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Massage/certain technics


QUESTION: Hi! I'm a student and I'm having a hard time with neck massage.. Right now were learning Swedish. First off, the moving of the head. I don't know the right way to pick up and move the head. Secondly, I'm having a hard time massaging up the neck to the occipital. I am not stopping where I should. I just keep going up to the top of the head. My teacher was obviously getting annoyed. Help me please.

ANSWER: Hi Janice!
First let me start by saying don't get frustrated. All the different techniques and movements of massage take time and practice.

To move the head while your client is lying face up: Cup the side of the head behind the ears with the side of your hands resting on the table and your fingers near neck. Move your fingers together behind neck, cradle the head, and gently lift head off of table. In this position you can stretch the neck (chin to chest)or move head side to side. Another way is to start with effleurage of the shoulders and up to neck. As you reach the neck bring your fingers together, and cup the neck, supporting the neck and base of skull. Slowly lift the head off the table. Then you can move the client's head in any direction.

To massage the occiput effleurage the neck and slide fingertips to the base of the skull till you feel the "horse-shoe" (occiput) at the base of the neck. (Your palms will still be cradling the head). Massage along the ridge of the "horse-shoe" in small circular movements.

Once you get proficient in moving the head, turn the head to the right, massage the occipital ridge, the turn to the left and repeat.

If you continue to have difficulties with proficient massage to the occipital region as your client is face up you can always work on it when they lay face down.

I hope this helps! It is easier to "show" someone rather than try to explain so if unclear please feel free to email with any additional questions as I would be happy to assist you further if the need arises.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi again :) that was very helpful. I'm also taking anatomy. Im taking my first swedish massage exam next week. Wish me luck on it. I'm having a hard time remembering the insertions and origins for my anatomy class. Any tips besides flash cards? And saying it over and over again out loud.

Hello again Janice,

Unfortunately anatomy is pure memorization. However, purchasing an anatomy coloring book may help. Another thing I do is to try to put a movement with the muscle and palpate it on yourself as you repeat the origins and insertions aloud. This way you are calling in more senses, and sometimes if you can remember the motion a particular muscle makes you can then perform that movement and feel the muscle to help you remember.

I hope this helps! Good luck on your exam. Take a deep breath and be confident!


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Sandee Koehler


As a physical therapist assistant, certified massage therapist and previous owner of a medical massage business specializing in pain/stress management, injury rehab and general mobility/improving gait, I am comfortable in answering questions re: massage therapy techniques and advice on Swedish massage, therapeutic touch, neuromuscular/trigger point/deep tissue massage, sports/injury rehab, reflexology, aromatherapy, myofascial release, craniosacral techniques, and specific massage techniques to include cancer, infant, headaches and chronic disorders. Also comfortable with basic stretching, range of motion exercises and general strengthening, and advise for massage therapy practice.


Fifteen year career as a physical therapy assistant Ten years as a certified massage therapist Three years as a medical massage business owner Four years as a health freelance writer


Living Without magazine Advance for the PT & PTA Orthopedics Today She Knows network

A.A.S. in Applied Science as a Physical Therapy Assistant Certification as a Massage Therapist Continuing Education in Myofascial and Craniosacral techniques, aromatherapy, reflexology and neuromuscular

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