Chair massage is s great option for people who lead busy, hectic lives. A quick, ten-minute chair massage can relax and energize and bring a renewed vigor to someone’s day. It is also a good way to introduce massage to possible future clients. A chair massage routine should flow through the back, arms, hips, and the head and neck without being jerky or disconnected. A key to this is for the therapist to maintain contact with the client throughout the massage, which means having a seamless pattern that maintains contact while addressing the most common problem areas.
Upper Back & Arms
Start your chair massage with compression and stroking through the upper back. Address the shoulders with kneading and deep pressure strokes along the trapezius, along the scapula and working through the deltoids. This should take one minute to 90 seconds per shoulder.
Move down the second shoulder to the upper arm, using shaking and kneading strokes upward from the elbow to the shoulder. Feel free to move the arm off the armrest during this phase. Spend about half a minute on the upper arm before moving to the lower arm and hand. Grasp the hand and elevate the arm forward, allowing you to move down from the wrist to the elbow with stroking movements. Stretch the hand and pull gently on the fingers before shaking the arm lightly and returning the arm to the armrest. Maintain contact with the client as you move across the shoulders to repeat the sequence on the other arm. This should take a total of five minutes out of a 10-minute routine.
Lower Back & Hips
Maintain contact as you move to the lower back and hips. Using light to moderate compression strokes, apply pressure to the lower back. Use caution that you do not press too hard, as the kidneys and internal organs are not protected by bony structures like the rib cage. Stroke from the lower ribs to the hips, remembering to use the deeper pressure strokes when moving in towards the spine or upwards towards the heart.
When you get to the hips, direct pressure to the hips (iliac crest) feels good and provides some stretch for the back muscles. Work along the muscles, moving inward along the iliac crest toward the spine. Move down into the upper gluteal area and repeat, working to the sacrum. This should take three minutes total.
Neck and Head
Maintain contact as you move up the spine to the neck. Using light to moderate kneading, work the muscles along the sides and back of the neck, from the shoulder to the base of the skull and below the ears. Pay special attention to the small muscles at the base of the skull before working into the head. Using fingertip strokes, run across the scalp from forehead to neck. A zig-zag movement with the fingers can be done here, and often provides extra stimulation to the scalp as well as invigorating the client. This should be one minute to 90 seconds long.
Complete the massage with several long strokes from the shoulders to the hips, a sort of conclusion stroke before helping the client sit up from the chair.
Contrainidcations and Warnings
Chair massage should not be performed on a client with health concerns such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, or other illnesses or injuries which contraindicate massage.These clients should be referred to their primary care physician. Always obtain a signed release from the client, acknowledging that there are no health concerns that would contraindicate massage.
References and ResourcesTheory and Practice of Therapeutic Massage, 4th Edition; Mark F. Beck; 2006
Jered Ebenreck, LMT; Massage Instructor, Apollo College; 2008