Petrissage massage is a not a type of massage as many believe. It refers to a range of movements used in various massage techniques, and includes kneading, lifting, rolling and wringing techniques.
The word ‘petrissage’ is taken from the word ‘petrir’ in French. Which translated means ‘to knead’. It’s an appropriate name as kneading motions are an important part of a complete therapy session.
Anyone familiar with massage techniques will know how kneading is an important part of massage therapy. Petrissage techniques are used in a wide range of therapies, from head massage, a complement to hot stones, sports massage, and Swedish massage.
Petrissage movements are designed to compress soft tissues against bones or other tissues. This means the skin is compressed with the kneading or rolling motions, and only relaxed muscle tissues are worked on.
Most of the techniques are easier to perform without oils or lubrication. Sometimes a little oil is used when working on a client’s back, but the therapist’s hands are the most important tools with these techniques.
A massage therapist will use slow, rhythmical motions with either or both hands. There are specific one-handed petrissage techniques that are commonly used on clients arms while the therapist is using their other hand to hold or support the client’s arm.
Two-handed techniques are more commonly used on the larger muscle groups like the legs and back. There are more motions available with two-handed techniques, like double-handed rolling and forming squeezing actions.
Benefits and Effects of Petrissage Massage Techniques
There are a wide range of benefits to the subject being massaged with these techniques. The most notable include;
- Stimulates blood flow and increased cleansing of waste products in muscles
- Repairs adhesions and other similar injuries
- Can reduce cellulite and scar tissue
- Stimulates the body’s natural healing process
- Strengthens the body’s immune system
- Contradictions of petrissage massage techniques
There are some contradictions to have petrissage techniques performed on a person. Most of the general contradiction guidelines apply, with particular interest in the following areas:
Contraindications of Petrissage Massage Techniques
- Varicosities of any form should not be massaged
- Avoid targeted any areas recovering from injury
- Atrophied muscles require special care and attention
- Damaged skin or open wounds
Petrissage Massage Techniques Explained
In Swedish or sports massage the following petrissage techniques are commonly used:
The kneading motion is pivotal to the benefits from the whole session. The therapist uses synchronous or alternating movements in a kneading motion similar to that of kneading dough.
The tissues are squeezed and pressed with moderate pressure, or a level of pressure required as per the clients needs. This is incredibly relaxing and healing for the muscle groups being targeted.
The technique of skin rolling requires lifting the client’s skin and rolling in between the fingers. This is often one of the first techniques in a therapy session and is used to evaluate the client’s condition.
It can be painful if there are injuries and damage to the tissues. But it’s necessary to find those problems and help the client understand what they need to do to heal them.
The tissue is lifted and squeezed to work on the muscles and any knots or stubborn issues. This is performed with the thumb and first two fingers and is very effective at working out any knots and pains.
Milking is a technique that targets larger muscle groups, much like kneading. The muscle is held with both hands and squeezing motions are performed in a rhythmic motion.
These techniques are performed on the legs, shoulders and upper back most commonly. It’s great for improving circulation and getting blood and oxygen pumping into the muscles and stimulating the body’s healing process.
The wringing technique involves pulling and pushing the tissue with both hands. It’s commonly used on legs, arms and hands and with some lubrication on the back.
Most petrissage techniques are performed without oils, but using oil on the back with this techniques makes it easier to penetrate the large tissue areas.
Petrissage Uses in Sports Massage and Frictions
Petrissage is commonly used as a sports massage to help professional athletes recover from muscle soreness and injuries. The process that helps with deep-tissue work and stimulates the healing is called ‘frictions’.
Frictions are used for the deeper tissue work and is a technique designed to break down lesions. The muscle fibers are separated, and micro-tears are formed to start the body’s recovery process.
The therapist uses their thumb and forefingers to grab the skin and feel under the skin for any damage to the muscle tissue. This allows the therapist to evaluate any issues, and tailor their techniques to work on what they find.
Frictions can be painful and uncomfortable. But this is a necessary part of the healing process. It’s important to go to an experienced and professional therapist, as without the due care further damage can be caused.
I’m a MA, (CMT) Certified Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Reiki Master — I’m a licensed massage therapist with over 10 years of experience in the industry.