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Enhancing Massage's Therapeutic Benefits With Bamboo

Elaine Sauer and Cassandra Stratton June 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Bamboo Fusion Massage

Discovering new modalities in massage can be so invigorating because it is one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine, along with food, herbs, meditation and prayer. The Bamboo Fusion Massage is an innovative treatment that combines heat, natural tools and rhythmic massage movements to relax the body and rejuvenate the soul.


Growing in popularity worldwide, the Bamboo Fusion Massage uses heated bamboo shoots of varying sizes that glide deeply across the body, to relax soreness and promote mental and physical well-being. Created for clients who prefer a more intense massage, this treatment is ideal for both women and men because it strikes a balance between a deep tissue massage and a stress-reducing treatment.

One version of the Bamboo Fusion Massage was created and designed by Nathalie Cecilia, who was born in the Provence region of southern France and graduated from the Sarasota School of Massage Therapy in Sarasota, Florida, in 2004, where she specialized in Thai massage therapy.

A petite woman, Cecilia was seeking innovative ways to improve the effectiveness of her deep tissue techniques. Her idea for the Bamboo Fusion Massage stemmed from the success of hot stone massages, which help to melt muscle tension, combined with her knowledge of Chinese, Indonesian and other Asian beliefs that hold bamboo as a symbol of life energy, prosperity, longevity and more.

By integrating heated bamboo stalks infused with oils into the experience, Cecilia was able to prolong her stamina for deep tissue massage and increase the benefits to her clients, who felt the advantages of a traditional deep tissue therapy, as well as a greater feeling of vitality, strength and youthful rejuvenation. In fact, in China, stalks of bamboo still symbolize eternal youth, strength, prosperity and peace.

The bamboo serves as an extension of the therapist’s hands, making the tools seamless to use. When offering heat therapy in massage, it induces the relaxation response more quickly, creating a faster reduction of stress and tension within the tissue. This, in turn, relieves tight, sore muscles more quickly, enabling clients to enjoy the relaxation response earlier during the massage, thereby providing them greater results for their time.

Using bamboo also allows therapists to provide a deeper massage without injuring themselves or causing repetitive injuries, such as carpal tunnel. The use of the bamboo sticks reduces the stress placed on thumbs and wrists, which can extend a therapist’s longevity in this industry. In addition to the traditional table massage, the Bamboo Fusion Massage can be effective during seated chair massages.


Bamboo Fusion Massage gives clients a deep sense of well-being and relaxation. It also helps skin become more supple and relieves tightness and tension while rejuvenating the body and mind. As with most massages, there are contraindications to consider, which include neuropathy, diabetes, high blood pressure, pregnancy, recent breast implants, fractures and dislocations. Also, clients who are taking medications that are affected by heat should avoid this service.

Marketing the experience

Although e-mail outreach and in-spa signage are musts when it comes to promoting this service, it is also crucial to focus on getting key influencers into your skin care facility for a complimentary Bamboo Fusion Massage so they can experience the unique service firsthand.

To launch the massage, consider hosting a special two-day event, inviting select guests and reporters to enjoy an exclusive, complimentary Bamboo Fusion experience. This type of event can achieve two important objectives: It will create word-of-mouth buzz among clients, and it will generate stories in trusted media sources, adding further credibility to that buzz and your facility’s other outreach efforts.

Finally, it is important that your team members remain focused on keeping that post-launch momentum going strong. This can be achieved by giving bamboo-themed gifts to VIPs for the holidays, continuing to schedule private Bamboo Fusion Massage experiences for the media, and using social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spur conversations with clients about the service.

Elaine Sauer is a business and spa consultant, former corporate director of Mario Tricoci Salons and Day Spas, and a member of Skin Inc. magazine’s 2010–2011 advisory board.


Cassandra Stratton, corporate massage trainer for Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas, is a licensed massage therapist with 11 years of spa industry experience. She has held both managerial and technical positions throughout her career, and has advanced training in table Thai, myofascial release, hydrotherapy, sports, chronic pain, lymph drainage, cancer and pregnancy massage. She is a guest lecturer at Cortiva Institute and Harper College in Illinois.



Bamboo Fusion Massage Step-by-step Treatment

Cost: $105–158

Duration: 50–80 minutes

Products needed

Basic massage oil

Disinfecting wipes

Supplies needed

Electric moist heating pad that is 17 x 27 inches to prevent the bamboo sticks from drying.

Full set of bamboo sticks including:

1 large-full; a large 16-inch long round bamboo stick

1 half-full; an 8-inch round bamboo

2 thin 16-inch sticks (these two sticks are both wrapped at one end with a soft cloth that is used for a firm, but gentle tapotement technique)

4 half-cuts; two 8-inch round sticks cut lengthwise to offer a rounded side and a flat side

Step 1: As you complete a thorough health background interview with the client, make sure the bamboo sticks warm in a moist heating pad. The table should be warm and comfortable, with a sheet and blanket to cover the client, who should only be undraped in the areas that the therapist is working. Also, taking care of the bamboo sticks is a priority; if they are dropped or miss-used they could split or chip. It is very rare, but a thorough inspection of the sticks prior to each treatment is recommended. If there is a small chip or split, it can be filed down with a very fine nail file.

Step 2: At the start of the massage, employ a technique using two thin 16-inch tapotement sticks to stimulate circulation. Use basic massage oil throughout the massage on all the bamboo sticks to provide a smooth glide. The rhythmic vibration from shoulders to feet of the tapotement sticks prepares the body for a deep state of relaxation.

Step 3: With client lying face down, start at the client’s back. Use the large bamboo stick to work the upper trapezius with a rolling and pivoting technique to knead out the knots in the shoulders and neck.

Step 4: Use the half-full stick turned on end to work the details around the scapula with gentle, direct pressure.

Step 5: Use two warm half-cuts to finish the back with long, gliding, flowing techniques.

Step 6: With the large-full, apply kneading, rolling and pivoting techniques to work out the strong muscles in the legs and gluts. The bamboo’s heat will help provide relaxation as the techniques offer relief by stretching and working out the tension for over-used muscles in the calves and hamstrings.

Step 7: Use the two thin 16-inch tapotement sticks again to finish the posterior side of the body.

Step 8: Ask the client to lie on her back, holding the towel for privacy. Use the two half-cuts across the décolleté, around the shoulders and up the back and sides of the neck. Pivoting the sticks around the upper traps with each half-cut will release muscle tension in the shoulders or reduce the pain of a stiff neck.

Step 9: After removing the cloth cover from one of the tapotement sticks, the thin, warm stick will be used for gentle traction at the base of the skull. This technique provides great relief for tension headaches.

Step 10: Next, use long, gliding strokes with the half-cuts to work on the forearms, palms and provide a good stretch for the fingers.

Step 11: A gentle gliding motion should be used to warm the muscles of the lower leg and quads using two half-cuts.

Step 12: With a gentle bend of the client’s knee, use the large-full stick to address the arch of the foot, lower leg and quads by using a rolling, kneading and pivoting technique.

Step 13: Detailed work can be done using the end of the half-cut on the tibialis anterior, which is always over-used by runners and high-heel wearers.

Step 14: Gently hold the feet with two warm half-cuts on the bottom of each foot as a closing ritual that ends the massage.

Step 15: After thanking the client, offering her a refreshing lemon water and providing a shower facility or warm washcloths if a shower is unavailable. Disinfect all the bamboo sticks with disinfecting wipes to ensure sanitation for the next client.

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