The Basic Bunny Massage Strokes

Today, we have a guest post from Jodi McLaughlin, who was our featured practitioner in the Acupressure post (where there is also a detailed description of an acupressure session she performed on her rabbit Diego).Basic massage strokes for Rabbits

Jodi, a Certified Holistic Small Animal Massage Practitioner, is the founder of The Blissful Bunny Massage Workshops. She has written many articles on massage for rabbits, and has been featured in several books. I don’t have a link to her website here because due to family obligations, her animal massage business has had to be put on hold for the moment.

Jodie’s post describes the basic massage strokes and she talks about how to use them on rabbits, but these are the same strokes you would use on anyone, be it human or animal. You obviously would go a bit heavier on humans and very lightly on rabbits and other very small animals, but this gives you a great introduction to the strokes. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jodi!

The Basic Bunny Massage Strokes
by Jodi D. McLaughlin, NCTMB

Laying on of hands: While not technically considered a massage stroke, this is the oldest form of massage. This technique is mostly used when massage may be contraindicated or not accepted. Gently place the hands over the area of the rabbit’s body you wish to soothe, using very little pressure, less than 1 pound. Focus on the moment and breathe slowly. This light contact has therapeutic value in soothing emotional frustration, nerve irritation and inflammation. This is also a great way to begin a massage and connect with your rabbit, by simply laying your hands on the head, back or hips.

Effleurage: A long stroking movement. Imagine water gliding and rippling over the body. Use the whole hand, palms, thumbs, fingertips, or forearms. Repeated rhythmically with light or superficial pressure, this long flowing stroke has a lulling or hypnotic effect that leads to relaxation. This stroke increases circulation and lymph and prepares the muscles for deeper work by warming the tissues. Effleurage can be sedating to muscles and nerves, inducing sleep and decreasing pain.

Rock n’ Roll: This rocking movement is beneficial in synchronizing your breath with your animal as well as calming bunny. Picture a mother soothing her baby as she gently places both hands on baby’s back and rocks the baby lightly side to side. While bun-bun sitting comfortably, place both hands on the shoulders or mid-back, then slowly begin to alternate pushing the body left and right, slightly forward. Move slowly allowing the bunny’s body to flow back to center before rocking the opposite side. The slower the rocking, the more calming for bunny. Faster movements become a shaking stroke, used to increase circulation and invigorate bunny. Never use shaking strokes for more than a few moments as this stroke can be irritating to nerve endings.

Petrissage: This is a stroke used only on large muscles. French for “kneading”, petrissage releases tension and waste from muscles and improves circulation. Rhythmically pick up the muscle, lifting it away from the bone (thigh) and squeeze and roll the skin between your hands or two thumbs, either staying in one place, or moving gradually along the muscle group. (thigh/hip) The hands should create opposite C shapes. Imagine you are kneading dough to make bread. Ah, this is what bun-bun dreams of when she sits in the bread-loaf position! Actually, petrissage is also very beneficial as a sort of passive exercise for large muscles since it causes a contraction similar to active exercise of the thigh.

Compression: This stroke is used with or in place of kneading/petrissage. It has the same benefits but can be used on a smaller area. Apply a rhythmic pumping with the thumb, fingers, palm or fist (depending of the size of bunny) directly into the center area of the muscle. Compression also causes a contraction of the muscle belly creating tone.

Wringing: This is a wonderful stroke to use on the side/belly area of bunny or to cover larger areas such as the shoulders and hips. The hands are placed side to side on the body, with thumbs at 90-degree angle. Begin to slide the hands, alternating, as if to wring out a wet towel. You should be able to see the skin lift and slide between the thumbs. This stroke is very soothing when done smoothly and gently. This is a good way to gently rev up bunny’s circulation. It helps break up adhesions and is very similar to skin rolling.

Skin Rolling: This technique is also similar to T-Touch Tarantula or Pulling the Plow Stroke. Using both hands on just the skin layer, pretend you are rolling a cigarette in paper. The thumbs lift and roll the skin away from you, creating a mound of moving fur. Skin rolling is extremely beneficial in breaking up tiny adhesions caused by injections, dispersing fatty deposits, stimulating the circulation of the skin and all around skin tone. It can be done in various directions and lightly down the spine to stimulate the Bladder Meridian. Be careful to move smoothly and slowly so as not to over stimulate the nerve endings! This is the only stroke that can be done directly on the spine. Use this stroke over the shoulder area after giving injections.

Vibration and Friction: These strokes are very similar, except in pressure and benefit! Vibration is done with the fingers or hand quivering lightly over muscles. This will relax the nervous system, calm muscle spasms and activate the digestive system when done on the abdomen. Friction uses the same technique, except with a much deeper and smaller surface area being covered. Friction can be used to break up old scar tissue and adhesions as well as loosen joints and tendons.

Tapping: This technique of lightly tapping the fingertips over the fleshy areas of bunny is effective as an ending massage stroke to wake up the nerves and muscles. Integrate fluttering tapping movements with effleurage up and down bun-buns spine to refresh and alert him that his spa time is over…but the bliss continues.

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Cattie Coyle

Cattie Coyle

Founder and Editor at Animal Wellness Guide
Cattie is the founder and editor of Animal Wellness Guide. She is a freelance photographer, graduate of Bancroft School of Massage Therapy’s small animal program, and has studied Applied Zoopharmacognosy. Learn more about Cattie
Cattie Coyle
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