How to do Tapotement Strokes – Percussion Massage Strokes & Benefits

Tapotement, also called percussion is a very stimulating style of massage stroke. It involves rhythmic striking of the clients flesh with alternate hands from about an inch away. Here I outline how a masseur should do these stokes and some benefits you get from them. Hacking, Cupping, Beating and Pummelling are all tapotement strokes. This stroke style should be used on fleshy, muscular areas and not on bone. These are the most stimulating of all types of stroke used in Swedish massage. If you are looking to be invigorated with a treatment a lot of tapotement will be used. Generally percussion strokes are used at the end of a massage on a specific area of the body to “wake the body up”.

Types of Tapotement and Benefits

1) Cupping

  • Create a cup or small bowl in each palm. Fingers should be very slightly bent at the knuckles and kept close togther with no gaps between them. The thumb should be creating the cup at the side, as if to hold water. The up and down motion with alternate hands is as with hacking. You should be hearing a definite slap and suction as hands go down and up. Slow start, more brisk later, all the way up and then down the body area. The noise should be a hollowed almost eachoed slapping.
  • Benefits of cupping – as with hacking. Also the suction created when the hand is lifted will stimulate skin and muscle causing erythema (skin reddening).

2) Hacking

  • Tucker L (2016) tells us the masseur should shake their hands out to relax them. The wrists should be relaxed throughout, as this is where movement comes from. If you are moving your forearms at the elbow too much, you will strike your client too hard. Hands are placed together in a prayer like posture on the clients skin. Fingers should be kept together. Come down lightly to start, with the edge of your hand and then back up. Alternate hands rhythmically. Continue more briskly moving up and down the length of the muscle.

  • Benefits of hacking – Rosser M (1996) says it stimulates soft tissues, improves circulation, tones muscles and skin, softens adipose (fatty) tissue and cellulite. Hacking is used regularly before sports events to invigorate muscle.
3) Beating
  • The masseur’s relaxed hands close into lightly clenched fists. Palms should be facing the client’s body. Wrists should be relaxed, as we don’t want to be hitting too hard. Create a rhythm, alternating hands, beating with the clenched fingers and fleshy part of each exposed palm. Move up and down the length of the muscle being massaged.

  • Benefits of beating – as with hacking. Also may help tone muscles in sports massage.
4) Pummelling (or Pounding)
  • Loosely clench relaxed hands into fists. Bring the fleshy part of each fist down alternately using the little finger side. As you pummel you should clench your fist tighter so to avoid damaging your own hands. Once down, the striking hand should move toward your body. The alternate hand should come down over the top. Create a slow and then brisker rhythm moving up and down the length of the muscle.

  • Benefits of pummeling – as with hacking. Also may help tone muscles in sports massage.
TRIVIA - Named in French

The name of these strokes, tapotement, is derived from the French language. According to Oxford dictionaries, its origin is the word topoter, which means to tap. Johann Georg Mezger, 1 of the 2 therapists accredited with creating Swedish massage, named many of the strokes in French.



Oxford Dictionaries (No Date) Definition of tapotement in English: [Online] Available at (Accessed 20 August 2018)

Tucker, L. (2016) An Introductory Guide to Massage, London, EMS Publishing

Rosser, M. (1996) Body Massage Therapy Basics, London, Hodder & Stoughton

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