Effleurage – A Complete Guide [Techniques, Strokes, Benefits]

Just like everything else you own, your body also needs maintenance from time to time. 

Feeling tired, Having body aches, Feeling down, Unable to concentrate – These are all normal and you are not suffering from anything worrisome.

If all these are limiting your productivity and not letting you enjoy every instant of your life, it’s a sign that your body needs some rest.

A short effleurage session will do best, allowing you to restart without shutting down.

Effleurage has tremendous health benefits because it affects your body as a whole, heals your pains, eases the tension, and makes you feel rejuvenated once again.

Here you will get an insight into the benefits of effleurage massage for your body, and when should you go for it, but before that let’s get into the details of the technique for better understanding.

What is Effleurage?

Effleurage is a light and superficial technique usually applied before or/and at the end of other intense massage techniques. It involves long, smooth strokes over the skin with the palms of the hands, thumbs, or fingertips.

Effleurage is a massage technique used by many massage therapists individually or in combination with other massage techniques.

How to Apply Effleurage?

Effleurage is applied using the palmar surface of the finders and hands.

The therapist places the fingers firmly on the skin while applying only light pressure. Then glides or drags the fingers or palm lightly over the skin. In layman’s terms, effleurage is also known as gliding massage.

It does not tend to move the muscles underneath your skin and targets only the superficial layers of your body including your epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.

Since these layers of your skin house most of your blood vessels and lymphatic ducts, effleurage aims at improving your circulation and lymphatic drainage.

1. Direction

The strokes in effleurage are directed from the peripheries towards the heart. The length and intensity of each stroke might vary, although kept in the category of light to moderate pressure strokes.

This direction is important, as it aids the venous return from your body while inducing a general relaxation effect.

2. Intensity

Effleurage is not an intense technique. Light to moderate pressure is applied using the palmar surface of the therapist’s hands and fingers.

The amount of pressure is kept nearly constant throughout the treatment. There is only a slight variation in the pressure intensity depending on the direction of the stroke.

While gliding the hands from the peripheries toward the heart the pressure is a bit more firm and deep as compared to that on the return stroke (from the heart toward the peripheries)

3. Speed

The speed of the hand movements is kept slow and steady throughout the treatment.

4. Frequency

The strokes are applied repeatedly 10 to 15 times over the same portion of the body before going to another part.

Effleurage Strokes

Effleurage is done using four different types of strokes. These strokes of effleurage are all applied using light to moderate pressure and they only differ in the manner of their application.

1. Aura strokes

1. Aura strokes

These strokes are the lightest intensity strokes with which an effleurage session begins.

The purpose of the aura stroke is to introduce the client to the touch and the massage therapist used this stroke to spread the massaging oil or cream over the client’s skin.

Aura stroke is also called ethereal stroke which means very delicate or smooth. You can call it a no-pressure effleurage.

2. Nerve strokes

2. Nerve strokes

These strokes are performed using the therapist’s fingertips.

Very light pressure is applied only using the palmar or back side of the fingers that feels as light as air.

Nerve stroke is also called “feathering” because of the lightness of the stroke. This stoke tends to relax the superficial nerve.

3. Superficial strokes

3. Superficial strokes

Light to moderate pressure is applied during the superficial stroking using the palmar sides of the fingers.

The hand movement of the therapist follows the contours of the muscles in the region and for larger surface areas, the therapist often uses forearms to apply moderate pressure.

The superficial stroke is used for lymphatics and circulation.

4. Deep strokes

4. Deep strokes

The deep strokes of effleurage stimulate the muscles and are applied with slightly more pressure than the superficial strokes.

The therapists use palms for applying the strokes and for deeper knots, however, the therapist might use thumbs to massage the area.

Different Techniques of Effleurage

1. Straight effleurage

1. Straight effleurage

In this technique, the therapist glides hands over the client’s back from the lower back up to the shoulders to direct the stroke towards the heart.

The therapist’s fingers are pointed cranially (towards the client’s head).

2. Bilateral effleurage

2. Bilateral effleurage

In the bilateral technique, the therapist places both hands on the client’s back, one hand on each side of the spine, with fingers pointing towards the head, and glides upwards to the upper back and shoulders.

On returning again to the lower spine for another stroke the therapist glides both hands along the sides of the client’s back.

3. Shingles

3. Shingles

In the shingles technique, the therapists use both hands alternately from the lower back to the shoulders.

The therapist begins by placing one hand on one side of the client’s spine and moving slightly upwards (4 to 6 inches), then placing the other hand an inch behind it and moving it further slightly, and then repeating the process up till reaching the shoulders.

4. Reverse Shingles

4. Reverse Shingles

Reverse shingles are performed in much similar manner to shingles but the direction of the fingers is towards the lower back.

Effects of Effleurage

1. Increases temperature

The friction of the therapist’s hands over your skin produces heat that increases the temperature of the body. This warmth further softens your tissues and causes relaxation.

2. Increases blood flow

Due to an increased temperature, the blood vessels in the region become dilated _a process called vasodilation_ that leads to more oxygenated blood reaching your skin, underlying tissues, and muscles.

3. Increases venous return

Since the direction of each stroke in the effleurage technique is towards the heart, it aids in the return of the deoxygenated blood from your body to your heart for oxygenation.

This process is called venous return. It also reduces pedal edema in pregnant women significantly.

4. Increases lymphatic drainage

Lymph is the fluid that dissolves the toxin in your body and helps your body get rid of the waste products by a process called lymphatic drainage.

With effleurage, the lymphatic ducts are also swept out and the process of lymphatic drainage is amplified.

Benefits of Effleurage

1. Post-workout muscle relaxation

During heavy exercises, your muscle undergoes microtrauma or small tears due to the forces exerted on the muscle fibers. Your muscles need proper rest to let the fiber relax.

Effleurage increases the temperature of that area inducing immediate relaxation and ultimately resolving soreness. So, effleurage helps your muscle relax faster after a heavy workout and you’re good to go for your next exercise bout.

2. Post-injury Rehabilitation

Effeluarge is also used as a part of rehabilitation after a musculoskeletal injury. Because of muscle injury, whether it is overuse or traumatic, the physiology of the tissue is disturbed leading to functional limitation or disability.

During effleurage the blood flow to those muscle fibers increases, thus more oxygen is available to nourish the healing tissues. It speeds up the repair process, increases muscle strength along with reducing pain symptoms.

The increased blood flow washes out the pain-causing chemicals from the injured area so that your brain no more receives the pain signals and you feel relief after some time of the therapeutic massage.

3. Post-surgical muscle lengthening

After surgeries like knee replacement, ligament repair, c-section, or fracture reduction procedures, the affected body segment is kept immobile for some time which tends to reduce the length of the muscles in that region.

As we already discussed that effleurage relaxed the muscles and speeds up recovery, these two mechanisms of action of effleurage massage are involved in resolving the muscle length back to normal.

Prior to applying stretch to your shortened muscles, you need to apply effleurage as a warmup session to soften the tissues.

In this way, your shortened muscles that often become hard will lose their stiffness and are stretched effectively without causing extra pain in the end range.

4. Physical and mental stress reduction

Effeluarge is a light technique that stimulates the production of hormones including endorphins that help in a good mood. It also blocks the production of the stress hormone cortisol to stop the symptoms of anxiety depression and mental fatigue.

5. Skin cleansing

The sweeping movement of the effleurage also exfoliates the skin, removes the dirt, and stretches the skin to open and cleanse the pores.

If any debris remains in the pores it can develop into infection or acne. With effleurage, it is possible to avoid such skin conditions.

6. Diagnostic technique

Effleurage is also used to diagnose or understand muscle conditions. It is used as a preparatory technique before applying any other therapeutic massage or exercise.

It relaxes and softens the superficial tissues to make the deep structures more palpable for the therapist.

7. Bridging technique

Effeluarge is utilized between massage sessions when the therapist switches from one massage technique to another.

This step is necessary for massage therapy because one intense massage after the other can be uncomfortable, however, effleurage is lighter than other massages and it gives your body a recoil period.

Where is Effleurage Applied Commonly?

Effleurage is most commonly applied over the back but is also used for arms, calves, thighs, face, neck, shoulders, and feet.

When Should Effleurage be Used?

Considering the benefits of effleurage that we already discussed, now it might be clear for you to understand when you need to go for an effleurage session.

Enlisting some of these, you need to go for effleurage:

  1. Before other massage techniques. It softens and relaxes the superficial structures and prepares your body for deep massage techniques.
  2. When you feel stressed physically or mentally. You can get rid of the tension by having a relaxing effleurage session. It is a comforting experience for people undergoing chronic emotional stress or unresolved grief.
  3. When you need a break after a long workweek. Effleurage helps your body take the much-needed rest. It refuels and energizes your body for starting over again.
  4. Before and after workouts. It serves as a warmup and cooldown technique, regulating your body states from rest to workout and back to rest. As a warm-up, it protects your body from sports injuries or muscle soreness.
  5. During or before labor: Scientific studies show a reduction in pain symptoms by applying effleurage during the active phase of normal childbirth.

Contraindications of Effleurage

Some of the conditions are considered relative contraindications for effleurage, while others are absolute.

Following is the list of the absolute contraindication for effleurage. These are the conditions when you should strictly avoid using effleurage.

  • Malignant concerts
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Thrombosis
  • Open wounds
  • Active infection
  • Cellulitis
  • Varicose veins
  • Acute phlebitis

Among the relative contraindications, you need to be careful about,

  • Acute inflammatory conditions
  • Anticoagulant therapy
  • Non-healing scars
  • Skin graft after burns
  • Soft tissue calcification
  • Skin allergies

Effleurage is a basic massage technique that is easy to perform and has no side effects. Because of the comfort and ease of this technique, it has become an essential part of each massage session, as it is used before, after, and between other types of massages.

Considering all the physiological effects of effleurage, it is safe to say that you can opt for it as a regular healing session. It has universal benefits when done in the right way.

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