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Particularly in this age of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive work injuries, hand massages are one of the nicest gifts one person can give another. After you learn the techniques below, teach them to your friends and partner. You'll want to be able to RECEIVE this massage, as well as give it.

When giving a hand massage, make sure that the recipient's elbow is resting comfortably. It's preferable for your partner to be lying down, with her elbow on a pillow. You can work on her hand while her arm is either up over her head or at her side.

Using a small amount of massage oil will allow you to rub the skin without friction, but it shouldn't leave your partner's hand feeling goopy when the massage is over. You may want to start the massage by rubbing her forearm to losen up the tendons there.

An important element of any massage is the constant skin-to-skin contact. Try to move from step to step without taking your hands off the recipient's hands. Repeat each step a MINIMUM of three times (more like 6 or 8 times, if you're feeling generous). Massage one hand at a time, that is, complete all steps on one of the recipient's hands and then start on the other.

Massages are best given in a quiet, relaxing atmosphere with low light and calming music. You'll start with strong-pressure massage techniques and progress until the final massage technique involving virtually no pressure.

1. Turning the Hand: Steady the recipient's arm with one of your hands and use your other hand to gently press her fingers back toward her wrist. Turn her hand to each side until you feel resistence. Repeat. Bend her wrist the opposite direction, so her hand is hanging down. Again, turn the hand side to side until you feel resistence. (Never push past the point of resistence--the hand is a tender and delicate creature).

2. Spreading the Hand: Hold the recipient's hand in both your hands, with your thumbs against her palm. Push your thumbs against her palm and your fingers gently against the back of her hand as you pull up and out. Circle your thumbs and fingers back to the starting position and repeat.

3. Kneading the Palm: Hold the recipient's hand in both of your hands, with your thumbs toward her palm. Rub your thumbs in small circles throughout the center of the palm.

4. Knuckle the Palm: Make a loose fist and roll it like a ball in the recipient's palm. Your knucles create special points of firm pressure, so be sure to rotate your hands so the knuckles move over the entire palm.

5. Stroking/Pulling: Wrap your fingers and palms lightly around the recipient's forearm and run both your hands down the length of her arm and hand.

After several repetitions of this, begin to repeat the motion with one of your hands at a time and end the movement by tightening your grip slightly when you reach her hand and pulling the hand away from the wrist. Just as one of your hands slides off the recipient's hand, start the downward stroke at the forearm with your other hand.

After several repetitions of this, change to pulling lightly on individual fingers, rather than her whole hand. Repeat until you have pulled on each finger several times.

6. Brushing: This final technique involves a light touch that becomes increasingly lighter until you break contact to either switch to the recipient's other hand or end the massage. Run one of your hands (palms and fingers) lightly down her forearm and hand. Just as that hand reaches her fingertips and is about to break contact, repeat the stroke with the other hand. Make your touch lighter with each repetition until you finally break contact.