The Swedish massage is one of the most popular massage techniques in the entire world. It is the foundation for all other types of Western massages, such as sports massage, deep tissue massage, and aromatherapy massage. It is based on the western concepts of anatomy and physiology – therefore being completely different from eastern massages such as the Japanese Shiatsu massage.
Who Invented the Swedish Massage?
Pehr Henrik Ling is credited with developing the Swedish massage techniques all the way back in 1812 at the University of Stockholm. It was used extensively in sanitariums, today’s equivalent of massage spas. Based on Henrik’s system called “Medical Gymnastics,” the system included movements performed by a therapist.
The Swedish massage uses gentle but firm movements to improve circulation and ease muscle tension and pain. A deep tissue massage is another form of Swedish massage that is meant to relieve chronic muscle pain.
What Happens During a Swedish Massage?
A Swedish massage begins with lubricating the skin with massage oils and gentle massage strokes. These initial strokes are meant to warm up the muscle tissue before applying greater pressure. This is a great time to tell the masseuse if you have any places he/she should target or if there are places on your body where you feel the most pain.
During a Swedish massage, the therapist or masseuse will tell you to lie face-down or face-up. Traditionally in this massage, you will be naked and covered with only a towel. If you are uncomfortable with this – it’s okay to keep your underwear on.
Tip: A good masseuse will ask if you want light or firm pressure before the massage begins.
What are the Benefits?
A Swedish massage promotes mind and body relaxation, calms the nervous system, reduces tension and anxiety, improves blood circulation, relieves muscle cramps and pain, and may even help relieve the pain of arthritis and sciatica.
Swedish massages are considered full-body massages as they target all the major muscle groups in the body. People who are not used to receiving a massage may prefer a Swedish massage as it is a much gentler form of massage than compared to the deep-kneading tissue massages of the east such as Japanese Shiatsu, Chinese traditional massage or the body-bending Thai massage.
Four Most Common Swedish Massage Techniques
You have most likely seen these massage strokes on television or in a movie – as the Swedish massage is the most common massage performed in the west.
Effleurage – These strokes are long gliding strokes. Effleurage strokes can begin from the neck and move down the spine or from the shoulder all the way down to the fingers. A proper effleurage stroke always moves towards the heart – in order to improve blood flow.
Petrissage – This massage stroke digs deep into the muscle and is meant to move muscles away from the bone, targeting them separately. The muscles are then rolled and squeezes between the masseuse’s fingers or palms, compressing and kneading them to improve circulation and help remove toxins.
Friction – In a Swedish massage, the friction stroke is the deepest movement by making deep circular movements with the thumbs or fingertips. This technique is best used near joints and muscle insertions, aiming to remove knots, relieve pain and improve flexibility.
Tapotement – Commonly seen as the exact movement as a karate chop, this is both a funny and incredibly relaxation massage technique. By quickly chopping a target area with the side of one’s hand, it creates an invigorating feeling that is both gentle and effective. Great on a muscle that is tense as this movement helps to loosen it.
Interesting fact: The Swedish massage is known as a “classic massage” in Sweden!