Swedish Massage: The Ultimate Guide

We’ve put together the web's very best guide to Swedish massage. Read on to find out what's involved, including the techniques used and a brief history of the treatment itself, as well as detailed information about the many health benefits of receiving a Swedish massage...


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What is Swedish Massage?

Swedish Massage – also known as classic massage – is a holistic therapeutic (non-sensual) treatment, which uses various massage strokes to stimulate the muscle tissue, relieving stiffness and promoting relaxation. It is the best-known and most common form of massage in the West.

 

The Five Basic Strokes of Swedish Massage

Although there are just five main Swedish massage strokes, they have myriad variations and can be put together in many combinations. The massage therapist will use the information provided by the client during the consultation to tailor the treatment to suit their individual needs.

The Five Basic Strokes of Swedish Massage

Effleurage
This is the first stroke which will be used during a Swedish massage and warms up the tissue in preparation for deeper work. Effleurage (a French word meaning ‘to skim’) is a light circular gliding movement, performed with either the finger pads or the palm. It is also used at the end of the massage. Watch a video.

Petrissage
A French word meaning ‘to knead’, this encompasses a number of strokes designed to stimulate the deeper tissue. The palms, fingertips, knuckles and thumbs are used to knead, squeeze, wring, and roll the skin with an applied pressure and rhythmic movement. Watch a video.

Tapotement
An invigorating rhythmic percussion designed to wake up the nervous system. It is performed in five different ways; beating with a soft fist, slapping with fingers, hacking with the edge of the hand, tapping with fingertips, and cupping – slapping with a cupped hand. Tapotement is derived from a French word meaning ‘to tap or to drum’. Watch a video.

Friction
As it sounds, these are quick, rubbing, cross-fibre strokes, designed to create friction and heat. They are performed superficially at first to warm up the soft tissue, and then deeper to loosen tight muscles and ease knots. Watch a video.

Vibration
Again, this stroke is as it sounds and involves agitating, shaking or jostling an area of the body and is applied with differing speed and pressure. Applied finely, with the fingertips, it can stimulate tight muscle tissue or applied coarsely, an entire joint may be shaken, loosening ligaments. Watch a video.

 

The Origins of Swedish Massage

Contrary to popular belief, Swedish massage did not originate in Sweden, nor was it created by a Swede. Many massage books attribute its creation to Peter Henry Ling, a Swede who developed ‘medical gymnastics’ (or physical therapy) and founded the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute in 1813, but massage was not part of his theory. It was, in fact, Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) who devised the basic strokes and adopted the French names.

 

The Many Health Benefits of Swedish Massage

The main aim of Swedish massage is to push blood towards the heart and Improve circulation. This brings new, oxygen and nutrient rich, blood to the muscles and skin, which has been scientifically proven to help with all sorts of ailments, including:

Achy / tight muscles, back pain, joint stiffness, arthritis, stress, fatigue, headaches, low immunity, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, swelling, scar tissue, numb fingers / toes, water retention, saggy skin, varicose veins, dry skin, insomnia

 

Swedish Massage – What to Expect

Before the massage begins, the client will have a consultation with the therapist, during which time the client will be asked to provide information about any injuries or conditions, specific areas of pain or any allergies. The therapist should also ask the client what level of pressure they are comfortable with.

The client will then be asked to undress (either fully or to underwear, according to client’s preference) and lie face down or face up on the massage table. The massage therapist will leave the room. The client will be provided with a towel to cover themselves.

When the therapist re-enters, they will start by uncovering the area of the body they intend to work on first, leaving the rest covered. This method is called ‘draping’.

The back is usually the first area to be treated and the therapist will begin by applying massage oil to lubricate the skin and aid smooth, gliding strokes. Next, he or she will work the back of each leg, before asking the client to turn over. The therapist will hold the towel up and look away while the client does this. They will then massage the front of each leg, both arms and finish with the neck and shoulders. The treatment generally lasts around one hour, but ‘express’ and or more extensive massages are available.

 

Booking a Swedish Massage

At Embrace Massage we offer bespoke Swedish massage treatments, performed by highly-skilled therapists and lasting from between one to two hours. We operate a 7-days-a-week outcall service, travelling to your home or hotel in London, Bristol or Cardiff. For more information, or to book, click the buttons below.

 

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