. Consequently, these changes can affect the nervous system, collectively called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

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What are the four variations of Petrissage?

Here are the four variations of Petrissage movements:

  • Kneading
  • Wringing
  • Skin rolling
  • Pick-up-and-squeeze

When should you not use Petrissage?

There are certain circumstances when it’s not advisable to apply petrissage movements, and they are as follows:

  • During pregnancy period
  • When you’re suffering from muscle strain or scars
  • In cases of hernia
  • When you’re suffering from abdominal inflammations like appendicitis

How long should you perform friction massage?

Anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes is suitable.

Is Friction a Petrissage?

No, it’s not. Petrissage involves the rolling, kneading, and pressing of skin, muscles, and tissues. On the other hand, friction movement utilizes a pointed object or thumb’s ball in small, circular motions. This allows it to penetrate deep muscles and tissues.

What are the steps in performing percussion technique in body massage?

Below are the following steps it takes to perform percussion technique in body massage:

  • Pummelling
  • Pounding
  • Tapping
  • Cupping
  • Hacking
  • Plucking

Final Words

Mentioned above are some of the most common types of massage movements that you are likely to experience with your massage therapist.

Remember to trust only licensed massage experts or therapists to apply these movements. Otherwise, an injury may result.

However, if you have doubts about booking a session with a therapist, using a percussion massager or a massage gun is another good option. This device is affordable, effective, and, more importantly, easy to use. 

We recommend you try the Opove M3 Pro because it’s one of the best massage guns on the market today. You can read this review below to get more information about this Massager. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this website results from in-depth research on various topics. The articles on this site are only for informational and educational purposes, and it’s not intended as medical or health advice. Hence, we suggest you always ensure to seek the opinion of your doctor or other qualified health personnel regarding any questions that relate to health objectives or medical conditions.

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