Our step-by-step guide explains how to give a soothing massage for hands and feet.
How to give a hand massage
Follow these steps to give a calming hand massage. If you like, make it more sensory by using scented massage oil. Always ensure your partner is comfortable and their hand is supported by the elbow – you could use a pillow, rolled up towel or your lap.
1. Warm a few drops of massage oil between your palms, then gently but firmly make contact with your partner’s hand. Smooth over the oil using stretching movements.
2. Hold your partner’s hand in both of yours, with your fingers underneath. Draw the heels of your hands outwards towards the edges of your partner’s hand. Repeat several times.
3. Use your thumbs to knead all over the back of your partner’s hand. Work between the bones and around the bones of the wrist,
4. Use your thumbs to push up in the fleshy areas between the bones towards the wrist
5. Turn your partner’s hand over. Use your thumbs to knead over the palm of the hand. Work all over the muscles and joints opening up the hand. It is especially nice to work over the base of the thumb.
6. Use your knuckles in a circular motion to work over the palm of the hand
7. Onto the fingers. Turn your partner’s hand over. Hold your partner’s hand in one of yours and work on the fleshy areas between the joints.
8. Wrap your hand around the first finger. Gently pull and twist from the base to the tip of the thumb. Rotate thumb when you reach the tip. Repeat for other fingers and thumb.
9. Finish by holding your partner’s hand between yours. Repeat for the other hand.
How to give a foot massage
A foot massage is a great to help someone unwind, and can also be done with scented oils for an extra-sensory experience. Make sure your partner is comfortable, the foot is supported by the ankle or knee using a pillow, towel or your lap.
1. Warm the oil between your hands. Then, either lay your hand over their foot or sandwich their foot between your hands to apply the oil.
2. Hold the foot with one hand supporting under the heel, the other on top and gently pull the heel towards you
3. Supporting the foot at the heel, rotate the foot three times clockwise and three times anti clockwise, taking care not to overstretch the achilles tendon
4. Rotate each toe in turn, three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise
5. Supporting the foot with your fingers, knead all over the top of the foot.
6. Gently twist the foot with both hands moving in different directions
7. Stroke the sole of the foot firmly with the heel of your hand several times
8. Hold the foot with your fingers on top and your thumbs underneath, and criss-cross your thumbs briskly down the sole of the foot.
9. Finish by holding your partner’s foot between both of your hands. Repeat for the other foot.
Communication is key
Hand massage and a foot massages are lovely ways to help someone relax and feel more comfortable, but remember that good massage is about communication, so make sure you’re aware of the signs that your partner is comfortable with what you’re doing.
If someone’s enjoying their massage, that might look like smiling when being stroked or touched, or offering you their other hand when you’re done with the first one.
Conversely, if the person you’re massaging shows they’re not enjoying it, or is resisting slow down – swap to type of touch you know they enjoy, and wait until they’re able to gradually tolerate being touched before introducing firmer movements.
Different types of massage
There are lots of different types of massage strokes. Try experimenting with which ones feel best for your partner.
The hands skim over the surface of the skin, with a firm pressure upwards and a lighter pressure downwards. The hands maintain contact on the return stroke. For a relaxing massage, the effleurage will be rhythmical, slow and of medium depth. For a stimulating massage, the effleurage will be rhythmical, but faster and deeper.
Stroking can be performed in any direction. The pressure, which can be light, medium or heavy is maintained throughout the movement. The hands do not necessarily maintain contact with the skin, but it is comforting if they do so.
Applies pressure through the palm of the hand. The thumb works in a circular motion, applying pressure on the upward part of the circle.
Finger and thumb kneading
Small circular movements made over small areas or small muscles. The middle and ring fingers will give a lighter pressure
The sides of the hands are used to strike the tissues in a light, brisk manner. This should never be used over bony areas or as a movement on very young children
Cupped hands are used to strike the tissues alternately, never over bony areas. This should not be used as a movement on very young children.
The little finger side of the loosely clenched fist performs the movement. The side of the hands strike the body part alternatively, never over bony areas. This should not be used as a movement on very young children.
This content was last reviewed in April 2022. We’ll review it again next year.