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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Scalp Massage

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Greetings Sacred Clients! I am Kirby Clark Ellis, Master Massage Therapist, Board Certified In Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.

To close out the year, I’m doing a series of videos on Informed Consent Body Regions.

The scalp is considered a body region that requires informed consent because sometimes clients do not like or do not want their scalp worked on.

Sometimes clients have an aversion to having oil or even the thought of oil used on their scalp or in their hair!

Clients might not realize that scalp massage is within the scope of practice for massage therapists.

Clients may not want their scalp worked on for aesthetic, cultural, or religious reasons.

It is the massage therapists job to respect those boundaries and require informed consent before working on a client’s scalp.

You can see this client chose to leave their headband on for this scalp massage demonstration. And that’s perfectly fine, we can do effective work either through or around the headband.

When working with the scalp, it’s important to remember that goal isn’t to massage the client’s hair! It’s a scalp massage! The tissue of the scalp needs to be engaged, moved, and massaged.

When massaging the scalp, it is best to use the pads of your fingertips and thumbs, spreading your fingers out like a fan.

With longer haired clients, you need to avoid moving the hair around to avoid tangling. Plant your fingers and really engage the thin layer of soft tissue.

Shorter hair, or those with shaved or bald heads are less prone to tangling, but be mindful that some clients may fear that scalp massage might pull out or remove more hair.

It is appropriate to use sustained compressive forces over traditional longer massage strokes.

The scalp is made up of approximately 8 cranial bones and approximately 4 cranial muscles.

The scalp can be thought of as the cage that houses, supports, and protects our body’s central nervous systems most vital organ- the brain!

The scalp is also the immediate next door neighbor to the 4 of the 5 major senses; sight, smell, sound, and taste.

So much sensory input happens and is processed around the scalp and the face.

Speaking of which, one of the reasons why it is hard to give an accurate count of scalp muscles and bones is because it is challenging to determine where the scalp ends and the face begins.

You might argue that the scalp ends with the hairline, but if we use that as a definitive boundary then we exclude portions of the frontalis and temporalis muscles.

Conversely, if we include those muscles as exclusive to the scalp, we lose the forehead and temples as part of the face.

Most anatomical texts and resources skirt this challenge by simply lumping scalp and facial anatomy all together. Making no distinction between the two.

But what do you think? Where does the scalp end and the face begin? How do you differentiate the two?

Tension or dysfunction in the Shoulders, Neck, and Face can all creep into the scalp and linger.

Scalp massage can either be done dry (meaning completely free of massage lubrication- I typically wash my hands before working on the scalp myself) or with the use of body or essential oils.

Remember, scalp massage is NOT hair massage! A massage therapist should plant their fingers and manipulate the thin tissue of the scalp.

Notice how I end this scalp massage with gentle compressive force into the scalp.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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