Percussion

late Middle English:

from Latin percussio(n-), from the verb percutere ‘to strike forcibly’

These massage techniques use a hitting action against the skin/muscle tissues.  Some techniques are applied with speed and others more slowly.  Some are strong and some with a softer action.  It often helps with these techniques for practitioners to take a big breath in and breathe out slowly while applying techniques over the whole of the area being treated.

Hacking

Hands are in a chopping position, palms facing each other.  Allow flexibility in wrists and fingers.  Not too stiff.  This technique can be applied slowly and lightly or fast and firm or a mix of variations.  It’s good on large areas and fleshy areas.  Also good on areas of deep muscles.

Double handed hacking

Hands are in a prayer position, palms facing each other but not pressed tightly. Allow flexibility in wrists and fingers.  Not too stiff.  This technique is commonly applied more slowly and lightly and less commomly using a fast and firm technique.  It’s good on large areas and fleshy areas.  Also good on areas of deep muscles.

Cupping

Make a shallow bowl shape with the palm of your hand.  Imagine you are carrying water and your thumb presses tightly to your first finger.  Face palms downwards so they make contact on the skin.  Allow flexibility in wrists.  This technique is normally applied at a slow to medium pace and has a “trapped air” sound on contact with the skin.  It can also be used faster with a light to medium pressure.  It’s good on large areas and fleshy areas.  Also areas of deep muscles.

Beating

Make a fist action with your hand.  Allow flexibility in your wrists and apply a slow or fast tempo with the palmar aspect of your hand facing down.  The movement is very springy  and bouncy and mainly applied to more fleshy areas of the body.  Can be a light to deep pressure.

Pounding

Make a fist action with your hand.  Allow flexibility in your wrists and apply a slow or fast tempo with the palmar aspect of your hand facing down but at a slight 45 degree angle so that the little finger  is more inferior (closer to the floor)  The movement is very springy  and bouncy and mainly applied to more fleshy areas at the lateral side of the body such as the buttocks and thighs. Can be a light to deep pressure.

Tapotement

One of the gentler forms of percussion.  Normally applied using the finger pads, to apply a gentle repetitive motion across more bony or sensitive areas.  Commonly used on the face.

Benefits of percussion

  • Very invigorating but can also be calming when done gently.
  • Can stimulate the sensory and motor nerve endings in the skin and muscle.
  • Often makes skin flush pink causing local erythema as capillaries come to the surface.
  • Very warming to the tissues.
  • Often causes a ripple effect through the tissues, organs and other parts of the body so can have effects on areas not directly being treated.
  • Can bring tissues and muscles into a more heightened state (motor response) and increase the tone in a muscle at the time of being applied.