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What's the Difference? Swedish vs. Relaxation Massage

What's the Difference? Swedish vs. Relaxation Massage

RondaKae K. Vainikka

Swedish vs. Relaxation

No two terms in Massage Therapy get as confused as “Swedish” and “Relaxation.” This may be because industry professionals are not fully aware of what Swedish Massage includes; and that many have learned “Swedish” Techniques in their Relaxation Massage Classes.

When you think of Relaxation, you think of words like, warm, lazy, calm, soft, slow, all of which Swedish Massage can be. Effleurage and Petrissage, two of the most well known of Swedish Massage techniques are performed at a slow pace with light to medium pressure, and can be the very picture of “Relaxation.” Performed at a faster pace, or with circulatory intent they are more fitting for a pre-event or post-event Sports Massage.

When you think of Relaxation, you don't typically think of tissue being shook-up, louder noises, and chopping motions. These are signature methods of the other three slightly lesser known Swedish Massage Techniques, Tapotement, Friction and Vibration. These techniques are more commonly used to break up adhesions, which is not a  “Relaxation” experience, yet, very much a Swedish one.

“Swedish Massage” was the common phrase for Massage when it was originally introduced into the United States. It is comprised of the following strokes:

Effleurage: Long gliding strokes, slow for relaxation, fast for circulatory intent such as Sports Massage

Petrissage: Lifting and Kneading of Muscles, slow and light for relaxation, fast or with deeper pressure for circulatory, or clinical intent.

Tapotement: Percussion type technique that will shake-up & wake-up the tissue.

Friction: More specific rubbing motion, usually performed with deeper pressure to unstick adhesions in muscle tissue.

Vibration: Rapid shaking or vibrating of specific muscles also to break up adhesions.

I don't know at exactly what point in history people started equating “Relaxation” with “Swedish” and why so many people have jumped on the bandwagon to keep the misconception rolling. As you can see, Swedish Massage is much more than just Relaxation and when applied in its full scope, may not seem relaxing at all!! It is my hope that the above has been helpful in showing you the difference between “Relaxation” vs “Swedish” Massage so that you can confidently schedule your future massages.


RondaKae K. Vainikka AAS BCTMB

Therapist Team Manager

Elements Massage

5640 W. 36th Street

St. Louis Park, MN 55416











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