Swedish Massage

Swedish massage should be relaxing.

Swedish massage is the most common and best-known type of massage in the West. If it's your first time at the spa or you don't get massage very often, Swedish massage is the perfect massage for you. If you want deeper work and can tolerate more pressure, even momentary discomfort, to get relief from muscle pain, it's better to book a deep tissue massage, which is another form of Swedish massage. Swedish massage and other types of therapeutic massage are performed by trained, licensed massage therapists. A Swedish massage can be slow and gentle, or vigorous and bracing, depending on the therapist's personal style and what he or she wants to achieve.

What Happens During A Swedish Massage

In all Swedish massage, the therapist lubricates the skin with massage oil and performs various massage strokes. These movements warm up the muscle tissue, releasing tension and gradually breaking up muscle "knots" or adhered tissues, called adhesions. Swedish massage promotes relaxation, among other health benefits. Before the massage, the therapist should ask you about any injuries or other conditions that he or she should know about. Things you would want tell a therapist include areas of tightness or pain, allergies, and conditions like pregnancy. You can also tell them up front if you have a preference for light or firm pressure. It's best not to get a massage if you are ill. After the consultation, the therapist instructs you how to lie on the table -- face up or face down, and underneath the sheet or towel -- and then leaves the room. He or she will knock or ask if you are ready before entering.

Why It's Called Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology as opposed to energy work that is more common in Asian-style massage. Both Swedish massage and physical therapy were pioneered by a Swedish physiologist, Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839)at the University of Stockholm. In the early 19th century he developed a system called "Medical Gymnastics" which included movements performed by a therapist. These became the known as "Swedish movements" in Europe and "the Swedish Movement Cure" when they came to the U.S. in 1858. Today it is simply known as Swedish massage. Swedish massage is the foundation for other types of Western massage, including sports massage, deep tissue massage and aromatherapy massage.

The Techniques Used in Swedish Massage

  • Swedish massage techniques include: long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, percussion, vibration, effleurage, and shaking motions. The usually sequence of techniques are:
  • Effleurage: Gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs and/or fingertips
  • Petrissage: Kneading movements with the hands, thumbs and/or fingers
  • Friction: Circular pressures with the palms of hands, thumbs and/or fingers
  • Vibration: Oscillatory movements that shake or vibrate the body
  • Percussion: Brisk hacking or tapping
  • Passive and active movements: Bending and stretching