Why does my massage therapist use their elbows?

With so many massage modalities available and individual massage therapists practicing their own version or unique treatment style, it can be difficult to understand what massage style you’re receiving. If your massage therapist is using their forearm or elbows to apply pressure it is most likely that you’re having a deep tissue massage treatment. This article explains why massage bodyworkers use deeper elbow pressure, what you should avoid or look out for and how to know you’re in good hands.


Elbows give your massage more leverage

When it comes to massaging the hard to reach areas such as hips, glutes and tight back muscles, the elbow is the instrument of choice for most massage therapists. Hands, knuckles and forearms may enable your therapist to direct satisfactory pressure when massaging the rest of your body but more fibrous tissues require the elbow lever to sink deeper in order to melt away muscle tension.

Elbow techniques help gauge the best perfect pressure

Deep tissue massage requires sensory feedback to enable the massage therapist to adjust the direction, speed and depth of pressure to perform an optimum massage release. It’s a lot easier for the therapist to sense when their own muscles are relaxed. Applying pressure through their forearm and elbow means that they can relax and allow their body weight and gravity dictate the momentum. When a massage therapist uses their hands, knuckles or thumbs their own muscles are often too engaged to fully sense if the pressure is right.

Elbow and forearm massage feels great

Remedial massage that uses forearms to release muscle tension and restore function feels good. The more surface area that dissipates the applied pressure, the easier and more enjoyable it is to receive and release the contracted muscle tissue. The extra contact between the therapist and receiving client can feel comforting as the pressure stabilises and anchors the client onto the couch – allowing them to relax as the levered elbow resolves the tension to restore a sense of freedom. By contrast, massage using thumbs, knuckles and fingers can often feel too focalised and sometimes more painful.

Effortless deep tissue work is good for therapist welfare

Massage can be physically demanding on the massage therapist. To maintain a busy practice it is essential that therapists use the most efficient techniques to facilitate the best possible outcome for their clients with least effort. Using forearms and elbows gives the therapist a strong and steady platform to lean against allowing them to use more durable tools than fragile thumbs, fingers and hands. Anything that increases career longevity is important, especially when using it gives a superior outcome for our client’s treatment.

Can massage using elbows cause harm?

Skilled massage therapists who have developed sensitivity in their forearms can gauge the correct location, pressure, speed and depth to apply their pressure with ease. If your massage therapist is knocking against bones, especially the spine, it would indicate that they are inexperienced or unskilled and it is important for you to request that they utilise different techniques to avoid bruising and causing damage. Similarly if they repeatedly massage the same body part, time and time again, using a deep and fast stroke they can cause the area to become sore. This soreness can last days, but would not be permanent. Massaging with elbows is generally a very safe technique when applied competently and you would sense straight away if it didn’t feel right, making it important to voice your concern.

If you’ve previously asked for a deep tissue massage but received a gentle rub, your therapist probably didn’t use their forearms or elbows to get to the sweet spot that needs releasing. Massage using elbows is an essential remedial technique if the treatment outcome is to remedy or resolve a musculoskeletal issue. It gives your therapist the ability to take your massage pressure to the therapeutic edge – that satisfying “good hurt” that you feel when tension is releasing. All The Massage Centre therapists are trained in deep tissue, sports and remedial massage and can skilfully apply deep pressure in a safe, enjoyable and effective way. All you need to do is lie back and breathe with it.

If you would like to experience a deep tissue sports or remedial massage treatment using forearms and elbows then give us a call on 020 8166 8958 and we would be delighted to help.