Pre-Massage Hand Stretches

Warm Up to Prepare for Your Session

By Anne Williams
[Savvy Self-Care]

Stretching can be performed throughout the day to ease tension and relax the body. You can stretch in the morning just after waking, after sitting or standing in one position, before or after physical activity, or anytime your body feels stiff.

Massage therapists and bodyworkers should practice good self-care by stretching before and after massage sessions. During massage, tension builds in the hands, forearms, upper arms, back, neck, chest, and legs. Pay particular attention to form and posture during stretching so as to achieve the maximum benefit without injury.

Ease into stretches by moving your body to a point where you experience mild tension. Think about relaxing your muscles, and take a deep breath into the area that feels tension for a count of 10–15 seconds until the tension decreases. Repeat the process again, moving a little deeper. It is normal to feel some tension and mild discomfort, but avoid any positions that cause pain. 

Repeat the following sequence of stretches three times to warm your hands and prepare them to apply massage techniques. Work at your own pace and with your own flexibility. 

Anne Williams is the director of education for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and author of Massage Mastery: from Student to Professional (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012), from which this article was adapted, and Spa Bodywork: A Guide to Massage Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006). She can be reached at 


Make your hands into fists and squeeze them for 5 seconds.


Bend fingers at the knuckles so that they look like claws for 5 seconds.


Straighten and separate your fingers for 10 seconds. 


Place your arms straight out from your shoulders and bend your wrists so that your fingers reach up toward the ceiling, then down toward the floor. Hold each position for 10–15 seconds, and repeat the sequence three times.


Place your hands in a “prayer position” in front of your body, with fingers facing toward the ceiling, then rotate your fingers toward the floor. Hold for 10–15 seconds, and repeat the sequence three times.


Return to the prayer position, and push the fingers of one hand over to the side. Hold for 10 seconds, then reverse direction. Repeat the sequence three times.

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.