Last-modified: 25 October 2002
Maintainer: J. Blustein <email@example.com>
Copyright: (c) 1994-2002 J. Blustein. All rights reserved. See question 0.7 for details.
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* This FAQ list will not be posted after January 2003 *
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Section 3 -- Novice Questions
This posting contains answers to the following questions:
3.1) How should I start?
3.2) Where can I find people to give/receive massages? [See also 4.3]
3.3) What can I do about ticklishness?
3.4) What oil should I use?
3.5) How can I get oils?
3.6) Is there anything I can do about my tired hands?
The complete lists of subparts of all questions is in part 0 of
this FAQ list.
Each question begins with `Subject:' on a line of its own. Users
with suitably equipped newsreaders can automatically skip to the start of
the next question, e.g. trn will display the start of the question when you
press ^G (control-G). Of course if your newsreader doesn't do this
automatically, you can still use a search command to find the next
To find the answer to question 3.2 search for a line beginning with
`Q3.2)', there will be only one.
Your suggestions for changes to these articles are welcome. Please
see section 0 (entitled Administrivia and Acknowledgements) in the earlier
posting for information about whom to contact and what changes are planned.
The questions are divided into the following general sections.
Questions from each section are answered in articles of their own. A list
of all questions appears in the first article (section 0).
Section 0 Administrivia and Acknowledgements
Section 1 General Questions
Section 2 Basics of Massage
Section 3 Novice Questions
Section 4 Professional Massage
Section 5 Other Sources of Information
Section 3 -- Novice Questions
Subject: How should I start?
Q3.1) Practice. Practising bad technique will have a bad effect,
practising good technique will have a good effect, so do some reading
first. Read about technique often as you are starting out to help you
correct yourself. The archive (see question 5.1.2) contains
recommendations of books to read (in the file `books') and techniques to
try (in the file `technique').
Do not restrict yourself to a few recipients. You will learn much
more from giving one massage each to 20 people than you will by giving 20
massages to one person. Even if there is a primary recipient you have in
mind, the quality of that one person's experience will be severely limited
if your experience is limited to that one person.
Receiving a massage can also be a learning experience. You may
better understand variations of touch, pressure, etc. as well as learning
new techniques and strokes from others. Caroline Knight adds: you can
learn a lot by applying strokes to yourself.
As you massage another person, be aware of the effects that your
touch is having both on the person you're touching and on yourself.
Temporarily put aside anything else you might have going on, and focus your
attention on the massage. What are your fingers conveying about the
tension and texture of the recipients muscles? Be aware of how both of you
are breathing. Use your body weight to gently and smoothly apply pressure,
instead of muscling the pressure. Learning to give a good massage is only
partly about learning technique.
Much of what you need to learn is about being present in your body
and present in the current moment. You can learn a lot about superficial
anatomy just paying attention to what your fingers are feeling.
Question 3.6 is about tired hands, a common affliction among
newcomers to massage. You might also find the `advice' file in the archive
helpful. The archive is the subject of question 5.1.2.
Subject: Where can I find people to give (or receive) massages?
Q3.2) Such people can be found amongst those who share an interest in
massage and among people who trust you. (See question 2.4 about sexual
massage.) A list of people willing to exchange backrubs has been set up.
See question 5.1.1 for more information about the exchange.
Question 4.3 is about how to distinguish between a proficient,
professional MT and someone who just calls themselves a MT, before you pay
for their services.
Subject: What can I do about ticklishness?
Q3.3) Ticklishness arises from hypersensitivity. Sometimes, but not
always, this is due to nervousness or discomfort with being touched, or
with being unclothed. (See question 2.4 about sexual massage.) This can
be dealt with by massaging first less threatening areas. The back is
perhaps the least threatening area to massage, followed by (in most cases)
the limbs, neck and head (including the face). By the time you reach more
sensitive areas, i.e. legs, chest and abdomen, they will have relaxed from
the effects of the massage. They will also have had a chance to develop a
level of comfort with you that they feel safe. Note this assumes that your
attitude and approach to massage are consistent with such feelings.
Increased pressure will also reduce ticklishness, particularly if their
sensitivity is physiological rather than emotional.
firstname.lastname@example.org recommended: The easiest solution is to have
the person receiving the backrub place their hands on or near the hands of
the person giving the backrub... After several times of using this
technique the recipient will no longer need to touch the masseuse.
Subject: What oil should I use?
Q3.4) There is much information in the archive (see question 5.1.2)
about massage oils. Please, read it before posting something like `Hey, I
use oil for my massages. Has anyone else tried this yet?'.
Mineral oil and some vegetable oils are thick. If liberally
slopped on they will both tend to clog pores. Some people have skin
especially prone to inflammation from this. On the other hand many massage
lotions have a mineral oil base. When applied sparingly, as for deep
tissue work, they don't usually cause problems. There are also a number of
lighter weight vegetable oil blends available. They go on easily and
produce a much thinner oil film. They also spill a lot faster if you get
careless with the cap open. Vegetable oils can go rancid (in the bottle,
on clothes, on sheets, etc.) which mineral oils don't. Some massage
schools use mineral oil exclusively because of this -- rancid rugs and
sheets are not appealing. Also, mineral oils are hypoallergenic.
A convenient squeeze dispenser bottle (i.e., one having a narrow
spout with a small opening) can be found in many stores (you might try at a
camp outfitting store, a pharmacy or even a cosmetics outlet).
Refrigerating oil when not in use and keeping bottles full also
helps. If you refrigerate the oil then you might want to warm the bottle
of oil in a hot water bath before using it. Some people have allergies to
specific vegetable oils. Some people feel that vegetable oils are in some
way more natural than mineral oils. Oils containing vitamin E may have a
better shelf life, since it's an antioxidant.
Subject: How do I get oils?
Q3.5) You don't need special oils, but they can be a nice touch. Make
sure you remember to rub the oil between your hands to warm it, never pour
it directly on the person you are massaging as it is uncomfortable and
The file `oil.buy', in the archive (see question 5.1.2) contains
lists of places you can order ready-made oils from. The file `oil.make'
contains information about making your own oils.
If you are just starting out, John Cole recommends trying safflower
oil. It is a light, odourless vegetable oil available from most grocery
stores. Caroline Knight wrote: `I'm still using grape seed oil as my base
as recommended by someone from alt.backrubs ages ago!'
Subject: Is there anything I can do about my tired hands?
Q3.6) Many people use their hands too much for massage. If you need to
apply lots of pressure (see the `deep.back' and `knots' files in the
archive, which is the subject of question 5.1.2) you should lean into the
massage and let your weight provide much of the pressure. The `weak.arms'
file in the archive is also of interest.
Don't be afraid to use other parts of your body than just your
hands for variety. I've had great success using my forearms and wrists.
The palms and heel of the hand are commonly used for certain light and deep
strokes respectively. Some people like to use their feet but must be very
careful not to apply too much pressure. The variety of strokes and
pressure that can be achieved by using other parts of the body can be a
blessing to both the recipient and giver. The `with.feet' file in the
archive contains some discussion of these points.
You can prevent your hands from getting tired by strengthening them
through regular exercise (see the `finger.excer' file in the archive). The
archive contains information about massages you, or others, can give to your
aching hands too (see `finger.excer', `hand&neck', `wrist.pain' to start).
Jamie Blustein `No trees were destroyed to make this post' <email@example.com>
The disclaimer is the subject of question 0.6
See also http://www.ii.uib.no/~kjartan/backrubfaq/
This document is archived in ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/alt.backrubs/