Exploring Massage Therapy: Percussion Massage

Called “tapotement” by many therapists, percussion massage therapy is a mini-modality (technique) in that it has its own, unique therapeutic properties and method, but it isn’t performed for very long like a massage modality (e.g. Lomi Lomi Massage).

Percussion massage therapy features no drums or outside instruments. Instead, therapists use their hands like timpani mallets, rapidly – but gently – hitting a massage recipient with a portion of their hands.

We’ve embedded a YouTube video from Health-Choices Holistic Massage School on this Blog posting that demonstrates well what tapotement looks like.

The video feature three types of percussion massage therapy: cupping (hitting with cupped palms), hacking (hitting with the sides of the hand, with the fingers making contact), and beating or pummeling (hitting with loose fists). Another method of the technique not included in the video is pinching where the therapist rapidly contacts the recipient’s skin with the tips of his or her fingers, pulling them back up and off the skin in a pinching motion.

Because of the steady, percussive-like feel of its massage stroke, percussion massage therapy is aptly named, and is often used in Swedish massage therapy to bring sessions to an end. But tapotement can also have therapeutic properties, with its stimulating stroke helping to release lymphatic build-up.

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