Aug 2015 08

Connective tissue massage

By: Dave Wheeler

One of the thing that surprises a few clients when the first come for treatment is that I'll often start the massage part without using any lotion.

The idea is to loosen up the layer of fascia just below the skin and the very surface layer of muscle.

These various techniques are known, collectively, as connective tissue massage


Anatomy Trains

The key to understanding the benefits of connective tissue massage is to realise that there are 5 major fascial trains that string together lines of superficial muscle.

According to Meyers (2001) who came up with the idea of Anatomy Trains the trains  are:


  • The superficial back line
  • The superficial front line
  • The lateral line
  • The spiral line
  • The deep front line

There are also 2 arm lines - back of the arm, and front of the arm.


The techniques of connective tissue massage

Hand print

One of the simplest techniques is just to warm the fascia. This is done by the therapist using the warmth of his or her hands, kept in in one place on the body. Heat is transferred from the hands to the client's skin and to the superficial fascia.

Warming the fascia up like this makes it easier to stretch.


The wave

Once the fascia is warmed up, the therapist will often slowly start to push the fascia in one direction to get a "wave" going, effectively massaging the fascia.


Skin rolling

One of the most effective techniques for freeing up sticky fascia is skin-rolling. The skin & fascia of the client are grasped between the thumb and forefinger by the therapist who then rolls the skin through their fingers along the direction of the anatomy train.

If you're well hydrated, it'll just feel pleasant. If you've not been taking enough liquid in recently, then it'll feel like plasters being ripped off your skin.



This is a particularly effective technique on the chest, helping to loosen thing us: it's exactly what it sounds like.

Put your hand on your sternum then shunt it upwards a few times; now shunt it downwards a few times.

You should notice that your skin & fascia move much more in one direction than the other. The idea of the therapist shunting is to try to free up the fascia, to remove any restrictions.


Other connective tissue techniques

I'll use a combination of squeezing, stretching, shoving and pushing on the fascia covering different muscles - all with the same goal of loosening up the fascia before I start going deeper into the muscle tissue itself.


As ever, if you think I can help, give me a call.