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Petrissage - The Kneading Touch in Massage Therapy

Applying the petrissage technique to a female massage client

Petrissage Massage Technique

Along with effleurage, another foundational concept of Swedish massage and other body work is that of petrissage. Taken from a traditional French baking phrase, and literally meaning “kneading,” petrissage is the therapist’s method of lifting, folding, and squeezing the patient’s flesh. It is not the gentle touch of effleurage, nor is it a deep tissue massage. It is a slow and rhythmic process, focussed on the area of contact.

Six essential motions combine to define petrissage. Wringing, kneading, knuckling, scissoring, skin rolling, and pick-up-and-squeeze are the key movements. All of these techniques are therapeutic — performed with varying degrees of intensity and vigour, according to the patient’s comfort.

a traditional French baking phrase, and literally meaning “kneading,”

All of these motions are conducted on the outer layers of flesh, lifting skin and muscles away from the fascia beneath. The motions increase blood circulation in the skin, and are thought to stimulate capillarisation and vasodilation. The former increases the number of stimulated capillaries in the focussed area, producing relaxation and easing pain. Vasodilation is the expansion and widening of blood vessels that results in improved oxygenation of the blood, and is thought to improve lymphatic discharge.

Therapists familiar with baking and bread making may appreciate the parallels here. Once a dough is fully formed, it may require a period of rest so the gluten within can relax and become more pliable. So it is with the patient’s flesh and muscle. Petrissage is slow and repetitive, and produces relaxation and ultimately relief in the treatment area.

Biotone Advanced Therapy Massage Lotion is one of our most popular lubricants for petrissage. It has improved glide, reducing friction on the skin, and it absorbs nicely without leaving a sticky residue.

Following a massage treatment with towels heated in a towel warmer allows the patient to gradually and gently come out of a treatment at their own pace.

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