Swedish massage is one of the most recognized categories of massage techniques. The main focuses of Swedish massage are increasing blood flow and circulation, assisting in draining the lymphatic system to support immune system function, and creating a more relaxed state of being. Unobstructed blood flow and lymph drainage both help keep the body in good working order and are considered essential in maintaining the body’s defenses against illness and disease.
What Is Swedish Massage?
Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. In English, these movements are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking.
Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. One benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This is thought to contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection may also help facilitate better physical health.
Although Swedish massage may seem to be a more aggressive application than other massage and bodywork techniques such as shiatsu or acupressure, practitioners take a gentle approach and may even incorporate shiatsu and acupressure in their sessions.
What Is a Swedish Massage Session Like?
Swedish massage may be gentle, seem more aggressive in its approach, or something in-between. As a client, you can request light, medium, or intense pressure and ask the practitioner to adjust their touch accordingly. Sessions typically last 30-60 minutes.
Similar to Thai massage, in a Swedish massage the client’s joints and muscles are compressed and stretched. This can cause an immediate release of energy that might cause the skin to flush. Clients might also experience a few temporary aches as the body readjusts itself, depending on their level of flexibility and any current physical ailments. For example, a person who arrives at a practitioner’s office with an ultra-tight muscle that has been traumatized may experience some pain while the trauma is massaged out and worked through. In massage, areas of stress and pain can act as blockages to the body’s circulation, energy flow, and overall well-being.
During a Swedish Massage Session:
To enhance the therapeutic benefits, your practitioner will likely incorporate the following into your Swedish massage session:
- Oils, balms, herbal applications, or heat may be applied to the skin to calm the body and mind. With these external applications, the body begins to release stress and is more receptive to receive the massage technique’s benefits.
- Soft music is often used to further assist in relaxation.
- To help facilitate the symbolic action of “letting go” of stress and blockages, many Swedish massage practitioners will leave the room and invite the client to disrobe, with either a sheet or large towel always covering the client’s private areas.
- Stroking in smooth movements, kneading to loosen muscles, rubbing or friction with the practitioner using both hands back and forth in opposite directions, and striking (tapping or chopping the body with fingers or hands) are all used in combination. These movements help relax the body, increase circulation, and improve drainage in the lymphatic system.
The client may feel a little dizzy at the completion of the Swedish massage session. This feeling is due to the new and intense sensation of the body’s renewed energy and circulation. Clients are encouraged to nap if possible, to give the body more time to savor the experience, but to sit quietly for several minutes at the very least.
What Are the Health Benefits of Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage helps the body heal itself by physically manipulating and stimulating the body’s circulatory and lymphatic systems. This works to energize and help eliminate toxins in the body. Also, through Swedish massage, a high level of relaxation can often be achieved, and this relaxation can help prepare the body to act as an open, receptive vessel in which healing can more rapidly occur.
Studies have provided evidence that Swedish massage may be beneficial for specific conditions such as arthritis in the knees, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, blood pressure, immune system issues, severe headaches and migraines, and fibromyalgia.
A study by the University of Miami Medical School also determined that massage therapy can have significant mental health benefits. Participants in a five-week massage experiment reported fewer symptoms of depression, lowered anxiety, and better overall social function when compared to a group that received only standard medical treatment.
Swedish Massage for Self-Care
A healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you will help in nearly every encounter, from the home to workplace. Regular Swedish massage can help you maintain greater emotional balance, a better functioning immune system, and a healthier lifestyle overall. Consider finding the right Swedish massage provider to add massage therapy to your self-care routine. This will help ensure that you can be the best caregiver for others when needed and may also help ensure your own needs are met, which is typically one goal of any self-care routine.
- Calvert, R. H. (2014, April 24). Pages from history: swedish massage. Massage Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.massagemag.com/magazine-2002-issue100-history100-24026/
- French, R. (2015, April 15). The difference between Swedish massage and deep tissue massage. Livestrong. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/157061-the-difference-between-swedish-massage-deep-tissue-massage/
- Mulcahy, J. (2015, October 29). The benefits of swedish massage. Livestrong. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/114831-benefits-swedish-massage/