What is a Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage is also known as a classic massage, and is the most common type of massage practiced in the United States and the western world. It is based on a modern understanding of anatomy and physiology, and is performed on a massage table with either oil or lotion.
Swedish massage therapists will employ a variety of techniques throughout the massage including (but certainly not limited to) long gliding stokes towards the heart to promote circulation and lymph flow, compression on major muscle groups and attachment sights to gently release tense muscles, and passive joint movements to keep joints health and lubricated.
There is no particular order or protocol for a Swedish massage, and each therapist will bring their own unique energy and toolset to the table. Some therapists will incorporate deep tissue and other advanced techniques as requested and on targeted areas, but the overall intention of a Swedish massage is to relax, energize and loosen tightened muscles in a gentle and compassionate way.
What are the benefits of Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage boasts loads of benefits for both the mind and the body. On a physical level, a Swedish massage will help to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness, improve circulation of blood and lymph, reduce blood pressure, and assist with dissolution of scar tissue and adhesions (knots).
On an equally important but more subtle level, a Swedish massage can help to reduce anxiety and depression which in turn can promote a sense of relaxation and wellbeing that encourages the rest and reset response the body and mind require to heal and rejuvenate.
What does a typical Swedish massage session look like?
Traditionally, Swedish massage is done in western fashion with the client lying completely unclothed or partially unclothed on a massage table with massage techniques applied to the client’s bare skin using oil or lotion as a lubricant. The body is modestly and appropriately draped throughout the entire session, and the therapist only exposes and works on one area at a time. This type of massage is best as a full body session of 60 or 90 minutes at a time.
Deep Tissue or Swedish?
When considering whether to book a Swedish or deep tissue massage, it is best to consider the intention of the massage. If what is desired of the massage is therapeutic in a nature, such as pain relief or rehabilitation of a particular area of the body, then deep tissue might be a better choice. If the intention is to get a general full body massage with deep pressure for the purposes of relaxation, a Swedish massage might then be the better option as long as the client’s desire for deep pressure is expressed.
What is the history of Swedish Massage?
Touch as healing modality is as old as human history, and civilizations from around the globe, have long realized the natural healing powers of massage. Each region of the world has their own unique approach to massage, and that approach is informed by the cultural understanding of the human body and their philosophies about health and wellness. In general, massage therapy can be divided into eastern and western schools of thought.
Swedish massage is founded on western ideas of the human body, and is the basis of all western massage modalities. It is generally agreed that the founder of Swedish massage is a Dutch doctor by the name of Johann Georg Mezger.
Merzger, who was also noted for being a talented gymnast with an impeccable understanding of physiology, concentrated his doctoral studies on the application of French friction treatments on patients with minor sprains. The techniques he outlines in his 47-page dissertation on The Treatment of Distorio Pedis with Frictions are the bedrock and foundation of Swedish massage.
In this document, he defines the five therapeutic techniques that are the heart of the modern Swedish massage:
Effleurage-- a long, gliding stroke;
Petrissage-- kneading of a muscle;
Friction-- heat generating rubbing motions;
Tapotement-- tapping or percussive movements;
Vibration-- shaking or jostling of muscles.
While Swedish massage has evolved over time, every Swedish massage performed today incorporates and expands upon these five foundational techniques.
Is Swedish massage right for me?
Swedish is perfect for those new to massage, or for those that don’t have any physical concerns and just want to relax. This type of massage is an excellent entry point into the world of massage therapy, and an educated and knowledgeable therapist will be able to guide their clients towards other massage modalities that might better serve any target issues the client may have.
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