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How Effleurage Preps You for a Relaxing, Productive Massage

BY: Editors | Feb 23, 2016

How Effleurage Preps You for a Relaxing, Productive Massage

Cleveland is one of the few cities that can act. In 30 Rock’s first season, it played a low-key paradise, one where Liz Lemon could escape the show-biz stresses of New York. Really, though, Cleveland is nowhere near as soothing as its TV doppelganger—just being a fan of the city’s teams can give a person years of stress dreams. Which is all to say that in Cleveland, massage is far from obsolete.

In Cleveland and around the country, the most relaxing massages—Swedish massage or the relaxation massage at the beloved Lakewood Massotherapy—often incorporate effleurage. Clevelanders worn out by the Cavs’ ups and downs should read our guide to the gentle technique.

What is effleurage?

The word itself is taken from a French verb that means "to touch lightly.” To Americans, it’s a massage technique that hinges on smooth, gliding strokes. These strokes don’t deliver much pressure, but they soothe the nerves, boost circulation, and allow the massage therapist to identify problem zones that need extra attention.

How is it used?

Because effleurage doubles as an assessment tool, many therapists begin each massage with it, usually by gliding their palms lightly across the body to feel for tense spots and potholes while getting the client used to their touch. This form of effleurage is called "superficial," and it serves as a soothing prelude, transitional movements between deeper, more focused kneading, and an epilogue to the massage.

Is “deep effleurage” an oxymoron?

Kind of! It’s also a real massage modality, a slightly more forceful style that still uses gliding strokes, only with more pressure. Therapists using this style aim to stretch out the client’s muscle tissue and the web of connective tissue that covers it. Therapists will generally direct the first part of their deep effleurage stroke toward the heart, finishing with a lighter return stroke away from it. Not only does this warm up tissues for deeper muscle work—it can also help drain fluid from injured areas, reducing painful pressure while also releasing endorphins that further relax the entire body.