As with all massage, it's important that both you and the person receiving the massage are relaxed and fairly sober. You shouldn't massage anyone with skin diseases or infections affecting the hands, or cuts, bruises and recent broken bones. It's also important to be careful with nut allergies if a nut-based oil is being used. In general, there are fewer contraindications to hand massage than for other areas of the body. Always listen to what they want - be more or less firm or gentle as needed. The massage should never hurt either of you!

This is a nice massage as it can be done without oil almost anywhere... in the cinema, on the beach, in bed, whatever.

Sit the person being massaged down and sit down in such a way that you can comfortably hold their hand in front of you. Put a small amount of oil on your palms and rub them to warm up. Start with effleurage - firm stroking motions using the palms of the hands, moving from fingers to wrist on both sides of the hand. This can be repeated at intervals throughout the massage to keep the skin warm. Now, work through the following moves:

  • Supporting the hand with one of your palms, make small, firm circular motions of your other thumb in their palm, concentrating on the muscles near the thumb and little finger, and the base of each finger. Do this as firmly as they want.
  • Do a similar movement using the knuckles of one hand.
  • Turn their hand over, and use your index finger to make small circles down the gaps between the tendons on the back of the hand, finishing by gently pinching the web of skin between the fingers.
  • Starting at the knuckle of each finger and thumb, make small circles down to the fingertip with your thumb, and then gently pull on the finger as you let go.
  • Hold the whole hand by the sides with both hands, so your thumbs are next to each other on the back of the hand (this is hard to describe in words). Gently pull your hands apart and down over the back of their hand, as if trying to separate it out. Repeat a couple of times.
  • Turn the hand back round. With their fingers facing towards you and your hands facing palms up, interlace your ring and little fingers of each hand with the gaps between their fingers and thumb, and then use your thumbs to firmly massage their palm and wrist.
  • Releasing the grip used above, make small circles up their fingers from the underside of the knuckle to the tip, again pulling off at the ends.
  • Finally, finish off by doing more effleurage followed by pressing their hand between your palms and pulling towards and then off from their fingertips.

This massage was taught to me by the Cambridge University massage society, a group for teaching people amateur massage. Don't go treating this as professional advice or anything...

See also: Massage Terms

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