Tapotement

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In the context of massage, tapotement is an equivalent term to "percussion".

Of these words, "percussion" may be more immediately understood because it is the more descriptive in English. However, "tapotement" is the more technical massage term, and is equally descriptive because it is derived from the French verb "tapoter" which means "to tap, or pat".

The words "tapotement" and "percussion" actually refer to a category (or "class") of massage movements, which include:

The information on this page is common to all of the above massage movements.

Tapotement movements may be applied to the fleshy parts of the body, e.g. buttocks, but are not appropriate on all areas of the body or in all circumstances. In particular, percussion movements should not be used as indicated below:

  • not directly over bony pertuberances
  • not over surface (superficial) nerves
  • not over paralysed muscles
  • not during pregnancy.

A tapotement movement usually takes the form of rapid movements from the wrists in which the body is struck with soft blows from each hand alternately. The differences between the percussion techniques listed above includes the part of the therapist's hand or hands used to strike the client and the action used.

Tapotement movements are generally performed for relatively short but even sequences / durations over specific areas of the body. They may then be continued over an adjacent area or smoothly followed by a different tapotement technique or other massage manipulation. These movements should not be too hard or aggressive or continued for too long in one area because to do so may not be comfortable for the client and may over-stimulate the skin, muscles or nerves in that area.

The benefits of tapotement movements can include stimulating the skin and/or muscle reflexes. However, these techniques are taught as part of courses in Swedish massage and may be omitted altogether from some holistic and aromatherapy massage routines. Therapists generally select techniques appropriate to achieve the purpose of any particular treatment, as discussed during the consultation preceeding the treatment.

Note: If in doubt about the safety of a massage movement don't perform it - seek advice from a tutor or other appropriately qualified person.


This section consists of short summaries about the classical massage movements. This list of massage techniques is not exhaustive. For more general information about massage see also:

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