From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Body Mechanics: Working from the Core,” by Joseph Muscolino, in the June 2010 issue. Article summary: As any massage therapist in practice knows, massage—especially deep-tissue massage—can be hard work. It is physically taxing to create and deliver pressure hour after hour into the bodies of your clients. Much of the success you, as a therapist, will enjoy depends on the quality of your body mechanics.

by Paul Lewis

Have you ever wanted to learn an exercise you can incorporate easily into your daily routine? An exercise that educates you about yourself, telling you where tight, restrictive areas are; that helps to lengthen muscles and aids with mobility; and that you can do at any time, regardless of the clothing you have on?

The exercise I am about to describe to you not only has been taught to and practiced by health professionals themselves, but the feedback I receive reinforces the efficacy of the Lewis Circles as an effective and useful self-care exercise. I have received feedback from physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropodists, personal trainers and doctors who use this exercise for themselves and recommend it to their clients.

As busy health-care professionals, our schedules may get out of control, resulting in less time for our own personal well-being. This exercise takes about 60 seconds to do—so it is a time-saver for those concerned about using precious time exercising. 

Lewis Circles can be used as a warm-up or preventive activity to allow the shoulder area and surrounding muscles the opportunity to go through a range of motion we might not necessarily go through unless a planned activity requires that of us.

In simple terms, Lewis Circles is an exercise that engages muscles in the upper back, neck and shoulder area. As you move, you are increasing mobility throughout the cervical, thoracic and lumbar area. Muscles are contracting and others are elongating, increasing blood flow and helping with circulation. This exercise can be done in a seated position or standing with your knees slightly bent. (The reason for the bent knees is to reduce the amount of extension in the lumbar area.)

Lewis Circles: Self-Care for Health Care, MASSAGE Magazine, Picture 1(Picture 1) Start by placing your fingertips gently onto the tops of your shoulders. This action reduces the amount of tension placed on the shoulder muscles as you move your arm. Leading with the elbows, bring them together in front of your chest. This action will cause the pectoralis, or chest muscles, to contract at the same time as both the lateral rotator cuff muscles of the shoulders and the interscapular muscles (between the shoulder blades) are being lengthened.


Lewis Circles: Self-Care for Health Care, MASSAGE Magazine, Picture 2(Picture 2) Optional: If you lower your chin to your chest, you should feel a gentle lengthening of the muscles in the neck and in between the shoulder blades. (Picture 3)




Lewis Circles: Self-Care for Health Care, MASSAGE Magazine, Picture 3As you bring your head and eyes back to the horizon, lift your elbows upward, toward and as close as possible to your ears. The closer to your ears you can bring your elbows during the circles, the more your muscles are affected. This includes your triceps, subscapularis, teres major and back muscles. (?Picture 4)



Lewis Circles: Self-Care for Health Care, MASSAGE Magazine, Picture 4Each movement should be slow and controlled circles in one direction—three or four times are sufficient—and then in the other direction. Each time your elbows come together in front of your chest, you should bring your chin to your chest. (Picture 5)



Lewis Circles: Self-Care for Health Care, MASSAGE Magazine, Picture 5We need to invest in ourselves even if that means just a few minutes each day. Lewis Circles will you stay in shape, so you can create the massage practice of your dreams.




Paul Lewis is a registered massage therapist, fitness instructor and reflexologist, who enjoys changing the world one treatment at time. For more information, visit