How a client stands, walks, sits or even lays on the table offers strategic clues to the experienced eye. In an instant the trained therapist can more efficiently help someone be pain free through postural analysis.

Body language for the massage therapist.  What the hands signal.

Both clients present with neck and shoulder tension.

Which client will benefit most by massage on neck and upper shoulders only?

Which client needs release work in the chest and bicep muscles before working on the neck?

Can you guess?

Spa Rosalia Hands and Postural Analysis Spa Rosalia Hands and Postural Analysis

The client in the blue dress will benefit most from massage directly on her neck and shoulders, but the person on the right will feel relief in the neck after the chest and arm muscles are relaxed.

How can we tell?  The hand position.

Just like the use of ASL (American Sign Language) allows the hearing impaired to communicate, so too the position of the hands can indicate the presence of neck and shoulder tension.  The reason is that many of the arm and chest muscles cross  the shoulder joint.  When the hands are in anatomically correct position it is a good indicator that the shoulder muscles are in balance, but when they aren’t addressing the tension in the arms and chest prior to massaging the neck is the most effective use of time.

In the case of the first picture, note that the woman’s hands are parallel to her hips.  This is an anatomically correct position.  When this particular client complains of tension in the neck and shoulders, the wisest use of a massage therapists time would be to address those issues directly.  Her posture is telling us that the tension she feels is probably not being caused by imbalances in the major muscles that support the shoulder joint.  If the imbalances were there, they would be reflected in how she holds her arms, and we would see that in hand position.

The woman in photo number two tells a different story.  Look at her arms and fingers.  Her right palm is rotated almost to the rear of the room and her left hand turns past her hip toward the posterior of the body.  This reflects strong tension in the muscles that internally rotate the arms.  The major influences are probably the pectoralis major (pecs) and the latissimus dorsi (lats).  Also, note that the elbows are bent. This indicates that the bicep muscles have become shortened and dominant.  The bicep muscles cross the shoulder joint and can pull the scapula (wing bone) up and forward.  Over time this client will develop congested and resistant tissue (knots) in the upper shoulder area. It is important to address tension in the chest, biceps and lats before massaging the neck and shoulder area to obtain lasting benefits.

Body language tells the tale, and sometimes hand signals are really smoke signals to the professional bodyworker.


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