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April 18, 2008

Elbows Or No?

I once read in an article that under no circumstances is there ever a reason for a massage therapist to use their elbows. The argument was that there is not enough sensitivity in the elbow and that the therapist would not have control over how much pressure to use. It was assumed that using the elbow would exert too much pressure on tissue and cause damage.

Personally, I believe that judicious use of my elbow as a tool has its uses. Because I am of relatively small build, I use my elbow to put power behind some of the work that I do. My clients, over the years, have given me feedback that using my elbow is a good thing. Also, as I got more experience, my elbow (or maybe my arm) became quite adept as discerning tissue resistance, giving me a clue as to when the pressure was enough.

However, there are some caveats that go with the use of the elbow. First of all, I only use my elbow on very thick areas of muscle such as the gluteal region and sometimes the upper trapezius on muscular individuals. Second, I'm inclined to use more of the ulnar blade of my forearm to "warm up" or lead into use of the elbow so there isn't a sharp poking sensation (after all, I do have very pointy elbows--I used to joke that they were registered with the federal government as lethal weapons). Finally, client feedback is crucial.

If the area you are working is too tender to tolerate such intense therapy, back off the area and use a different technique. Everybody is different and some may feel deep massage with the elbow is just right while others will always feel it is too intense. So, again, communication is key.

So, what's your opinion? Never use your elbows because it is irresponsible or cruel and unusual punishment? Or is use of the elbow a legitimate tool in certain circumstances? Maybe your bread and butter is deep tissue therapy and you use your elbows a lot in all areas of the body. Comments and feedback are welcome.

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Posted by linda at April 18, 2008 8:09 AM

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