Difference Between Effleurage and Petrissage | Which Is Better?

Effleurage and petrissage are two of the most used massage techniques in the world of massage therapy. While both techniques have their unique benefits, they are different in terms of pressure, application, and intended outcomes.

The major difference between Effleurage and Petrissage – “Effleurage involves long, sweeping strokes that are gentle and relaxing, while petrissage involves deeper, kneading movements that are more intense and designed to loosen and lengthen tight muscles.”

Understanding the differences between these techniques and when to use them can help you choose the best one for your needs.

In this article, I will explain effleurage and petrissage more in detail, their benefits, and when each is appropriate.

Differences Between Effleurage and Petrissage Massage

1. Techniques

Differences Between Effleurage and Petrissage Massage Techniques


Effleurage is a French word that means “skimming” so in this massage technique, the therapist moves his hands as if skimming or picking up something from the surface of the water.

While performing effleurage, the pressure is applied over the client’s skin by a wide surface area of the therapist’s hands like the whole palmar surface rather than fingertips or knuckles.

How to apply Effleurage?

  • The technique begins with the therapist’s hands placed on the client’s skin lightly.
  • After applying only slight pressure, the therapist drags or strokes hands gently from a distal to a proximal point.
  • After a few light strokes, the therapist gradually deepens the pressure applied from the palms while going proximally, maintaining only a minimum strain on returning the hands to the initial (distal) point).
  • The momentum of the hand movement varies with every proceeding stroke. In this manner, each consecutive stroke is applied with deeper pressure and a slower speed to enhance the effect of the effleurage massage.


  • The direction of movement in effleurage is towards the heart intending to aid circulation in that direction.


Petrissage is also a word of French origin meaning “Kneading”. Hence, in this massage technique, the therapist’s hand movements resemble kneading dough, including picking the skin, rolling, and squeezing the hands to apply pressure to the underneath muscles.

While performing petrissage the therapist places the palmer side of fingers firmly on the client’s skin and keeps a static hand-to-skin contact throughout the therapy session in an attempt to move the hands over the underlying muscles providing a deeper massage effect.

How to apply Petrissage?

  • This technique begins with the therapist placing hands firmly over the client’s skin.
  • With hand-to-skin contact, the therapist lifts the skin, presses down on the underlying muscles, squeezes the area, and rolls his hands along with the lifted skin over the underlying structures. This movement resembles kneading.
  • The therapist starts with shorter strokes of the same kneading movement followed by successive longer and longer strokes.
  • The first stroke begins with placing hands at a point closer to the heart and moving the hands towards the heart.
  • Then the second stroke begins with placing hands slightly away from the heart compared to the first one and moving them again towards the heart.

The direction:

  • The direction of individual strokes in petrissage is from distal to proximal, that is towards the heart, but the overall therapy direction in this technique is from proximal to distal as the successive stroke is initiated from a distal point as compared to the previous strokes.

2. The Effects of Effleurage and Petrissage

Petrissage effects vs Effleurage effects

The basic techniques remain the same, but the practical application of these techniques by different therapists might vary to some extent.

  • I recommend applying effleurage before any other massage technique because effleurage relaxes the superficial layer of muscles, softens any tender points on the skin, and makes the deeper structures accessible for the therapist. Effleurage is also effective when applied alone for general relaxation.
  • But for localized trigger points or muscle shortening, It is best to follow up with petrissage because it reduces muscle spasms, relieves localized pain, and provides a stretching effect to the muscles under treatment.

3. Convenience

You can have effleurage and petrissage sessions in the comfort of your home with all the required tools and a professional massage therapist who is willing to do a home visit session for you.

Or you can go to your nearby spa and explain your condition to a professional massage therapist in the area and then decide which massage best suits your needs.

Both effleurage and petrissage are easy for anyone to avail of as it does not require any heavy machinery or equipment.

4. Frequency

The frequency and duration of massage vary according to the condition being treated, and how your body responds to the first massage session.

The effleurage technique used for 30 minutes twice a week is considered effective for general relaxation and a good mood.

Petrissage on the other hand is a more intense technique. Its frequency and duration range from 15 to 25 minutes twice a week to once a month depending on the pain reduction and muscle stiffness.

Although beneficial, both of these techniques have some contraindications. So, it is better to seek professional help and advice.

5. Tools Required for Effleurage and Petrissage

The essential tools for both massage types include:

  • Treatment table
  • Gown
  • Apron
  • Towels
  • Gloves
  • Essential oils or massage cream
  • Steamer

Which Is Better Between Petrissage and Effleurage?

Both techniques have their benefits, and which one is better depends on the specific problem you want to address.

As a practicing therapist, let me share some common conditions for which I recommended either effleurage and petrissage to my clients.

When Do I Recommend Effleurage?

Effleurage is a gentle, soothing massage technique that involves long, sweeping strokes along the body’s surface. It is often used to promote relaxation, relieve tension, and improve circulation.

Effleurage is particularly beneficial for those who want to feel generally relaxed and happy. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for releasing the “happiness hormones,” improving mood, and inducing physical relaxation.

Effleurage is also an excellent choice for people recovering from chronic conditions. Research has shown that effleurage is effective in relieving or preventing lymphedema. The sweeping movement of effleurage improves lymphatic drainage and reduces lymph accumulation, promoting overall healing and well-being.

When Do I Recommend Petrissage?

Petrissage is a more vigorous technique that involves kneading, rolling, and squeezing the muscles. It is particularly useful for addressing specific problems such as muscle soreness, fatigue, and stiffness. Petrissage helps increase blood flow and temperature to the targeted area, allowing the muscles to recover and heal faster.

If you are experiencing muscle soreness and stiffness after a workout, petrissage is the best technique for you. It allows fresh blood flow to the target tissue, helping with body aches and stiffness after exercise.

Petrissage is also beneficial for those who feel exhausted all the time due to constant muscle tension and fatigue. By increasing blood flow and temperature to the area under treatment, petrissage allows the muscles to get the rest they need to recover from daily life activities.

If you are experiencing pain when you move your neck, arms, and legs, petrissage can help. Tight muscles can cause pain when stretched or moved to their limits.

Petrissage imparts a stretching effect on the deep muscles, improving muscle length and reducing tension and spasms. This, in turn, significantly increases individual joints’ range of motion.

Final Thoughts:

Both effleurage and petrissage have their benefits, it is best to choose the suitable massage technique based on the specific problem you want to address.

If you want to feel generally relaxed and happy, effleurage is the best choice. However, if you are experiencing muscle soreness, fatigue, stiffness, or pain, petrissage is the way to go.

I always recommend you consult the nearest licensed massage therapist to know the best massage technique for you.

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