By Mandy Urena
Author of If These Hands Could Talk: The Girl who Touched the World
As licensed massage therapists, we are all trained in how to massage the whole body, and that includes the muscles of the bottom—the glutes and the piriformis. That said, how often do we work them extensively and are we confident and comfortable in doing so?
Many massage therapists are not comfortable. Some even avoid the area completely because it is too “up close and personal.” And there are those working for franchises who are forbidden from touching the area at all. Any body benefits greatly by releasing the tightness in the glutes—maximus, medius, and minimus—as well as the piriformis. For whatever reason we avoid touching the butt, the tush, the heiny, I believe it is a total disservice to a client seeking relief from lower back or hip pain. Why should we also focus on the piriformis? Because when that tiny pear-shaped lateral rotator in the middle of the glutes is tight, it is literally a pain in the ass! When it is chronically tight, it can cause the debilitating condition of sciatica, but when it is palpated, petrissaged, squeezed and stretched, it responds by releasing the hips and, in turn, the lower back. The client leaves with a more fluid gait, walking smoothly like a cat—proof positive that a thorough massage of the butt is indeed therapeutic. I will acknowledge that for a client new to massage therapy, having their posterior massaged by a stranger can be daunting and maybe even a little embarrassing at first. But, for the newly licensed massage therapist, it can also be daunting; massaging the glutes deeply and effectively is not for the faint-hearted but here are a few tricks to help.
Firstly, always massage from the lateral body pulling in medially—in other words, from the outer hip into the cheek towards the intergluteal cleft—posh word for butt crack. It goes without saying that spreading the cheeks laterally would feel invasive—a move to be avoided at all costs.
Secondly, start by doing pressure point massage over the towel or blanket, using the elbow. And maybe do a little rocking to loosen up the hips. Asking the client to breathe deeply will enable the body to relax even more.
Thirdly, drape modestly and begin the deeper work using the knuckles so the massage doesn’t feel “gropey.” We can also use our fists to do some myofascial release, stripping the quadratus lumborum from the lower rib to the glutes slowly and rhythmically in one direction. Add a few cross-body stretches and the client will feel like a new person. I just love giving glute massage! The usual reaction I get from clients is, “that feels so amazing. I’ve never had a massage therapist work the glutes as thoroughly as you do.” And they request me again and again.
I am the glute whisperer, the rubber of bottoms. What is your superpower?