How To Give A Back Massage

What is a back massage?

How To Give A Back Massage Care Guide

A back massage is also called a back rub. It is given by stroking your hands across a person's neck, shoulders, and back. A back massage increases blood flow to the skin and muscles. This can help to prevent skin problems in a person who needs to stay in bed most of the time. This can also help ease pain and stiffness, or help the person feel better after being ill. Some people may not be able to have a back massage because of an injury or certain medical problems. Check with a caregiver before giving the person a back massage.

How do I give a back massage?

  • Put the following items within easy reach:

    • Bath towels.

    • Washcloths.

    • Basin with warm water.

    • Body lotion. You can warm the lotion by putting the bottle in the warm water for a few minutes.

    • Soap.

    • If the person has open or draining sores, put on disposable gloves.

  • Getting the person ready:

    • Be sure the room is warm enough for the person to be comfortable.

    • Lower the head of the bed if it is OK. Raise the bed to a comfortable height for you.

    • Help the person to turn onto his stomach or on his side. Be sure that he can breathe easily in this position. Place small pillows under the person's head and stomach, between his legs, under his feet, or wherever is comfortable.

    • Place a bath towel next to the person's back. This keeps the bed from getting wet.

    • Uncover the person's back. Keep the rest of his body covered as much as possible for privacy and warmth.

  • Giving the massage:

    • Be sure your fingernails are short. Long fingernails could scratch the person's back and cause skin problems. Also, make sure your hands are warm.

    • You may want to wash the person's back before the massage:

      • Wet a washcloth in warm, soapy water. Wrap it around your hand.

      • Begin washing his back at the neck and move downward to the buttocks.

      • Rinse his neck, back, and buttocks until all the soap is removed.

      • Gently dry the skin. Make sure all areas are dry, especially the buttocks area. Any moisture could cause skin irritation.

    • Put a small amount of warm lotion on your hands. Rub your hands together so the lotion is spread evenly on your hands.

    • Stand close to the bed with one foot slightly forward.

    • Move your hands slowly during the massage to help the person relax.

    • Start massaging the back at the buttocks. Move your hands upward on both sides of the spine all the way to the shoulders.

    • Make a circular motion as you move your hands upward. Press a bit more firmly with your thumbs as you make the circles.

    • Move across the shoulders and start moving down the upper arms, using less pressure as you move downward.

    • Ask if you are applying too much or too little pressure as you massage. Ask the person to tell you if he feels pain in any area. If there is pain felt, do not massage that area, or massage it very gently.

    • Apply more lotion on your hands as needed.

  • After the massage:

    • Gently remove any extra lotion from the person's skin with a towel.

    • Help him get back to a comfortable position in bed.

    • Clean and put away items used for the massage.

  • Other tips for giving a back massage:

    • Ask the person's caregiver to teach you how to do a back massage correctly.

    • Check the skin of the person before you start the massage. Call the caregiver if the person has new skin sores or redness.

    • If you give a back rub at bedtime, have the person ready for bed before starting. The massage may help him relax and fall asleep.

    • Use good body position while you give the massage. This will help protect the muscles of your own back, shoulders, and arms.

    • If the person cannot move in bed, give a back massage every time you move or turn him.

    • Do not massage the person's legs. Call the health caregiver if the person has soreness or a red area on his leg or foot.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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