Massage Therapy,Techniques,Terminology

Effleurage: Understanding Basic Techniques


Effleurage is a gliding movement across the skin surface.  Therapist will use this as an introduction touch. It is an ideal technique to help therapist get a better understanding of the client’s muscle tone, texture and temperature in the areas they will be working on. Through this touch they could tell if a muscle is in spasm, if it’s tender, if it’s swollen or if there are any adhesions (from fascia) that need focus work.



With a lighter pressure, effleurage has an effect on circulation. It is used in a more repetitive sequence to encourage movement of the lymphatic system to increase circulation & local venous [veins sending low oxygenated blood back to the heart to be replenished], and to reduce edema.


When used with a slow and rhythmic flow, effleurage has a sedative [relaxing] effect as it calms the sympathetic nervous system to prevent nerves from firing.  This is how pain is reduced.  Effleurage also decreases muscle hypertonicity [extreme muscular tension].  When used with quicker movement, it is stimulating.


  • Effleurage should not be used in the area of inflammation, immediate injury in an acute or early sub acute stage or in the area of infection.
  • Is not used on uncovered or covered open or contagious skin lesions.
  • It should not be used repetitively on the limbs of clients with hypertension, heart disease, varicose veins or edema caused by thromboses in a vein. It should also not be used repetitively or vigorously in specific areas close to where lymph nodes have been removed for any reasons.  This can cause lymphedema.


Rattray, F.S. & Ludwig, L.M. (2000). Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating over 70 Conditions Toronto, Ontario Canada.  Talus Incorporated

Photo Credits
Copyright: domenicogelermo / 123RF Stock Photo


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