Ah the ever-present Swedish Massage. A technique immortalized in popular culture and the most familiar modality to most people. Is there a reason why it is so well known and so popular though, apart from the assumption that if it's from Sweden it must be good?
In reality Swedish massage, at its origins, has absolutely nothing to do with Sweden or Swedish practitioners and is not even commonly called Swedish massage outside of the United States. Most modern historians attribute the creation of what is now referred to as Swedish Massage to a Dutch practitioner named Johan Georg Mezger who first coined a series of French terms that describe the strokes that make up the method: effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, and frictions.
These strokes and the entire method focus on improving blood circulation in surface muscles to relieve tension and induce heightened levels of muscle relaxation. Swedish massage is commonly used to treat a number of issues and conditions including:
Sensitive or Compromised Immune Systems
The relaxation achieved through the gentle strokes of Swedish massage has a profound impact on lowering the cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, our bodies’ stress hormone, can have a dampening effect on the immune system, rendering it less able to fight off infections or disease. Lower cortisol levels especially for people suffering from chronic pain or illnesses, is essential to managing their symptoms and enjoying a higher quality of life.
Rehabilitation from Injury
After rigorous exercise or injury, your body’s muscles often feel sore, tight, or kinked. This can be a result of bruising from impacts in contact sports or adhesions as a result of scar tissue that develops after an injury. Swedish massage works to relax the layers of muscles in and around an injury or area of soreness to relieve pain and improve mobility. People who receive Swedish massages after an injury often describe the feeling as “working out a knot”.
Improved Blood Flow
The stroke first described as effleurage by Johan Georg Mezger is practiced in long uniform movements, encouraging the flow of blood towards the heart. This is important especially in the healing of sore and injured muscles because better blood flow means more oxygen and other nutrients are being carried to the muscles and other organs while pushing out toxins and other harmful substances that you do not want sitting in your body.
Swedish massage and the series of strokes and techniques associated with it has been with us for quite some time. It is an incredibly approachable and relaxing method that is endlessly customizable to any person’s body or needs. If you are new to massage or considering adding holistic therapy to an injury or pain management plan, start out with an hour long Swedish massage and see how you feel. It is a great gateway to the many other methods and modalities available today and a great way to heal while feeling completely relaxed.