Kneading is a self-massaging technique that goes deeper than some of the previous ones we’ve covered, like feathering, light and deep stroking. The name of kneading is derived from kneading dough, to make bread, as the movement and massage used on the tissues is similar. This movement is primarily used on fleshy areas of the body. Basically the technique is done by lifting one specific area of muscle mass and then compressing, rolling or squeezing it before easing the tight grip. Ideally kneading, because it is a medium depth stroke, should be performed after a warm up consisting light and deep strokes.

When kneading its good to apply the appropriate pressure, light or deep, depending on the area of focus. For example, try to keep light to moderate pressure on more sensitive and less fleshy areas of the body, like the face, while adding more pressure on bigger, thicker muscles, such as the thighs, calves or biceps. On larger areas within easy reach, such as your buttocks or the neck and shoulders, you can use both hands alternately to knead the soft and hard tissues. Depending on which area you massage, it may be more appropriate to use one hand only.

How to do it

  1. First rub your hands against each other for 5-15 seconds to build some heat and sensitivity.
  2. Begin, then, by placing your hand(s) on the muscle, let your hands and fingers be loose as you wrap and mold your fingers around the flesh.
  3. When you’ve got the muscle cupped and held in your hand, start rolling the flesh between your fingers and the lower parts of your palm i.e. the heels of your hands.
  4. If you’re massaging smaller areas, such as the jaw, hands and feet, knead the flesh between fingers and thumbs instead.
  5. Always keep your hands loose, relaxed and limber while massaging in a slow, rhythmical movement.

Finger or thumb rotations

A useful kneading technique is finger or thumb rotations where you use the fleshy pads of the fingers or thumbs to work on small areas in a circular motion, where you add pressure on the upward half of the circle, while lower pressure on the downward half. Once you complete the circle, you glide the hand to the next area in a slow, flowing movement, without losing contact or rhythm, to start another rotation. Apply pressure as deep as you can tolerate (but it should not be painful). Avoid pinching or working too long in one area, as this can cause pain.

Use a deep but comfortable pressure. Your bauds do not glide over the surface of the skin but press much deeper, so you can feel the underlying tissues moving and detect any nodules of tension. As you work, you will feel these areas steadily relaxing beneath your touch, leaving you feeling more relaxed.

Where to use

Kneading can be used on all areas of muscle mass that can be reached by the hands, or fingers and thumbs. It is often used to boost blood and lymph circulation in the thighs or to relax muscles in the shoulders and upper back. Gentle kneading between fingers and thumbs is useful for taut muscles in the hands and feet. However, kneading tends to create heat, so do not use it over arthritic, painful, hot, or inflamed joints.

Neck and shoulders

Perform larger kneading movements using the palms of your hands and fingers on your upper back, shoulders and neck. This will relieve tension, stiffness and pain. You can also tilt your head to the side so that the other side is more exposed to do more massage. Alternate and do it rhythmically for optimal results.

Biceps and triceps

Stretch out your arms like a flag in front of you. Take the other hand and cup the lower part of the biceps, then start rolling the flesh between your fingers and palm. Do the same movement but this time on the top of your bicep. Retract your arm into a 90 degree angle like you would do when flexing your bicep, without actually tensing up the muscle, then start massaging. Do this on both arms.

Thighs and calves

Sit down on a comfortable place (the ground), place your legs in front of you while bending the knees to allow you to sit with ease. Proceed then by grabbing one of your thighs, with one hand holding the lower part while the other hand molded around the upper part. Your hands should create a circle around your thigh. Proceed then by kneading the lower parts of your thigh first and the upper parts after. Do this in a rhythmical manner, lower – upper – lower – upper.


Perform small, circular kneading rotations with your fingers and thumbs around the ankle, this will help refresh and relax stiff, tired, and inflamed ankles.

Hands and wrists

Use gentle thumb rotations on the top of the hands and/or the palms. This is good to rejuvenate tired hands.


Use mostly your palms while kneading your stomach in a clockwise rotational movement. This can be good for digestion.

Benefits of kneading

  • Relieves pain and stiffness: Kneading is great for pain-relief and loosening stiff and tense muscles.
  • Improves circulation: The deep tissue massaging allows for reaching deeper into the tissues, tendons and bones to increase blood flow and circulation. Blood and lymph flow is stimulated through rhythmically compressing and releasing the muscles, your hands in other words act like a pump by stretching and compressing the tissues. This ‘pumping’ prompts blood flow to move back to the heart and lymph back to the nearest set of lymph nodes, where it is cleansed and filtered. To boost this cleansing effect, you can follow up your kneading massage with deep stroking massage.
  • Moisturizes naturally: Kneading is also good for naturally moisturizing the body as the sebaceous glands starts producing and secreting more amounts of sebum, this keeps your skin smooth and moist while giving your hair a healthy glistening look.
  • Better digestion: Kneading can be great for digestion when performed in a clockwise manner over the stomach.