PUBLISHED: 1:49 PM on Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Follow these steps to give a good back rub

Courtesy photo
Massage your cares away by replacing stress, tension and headaches with tranquility, relaxation and peace.

Massages have become a popular method of reducing stress caused by a variety of factors such as work, exercise or school.

"The benefits of massages are the reduction of stress as well as aches and pains, and it improves circulation also," said Kasey Byers, manager and co-owner of a massage therapy center.

Byers and her sister Lorri Clark along with their mother, Bev Byers, have owned and managed the massage therapy center for six years. The massage center also includes a school and has 16 therapists.

Clark said the most popular massage is the Swedish full body massage. She said there are various steps in completing a good back massage:

Step 1: Effleurage, which means long, smooth, gliding strokes from the neck to the lower back. The strokes can be done with flat hands or with fists. This is the point when massage lotion is applied.

"Oils can be too greasy or slick," Clark said. "They can prevent manipulation of the muscles."

Step 2: Petrissage, which means kneading. The muscles from the neck to the lower back are picked up and kneaded. Light to medium pressure is used. Clark said some people prefer the kneading only on their upper shoulders.

Step 3: Fulling, which means pulling the muscles apart. The muscles are worked from the midline section on each side of the spine and spread out by raking. The fingers act as a rake by pulling the muscles apart. This step can be done with the fingers close together or apart.

Step 4: Tapotement, which is percussion strokes that are rhythmic and drum like, performed only on the upper back with fists or flat-handed.

"You are never to do this stroke over the kidney area," Clark said. "It can cause damage to the internal organs."

While completing any of the above steps, friction also can be applied to create heat in the muscles by using small circular movements over certain areas, such as behind the neck or upper shoulders.

"The neck and shoulders are the main site for everyday tension," Byers said. "It can be caused by certain occupations that require sitting or having the arms elevated for too long."

Step 5: "You start and end with effleurage." Clark said. The last step is the repeat of step one.

Clark and Byers said the key points to a good massage are to have the individual in a comfortable position, use lotion and work toward the heart area. Some cautions to keep in mind: Stay off the spinal area, use only light to medium pressure and never massage anyone who has open sores or rashes.