BURP Guidelines

What BURP Is and Isn’t

BURP members are trained to provide backrubs that focus on the neck, shoulders, and upper back.  Our goal is to encourage relaxation and to give community members a new perspective on their day.  We are not professional massage therapists and we do not claim to help people with their medical conditions.  Also, all of our backrubs are free.


  • You must complete a minimum of 3 one-hour burp events each semester.
  • If you sign up for an event, you are expected to be there on time and to stay for the entire session.  This is a commitment you make to your fellow BURPers and to the people attending our events. 
  • If you need to miss the event you are signed up for, it is your responsibility to find a replacement and to notify the BURP Coordinator ASAP. 
  • If you miss more than one event without finding a replacement, you will be taken off the mailing list. This is especially important because an event cannot run with just one BURPer (you will never BURP alone).


  • Giving backrubs to a stranger requires a lot of trust from both sides.  That is why we make an effort to be as respectful and professional as possible.
  • Wear your BURP t-shirt (provided) and nametag at every event. This is your uniform!
  • Create a safe, comfortable environment for the people attending our sessions.
  • Keep conversations to a minimum when massaging.
  • Always introduce yourself to the people you are BURPing.
  • Ask for consent before touching someone.  Never try to force anyone into getting a backrub.
  • Respect people’s boundaries.
  • Focus on the person in your chair. Make them feel like these five minutes are all about them. 
  • Thank them for coming before they leave.


  • BURP backrubs are limited to the neck, shoulders, and upper back.  There is no excuse for inappropriate touching.  Complaints of this nature will be investigated by the Coordinator and the Health Education supervisors.
  • Please save flirting and pick-up lines for another time.  You do not want your intentions to be misconstrued or make the person in your chair uncomfortable.
  • Don’t ask personal questions or comment on people’s bodies.
  • Medical ailments and pain: 
  • Remember, you are not a professional massage therapist.  If someone tells you that they are in pain or have a medical condition, refer them to Health Services immediately. You could aggravate the situation or make yourself liable.
  • You should also stop immediately if the person is in pain during the backrub.  Refer them to Health Services or a professional.
  • As a BURPer, you also have to be aware of your own boundaries.  Your first responsibility is to yourself.  If someone makes you uncomfortable in any way, just excuse yourself, end the BURP session, and tell your team leader or the BURP Coordinator.
  • Likewise, if anyone at the BURP session is acting disruptive or is being disrespectful or inappropriate in their behavior towards you or the other people at the session, inform your team leader and the BURP Coordinator. We are here to help you!

BURP Event Outline


  • A campus group or department will request an event (via email or the online form).
  • Once the event has a definite date, time, and location, the BURP Coordinator will send the request out to the mailing list and/or create a Google Calendar event specifying the number of volunteers needed. There will be a weekly “BURP Digest” that lists all the events that need volunteers.
  • Email [email protected] if you are able to volunteer for the event.  Indicate whether or not you can be the team leader when applicable.  This is typically the first person to sign up for the event when the BURP Coordinator cannot make it, and they are responsible for picking up and returning the supply bag to Health Services, Faunce, or another location. 
  • There is a minimum of two BURPers per event.  You will never be asked to BURP alone.
  • The BURP Coordinator will confirm the event and send you a reminder email.

Event Day

  • If you are the team leader, don’t forget to pick up the BURP bag from Health Services, the Faunce front desk, or its current location. 
  • If the bag is in Health Services: During business hours it will be in Health Education on the 3rd floor. After hours it will be located in the Nurses Station (ring the bell outside Health Services and let them know you are there to pick up the bag).  The supply bag will include a clipboard with posters and sign-in sheets, sanitizing hand lotion, hair ties, pens, nametags, CDs, and a CD player.
  • Everyone should arrive at the event 10 minutes early to set up and get ready. You must stay for the whole event.
  • Make sure you wash your hands before the event begins.  You can also use hand sanitizer between backrubs.
  • As people come in, have them sign-in for a backrub.  This will allow you keep track of the event and provide an important record for the Coordinator.
  • Each backrub should last from 5-8 minutes.
  • At the end of the event, clean up the area and collect all of the supplies.
  • The team leader should make sure an evaluation is filled out by the person requesting the event.
  • The supply bag must be returned to Health Services by the next morning.  If there are multiple events in one day the Coordinator may request that you return it sooner.

Helpful Hints

  • You may need to trim your fingernails and remove jewelry to give effective backrubs.
  • Be fully present and focused on the individual in your chair.  Clear your thoughts and remind yourself of your intentions for this session.
  • Take some time before the event to stretch and do some deep breathing.  By clearing your own stress, you immediately make this experience more enjoyable for both of you.
  • SLOW is best! Don’t rush through the session.
  • Try not to break physical contact with the person you’re BURPing.
  • Start and end each session the same way- it gives the recipient a feeling of coming full circle.
  • Watch your position!  Bend your knees, not your lower back, to accommodate height differences.
  • Take care of yourself.  Don’t hurt your hands or lower back. Don’t feel guilty for taking a quick break if you are tired.  You are providing an amazing service for other people and you need to be generous to yourself.  Remember: this is supposed to be enjoyable for both you and the recipient!

BURPing Sequence/Protocol 

The following is a suggested usual back-rub sequence—you can vary the back-rub as you see fit or as suits your preference and back-rubbing style.

1.  Introduction

  •  “Hi, my name is __________ and I am going to be your BURPer today.  What’s your name? Have you ever been BURPed before? If I do anything that makes you uncomfortable at any time, please tell me.”
  • “Make sure that both of your feet are firmly on the ground and that your arms are relaxed.”  (Make sure that they have nothing in their lap.) 
  • “If you would like to remove your jacket/sweater/tie you can do so.”
  • “If you would like to put your hair back, I have a hair tie for you.”
  • “If you like, you can close your eyes and take a few deep, slow breaths to begin.”

2.  Hands on shoulders
Place your full hands on the person’s shoulders, letting them rest there for a few moments. In this first contact, you are letting them know your intention as a BURPer.

3.  Shoulder Squeeze
Squeezing with both hands, move slowly from the base of the neck, over the shoulders and down to the elbows. Do this SLOWLY 2 – 3 times.

4.  Upper Traps
Squeezing/pressing just tops of the shoulders. Try both hands on one side using petrissage (kneading) and then switch to the other side. Then with hands on both sides of the neck, alternating pressure from side-to-side or at the same time by circling with thumbs, pressing down with palms, using your flat knuckles, forearms—be creative. A lot depends on the size of the person and the size of your hands. You can repeat one stroke or vary between different strokes. 

5.  Scapula
Start by using your palm, stroke down from the traps into the scapular area. Use lateral strokes across the scapular area, and then you can switch to using both hands to rub one side at a time.  Stabilize one shoulder blade with one hand and work on the opposite scapula with the other hand. Press your palm/hand into scapular area (e.g. standing to the left side, your left hand pulls their left blade back so your right hand can press in on the right side).       

6. Spine
Stabilize one shoulder. Start at the top of the spine using your other palm to push away from the spine out to the lateral side of the body.  Repeat on the other side.  Use compression or cross fiber strokes with thumbs and/or knuckles to rub either side of the spine. Never on top of the spine; that can be painful. Always work from the spine out.   

7.  Neck
Using compression with one hand, squeeze the neck up to the hairline and back down again.  Repeat with the other hand. 

8.  Shoulder Squeeze          
Repeat #2

9.  Brush-off
Dust off shoulders, back and arms with palms of hands in a light, soothing motion, completing the session.

10. Closing
Tell the BURPee that you are finished and thank them for coming!

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