What is Petrissage?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Petrissage is a kneading massage technique with its origins in the Swedish massage tradition. Along with movements like tapotement and effleurage, petrissage is one of the primary massage techniques utilized in traditional Swedish massage. Many other massage techniques utilize this move, because it can be integrated with other styles for everything from deep tissue work to relaxing therapeutic massage. Most massage schools provide instruction in this move in the early stages of massage education.

Most massage schools provide instruction in petrissage.
Most massage schools provide instruction in petrissage.

Several different types of kneading motions can be utilized under the umbrella term “petrissage.” One is a classic kneading of the body, akin to kneading dough. Another is rolling of the skin, which must be done carefully to avoid pinching. Massage therapists can also pull and squeeze the soft tissue to knead it, and may use techniques like “scissoring,” in which the fingers are walked toward each other across an area of the body. The move can be varied to suit different areas of the body, ranging from the abdomen to the shoulder blades.

Petrissage can help with muscle knots.
Petrissage can help with muscle knots.

The goal of petrissage is to provide deep penetration of the soft tissue to free up the movement of the soft tissue while also providing deep pressure in the underlying muscles. It can be done to warm up in preparation for penetrating deep tissue work, to resolve a muscle knot or spasm, or simply to help the client relax. It should not be painful when performed properly and if a massage starts to hurt the therapist should be told immediately so that the pressure can be adjusted.

The petrissage technique used in some massages is said to improve circulation in the blood and lymph systems.
The petrissage technique used in some massages is said to improve circulation in the blood and lymph systems.

One of the benefits of petrissage is that it can promote circulation to areas of the body which are worked. Good circulation can be beneficial to overall physical health and may also specifically address certain health conditions which are characterized by poor circulation. Some people believe that massage helps the body expel toxins, and petrissage is one of the moves touted as having this benefit because of its effects on the circulation of blood and lymph.

This technique can be deep or light, with varying degrees of pressure depending on the client. The force for the movement comes primarily from the weight of the massage therapist, rather than from the arms and back, with the therapist leaning into the client to let gravity do the work. It should be slow and rhythmic in nature, and it increases in intensity over time to allow the client to get used to the sensation before working more deeply.

Petrissage is a key component of traditional Swedish massage.
Petrissage is a key component of traditional Swedish massage.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

helene55

@vogueknit17- I didn't used to know much about types of massage either, and my aunt introduced me to this technique. I have to say the effects of Petrissage are really great if you have sort muscles or just tend to get stressed out a lot in your life. I also feel like masseuses who practice this technique are pretty easy to find.

vogueknit17

I love any type of massage, and don't get massages enough to even know what form I have gotten in the past- this sounds really lovely, though. I think I'll be looking into this sort of massage in the future.

strawCake

@starrynight - I enjoy petrissage also. I'm always amazed at how the massage therapists can give massages like this without their hands getting tired.

However, a couple years ago one of my friends clued me into a little secret. Massage therapists use their body weight to help them perform petrissage. It's not only the strength of their hands. Now I understand why a massage therapists hands don't get tired after only a few minutes.

starrynight

I've never known the exact name for it before now, but petrissage is my favorite part of getting a massage. Massage therapists do all different kinds of massage, but the kneading is my favorite part.

My back and shoulder get really knotted up, and petrissage seems to help loosen it up. I always feel so relaxed after getting a massage.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: