What is a Swedish Massage?
Written By: Annette - Posted on 12/1/2013
Arguably the most common type of massage is the Swedish massage. Swedish massage is based on anatomy and physiology, which means that it takes into account the way the human body works, and uses that knowledge to make for a better, more effective massage. Even though no two massage therapists are the same and everyone uses different pressures, speeds, and focuses on different areas slightly more than others, there are certain constants for every Swedish massage. An interesting fact is that this type of massage is only called "Swedish massage" in countries that speak English or Dutch. In Sweden, it's simply called a "classic massage".
Usually, a Swedish massage lasts between 50 and 60 minutes, although some can last as long as 90 minutes. Before the actual massage itself begins, your massage therapist will normally have a consultation. During this time, you should tell the massage therapist about any injuries, allergies, or health conditions that you have, including pregnancy, so that they know if there are areas of your body that are more sensitive or that they need to take care not to reinjure. Also be sure to tell them about what areas of your body are tight and where you experience pain. The massage therapist may devote more time to these areas. You should avoid getting a massage if you are ill, both for your own safety and to avoid spreading illness to the massage therapist.
The massage itself can be deep tissue, or can be more gentle, depending on the style of the massage therapist and your preferences. If you have never had a massage before, you should start with a more gentle massage until you know how much pressure you can comfortably withstand.
Swedish massage has five basic strokes: effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, friction, and vibration. Effleurage, or stroking, is a gliding stroke over the body with palms, thumbs, and fingertips. Petrissage, or kneading, is a more firm stroke that uses the hands and thumbs to squeeze and knead the muscles. The third stroke is tapotement, or percussion. This means quick tapping, chopping, or hitting the muscles to relax them. With friction, the massage therapist uses circular pressure with the palms of the hands and thumbs. The final type of stroke, vibration, is the use of movements that shake the body, usually in varying speeds and intensities. All of these strokes are done in the direction of blood returning to the heart.
There are many health benefits to Swedish massage in particular. Massage reduces pain and joint stiffness. Those who suffer from arthritis in particular can find much relief from Swedish massage. It also breaks up muscle knots, or adhesions, which can relieve pain and relax the muscles. Swedish massage has also been proven to increase blood oxygen levels and circulation, to decrease muscle toxins and the release of stress hormones, and to increase flexibility. It can also improve the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells.
After your massage, you should be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid toxins for at least 24 hours. Also avoid strenuous exercise for the next day, and get plenty of rest to maximize the beneficial effects of the massage.