Effleurage - The Massage Technique

Effleurage

What Is Effleurage

Definition: Effleurage is a light massage technique performed in such way that it does not attempt to move the muscles beneath. It is also called gliding.

Effleurage MassageDescription: Effleurage is the most used massage movement, it usually starts and ends a massage session and is used as a linking technique between other techniques. Effleurage can be used on any massaged area of the body. It will be harder to perform deep effleurage on hairy body parts such as the scalp, however a superficial effleurage can be safely performed.
Effleurer means in French to touch very lightly, to brush. Despite of the name, the effleurage technique is not necessarily a brush like stroke.

The word "effleurage" is derived from the French verb "effleurer" which means "to skim over".
Effleurage can be Deep or Superficial.
Some of the effects of effleurage are: relaxation, blood and lymph circulation improvement,

Effleurage is a relatively slow and continuous stroke, most usually performed using the palm of the hand. With some effleurage techniques, such as shingles effleurage, we can slightly increase the speed of stroking.
Most of the effleurage techniques need the use of a lubricant, such as massage oil or lotion. However the more fast and superficial techniques are better performed without lubricant. The therapist need to adapt the session accordingly if the client need such a technique.

More Technical Details of Effleurage
  • Effleurage consists of superficial glides over the skin without attempting to move the muscle beneath. The pressure applied has to be even. The effleurage is used more than any other technique and it begins and ends each session.
  • It can be performed on any part of the body.
  • It can be used as a bridge between different other moves and it accustoms the patient to the touch of the therapist.
  • Allows the practitioner to familiarize with the condition of the patient's muscles
  • Increases circulation to the skin and superficial muscles and relaxes the patient.
  • Effleurage is an easy to learn technique and it comes almost natural to most of us.
  • Also called gliding, is employed in almost all of the massage modalities because of its great relaxation potential and its versatility.

Effects of Effleurage

  • Accelerates the blood and lymph circulation in the massaged areas.
  • Prevents stasis, reduces inflammatory symptoms, (heat, swelling, redness, and pain)
  • Improves the secretory activity of the skin.
  • Raises the awareness of the subject, and heightens sensory perception.
  • Improves the nutrition of the tissues by supplying more blood and improves oxygen supply in tissues.
  • Speeds up healing in injured tissues by supplying more blood, nutrients and oxygen.

Effleurage Techniques

Effleurage Types

  • Straight Effleurage
    Glide your hands over your patient's skin starting from lumbar area up to the neck. Fingers point forward towards the patient's neck and head. We are pushing the blood towards the hearth.
  • Bilateral Effleurage
    Position one hand on each side of the spine and start on the lower back. Go towards the upper back, to the shoulders. While returning to the lower back go along the sides of the back. Remember, this is a light pressure movement.
  • Alternating Hand (Shingles)
    Start with one of your hands to the side of the spine at the lower back. Move one hand forward 6 inches and then follow it with the other hand and then with the other one until you reach the shoulders. Do this several times and make sure you cover the whole surface of the back or limb. While the pressure is light the speed of the movement is rather fast compared to the bilateral effleurage.
  • Backward Alternating Gliding - (Shingles)
    It is similar to shingles effleurage but performed backwards, with fingers pointed towards the lumbar area. Note that the movement is performed with a light pressure so it would maximize the relaxation effect. The backward shingles can be classified as a "nerve stroke" as well because of the very light pressure. It is a deeply relaxing stroke.
    The following video shows how to perform a backward alternating hand massage effleurage.
  • Superficial and Deep Effleurage
    We can also classify the gliding, by the amount of pressure employed on the skin. Based on this we can have"Superficial effleurage" and "Deep effleurage".

Effleurage Video

Effleurage is also called Gliding

Watch this video demonstrating how to perform effleurage.
 

Deep Effleurage vs Superficial Effleurage

Massage Oil for Effleurage

Deep effleurage is not as deep as in friction for instance. The practitioner employs a light to medium pressure to skin. It can be performed on any part of the body. It will be more difficult to execute deep effleurage on hairy body parts such as the skull area, so it is advised to be avoided in these areas. The increased pressure reaches the fascia and brings the benefits of a deeper massage, and other benefits such as blood and lymph circulation, relaxation, etc...
The movement for deep effleurage follows the direction of muscle tissue and pushes the blood towards the heart.
All of the deep effleurage moves need a massage lubricant such as massage oil or lotion. If you don't use lubricant or you don't use enough the skin irritates and your client will have a discomfort sensation.

Superficial Effleurage consist in a shallow movement over the patient's body with the intention to create relaxation and to stimulate the nervous system. It is a relatively easy to perform technique and it can be used on any part of the body. (Head Massage, Back Massage, Limbs Massage etc...)
While most of the gliding types require the use of a lubricant, the lighter effleurage moves such as the shingles can be done either without lubricant, or with a generous amount of it.
There is no direction restriction for the light effleurage. because the pressure is not enough to move the blood or the lymph; the direction of movements is at the therapist's discretion.
Note that the superficial effleurage is not the same technique as Massage Stroking although they are quite similar. Check the Nerve Stroking Massage Technique to see what the differences are.

Massage Oil for Effleurage

Effleurage can be done with or without effleurage. The superficial effleurage is always done without lubricant, while the deeper effleurage needs oil for a smooth glide.
One of the best oils for effleurage is jojoba oil which is very light, nourishing and provides a great gliding support. It is one of the massage therapist's favorites oil.

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