Swedish massage is one of the most well-known massage techniques in the industry, but it may not always get the credit it deserves when it comes to repairing and rejuvenating both your mind and body. Often overshadowed by the more in-depth and specific modalities such as deep tissue, trigger point and sports massage, Swedish massage techniques have pioneered the power of touch to relax, heal and rejuvenate for hundreds of years.
“Swedish is a lighter massage that is all about relaxing,” explains Kayla Spicer, massage therapist at Elements. “I like to start out slow and then get deeper as I listen to the body. You should always start with Swedish strokes in any massage because you have to warm up the tissue before you can ever think about going deeper and correcting a certain condition.”
Relax with Long, Steady Strokes
The cornerstone of Swedish massage is using long, rhythmic strokes to help the brain and body relax in tandem. Its relaxing, therapeutic nature is one of the many reasons that Swedish massage continues to be one of the most requested and delivered therapy modalities in studios across the country.
There are five basic strokes attributed to Swedish massage, all of which can be used in the same session to relax and unwind your mind and body. The Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals describe Swedish techniques to include:
- Effleurage – Repetitive gliding strokes the therapist does with their palms, thumbs or fingertips.
- Petrissage – Kneading, squeezing or pressing motions used to release muscle tension and reduce knots.
- Tapotement – Rhythmic tapping motion used to release tight muscles and relax muscle spasms.
- Friction – Deeply penetrating circular motion used to stimulate nerves and relax muscles.
- Vibration – This relaxing technique increases blood flow, which helps to promote pain relief and deep relaxation.
“Being able to relax with a Swedish massage is amazing,” says Spicer. “This type of massage is a great jumping-off point for someone to get introduced into massage. But it’s also great for people like me who can heal better and more effectively when they’re totally relaxed and able to turn off their brain.”
Repair Stressed Muscles with Tender Loving Care
Although considered a gentler touch therapy, Swedish massage is a powerful tool for relieving tense muscles and relaxing tight areas throughout your body. This technique also can help improve your immunity by moving lymph fluids and releasing the body’s natural feel good hormones that can help you heal. You can get many of the same physical benefits of massage with Swedish that you can achieve with other deeper modalities, says Spicer. It all just comes down to what clients need and what level of pressure they can handle.
“I think that everyone can benefit from massage, but not everyone is willing to go slow, go lighter and focus on the relaxation part,” says Spicer. “There’s a misconception that in order to help someone physically, you have to go in deep to break up adhesions and work the muscles. Sometimes, you can get more benefit by going slow and having a lighter touch. With Swedish massage, the muscles relax and allow you to get deeper so you can do the healing work you need to do.”
Rejuvenate the Mind and Body with the Total Package of Swedish Massage
Swedish massage has continued to provide positive results throughout the years for promoting health and wellness for both the mind and body. Studies such as A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals have even found that only one Swedish massage therapy session can positively benefit biological effects on immune functionality and hormones associated with the nervous system. After only a single 45-minute Swedish massage, the study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that adults experienced an improvement in the immune system by increasing lymphocytes circulation, as well as a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol and other associated nervous system hormones.1
“I really enjoy Swedish because it allows me to work in a relaxing and therapeutic way,” shares Spicer. “Using all of the different Swedish strokes, you can make a real difference for people both mentally and physically. Swedish isn’t just a basic massage technique. It’s all about using different rhythmic strokes to help the brain relax for a while and allow the body to begin the healing process.”
If you’re like most people in today’s society that have trouble relaxing and tuning out all of the daily distractions, then Swedish massage may be the best answer to help you unwind, release tension, and start feeling better both mentally and physically. As the building block to most other massage modalities and the basis for typical education in the massage therapy industry, Swedish massage is readily available at almost every massage studio in the country. Just like with any massage, though, it’s important to choose a licensed therapist who listens to your needs and adjusts the pressure appropriately so that you can enjoy all of the mental and physical benefits of a healing touch.