Swedish massage incorporates several specific techniques that combine to give you a relaxing and beneficial experience. They include:
- Long, sweeping strokes over a muscle that help to break up trigger points
- Kneading the muscle to work deeper into the affected area
- Rhythmically tapping an area with cupped hands to facilitate relaxation
- Friction or rubbing a muscle group rapidly with the palms to stimulate warmth
- Vibration or using the fingertips to quickly shake a muscle back and forth to loosen the area
What Is Swedish Massage?
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutchman, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage applications. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.
Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. One benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This is thought to contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection may also help facilitate better physical health.
Although Swedish massage may seem to be a more aggressive application than other massage and bodywork techniques such as shiatsu or acupressure, practitioners take a gentle approach and may even incorporate shiatsu and acupressure in their sessions.
What Is a Swedish Massage Session Like?
Swedish massage may be gentle, seem more aggressive in its approach, or something in-between. As a client, you can request light, medium, or intense pressure and ask the practitioner to adjust their touch accordingly. Sessions typically last 30-60 minutes.
Similar to Thai massage, in a Swedish massage the client’s joints and muscles are compressed and stretched. This can cause an immediate release of energy that might cause the skin to flush. Clients might also experience a few temporary aches as the body readjusts itself, depending on their level of flexibility and any current physical ailments. For example, a person who arrives at a practitioner’s office with an ultra-tight muscle that has been traumatized may experience some pain while the trauma is massaged out and worked through. In massage, areas of stress and pain can act as blockages to the body’s circulation, energy flow, and overall well-being.
During a Swedish Massage Session:
To enhance the therapeutic benefits, your practitioner will likely incorporate the following into your Swedish massage session:
- Oils, balms, herbal applications, or heat may be applied to the skin to calm the body and mind. With these external applications, the body begins to release stress and is more receptive to receive the massage technique’s benefits.
- Soft music is often used to further assist in relaxation.
- To help facilitate the symbolic action of “letting go” of stress and blockages, many Swedish massage practitioners will leave the room and invite the client to disrobe, with either a sheet or large towel always covering the client’s private areas.
- Stroking in smooth movements, kneading to loosen muscles, rubbing or friction with the practitioner using both hands back and forth in opposite directions, and striking (tapping or chopping the body with fingers or hands) are all used in combination. These movements help relax the body, increase circulation, and improve drainage in the lymphatic system.
The client may feel a little dizzy at the completion of the Swedish massage session. This feeling is due to the new and intense sensation of the body’s renewed energy and circulation. Clients are encouraged to nap if possible, to give the body more time to savor the experience, but to sit quietly for several minutes at the very least.
What Are the Health Benefits of Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage helps the body heal itself by physically manipulating and stimulating the body’s circulatory and lymphatic systems. This works to energize and help eliminate toxins in the body. Also, through Swedish massage, a high level of relaxation can often be achieved, and this relaxation can help prepare the body to act as an open, receptive vessel in which healing can more rapidly occur.
Studies have provided evidence that Swedish massage may be beneficial for specific conditions such as arthritis in the knees, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, blood pressure, immune system issues, severe headaches and migraines, and fibromyalgia.
A study by the University of Miami Medical School also determined that massage therapy can have significant mental health benefits. Participants in a five-week massage experiment reported fewer symptoms of depression, lowered anxiety, and better overall social function when compared to a group that received only standard medical treatment.
Swedish Massage for Self-Care
A healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you will help in nearly every encounter, from the home to the workplace. Regular Swedish massage can help you maintain greater emotional balance, a better functioning immune system, and a healthier lifestyle overall. Consider finding the right Swedish massage provider to add massage therapy to your self-care routine. This will help ensure that you can be the best caregiver for others when needed and may also help ensure your own needs are met, which is typically one goal of any self-care routine.
Benefits of Massage Therapy
Swedish massage therapy can be helpful with a number of other physical challenges, such as a reduction in scar tissue by physically manipulating the fibers of the tissue, allowing the scar tissue to be successfully reabsorbed into the skin. Additionally, it can aid with lymphatic drainage, where the long strokes of the therapist help move fluids successfully out of clogged areas.
Interestingly, many patients and therapists swear by massage as a way to reduce constipation or digestive upset, since the increased circulatory benefits and relaxation of the abdominal and lower back muscles can help relieve symptoms. In fact, a 2014 study from the British journal Nursing Standard highlights a number of the ways abdominal massage encourages muscle contraction, nudging the gut to move things along.
What is massage?
Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:
- Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping to help relax and energize you.
- Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
- Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sports activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
- Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Benefits of massage
Massage is generally considered part of complementary and integrative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.
Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension.
While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort, and connection.
Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.