How to Give Your Partner a Good Massage (GIFs Included)

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2. You can use props, like music and candles to set the mood

Once you’ve picked your location, you’re going to want to elevate your setting by playing soft instrumental music (something with words may be distracting), lighting a candle, or using essential oils. Doing this can make your partner focus on the here and now by appealing to their senses, says Dwyer. You’ll also want to eliminate distractions by turning devices, like your phone and the TV, off. Dwyer also suggests sticking with dim lighting, so avoid any fluorescent lights.

The Flip Side

Now turn your recipient over on their back. At this point in learning how to give a massage I’ll provide some detail for the neck area. Warm up the neck and top of the shoulder areas with your hands. Turn the recipient’s head to one side to work on one side at a time. Use lighter more detailed pressure on the neck.

If they feel any discomfort as if a nerve or artery is being pressed on, lighten up. Soft fists are good to use in this area as the fist can curve with the area being covered. Massage the bottom of the skull down the neck and curve out to the shoulders with your strokes. At the base of the skull behind the ear use your fingers to press along the bottom of the skull down to the start of the spine. Repeat on the other side.

At this point, tuck the “drape” sheet under their armpits with arms outside the sheet.

Protect Yourself

To protect yourself, especially when first learning how to give a massage, you need to be careful not to overextend your wrists, fingers or arms. This is why it is necessary to use your body weight behind the strokes, instead of pushing sideways with your wrist or fingers bent. Protect your joints from injury. 

To do the stroke with your fingers they need to be

To do the stroke with your fingers they need to be straight. Stack the fingers of one hand over the other in order to create support and to increase surface area when you’re using them as massage “tools”. When using your palm for pressure make sure not to “hyper-extend” your wrist. Try to involve your body weight into the strokes, not just your hands and arms.

You should work on an entire one side of the back before moving to the other, starting at the top, working toward the waist. Starting just below the neck, apply gliding pressure along the side of the spine until you reach the waist. Do this slowly several times. You should only increase pressure as the muscles begin to relax. Then you can begin to go deeper, using your body weight to increase pressure a little at a time.

Stress Areas and What to Look For

Let’s take a second here to remind you that you are not a professional masseuse. We mentioned it up top, but now is the perfect time to reiterate: Massage therapy is an art form that takes a ton of training to learn how to do properly. Rubbing someone the wrong way can actually make their issues worse, and can even cause some considerable damage.

That said, if handled with care and if in constant communication with your partner, there are ways to identify different areas in the back and neck that are prone to knots and other tenderness. This thorough guide from AiraWear goes through the ins and outs of over 15 different problem areas in the neck and back, how to identify them, and even how to get rid of them.

But, remember: Communication is key.

The head

“If your partner has ticklish feet, go for the head instead,” advises Katzman. “No massage oil needed for this, of course.”

1. Use your thumbs to massage the top of the scalp.

2. Using all fingers, massage the sides of the head slowly.

3. Use your nails to scratch the head slightly for an added chill down the spine. (Yes, that’s a good thing!)

Graphic: Hannah Packer
Graphic: Hannah Packer

7. Go easy on the limbs, hands, and feet

When you’re working on the arms and legs, you want to work towards the torso instead of away from it to support natural blood flow, Dwyer says. Another technique you can use is raking or sweeping the hands up the arms or legs with long smooth strokes. You can do this by taking two cupped hands on the outer or inner side of the extremity, picking the muscle tissue up (kind of like pinching) and pulling it together to help increase circulation.

When it comes to fingers and toes, you can try massaging with your fingers in tiny circles, or gently pulling on them, which Dwyer says can feel nicer than it sounds.

    Jasmine Gomez Associate Lifestyle editor Jasmine Gomez is the associate lifestyle editor at Women’s Health and covers health, fitness, sex, culture and cool products.

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