Swedish Massage

Massage as it is known in most Western countries is based on Swedish Massage.  It is called Swedish Massage because it is generally accredited to Pehr Henrik Ling, an early 19th century Swedish fencer who developed a treatment program fairly similar to elements of physiotherapy.   The techniques used in Swedish Masssage today were actually developed and named in the late 19th century by Dr. Johan George Mezger, a Dutch physician.  However as there were some similarities in the descriptions of their methods, Pehr Henrik Ling actually ended up with the credit for developing Swedish Massage.  In Sweden it is known as Classic Massage.

Swedish Massage - image from Big Stock Photos - royalty-free high quality low cost images - click image for further info - opens in a new tab/windowToday Swedish Massage is practiced by thousands of therapists all over the world, each of them with their own distinctive style.   Generally it is medium-strength massage, not as deep as a Sports Massage, but stronger than a relaxation-oriented massage such as Aromatherapy.  It is usually a 45-60 minute full body massage, or 30 minute massage just for the back and shoulders.  It doesn’t normally include a head massage.  It is performed on a massage table using oil.

The aim of Swedish massage is to relax most of the major muscles of the body.   This brings many other physical benefits:

  • Release of muscle tension, thus improving flexibility and ease of movement and decreasing muscle fatigue
  • Relief of cramps and muscle spasms
  • Stimulation of weak and inactive muscles
  • Stimulation of blood flow which improves circulation and brings more oxygen to the cells of the body
  • Strengthening of the immune system due to increase of white blood cells
  • Elimination of toxins due to drainage of the lymphatic system
  • Calming of the nervous system

As well as mental and emotional benefits:

  • mental relaxation
  • relief of stress, depression and anxiety
  • a feeling of positive well being
  • better quality sleep
  • better concentration levels

There are five main techniques used in Swedish Massage:

  1. Effleurage is the most used stroke.  It is a free-flowing and gliding movement using the palms of one or both hands, following the contours of the muscles.
  2. Petrissage is a movement similar to that of kneading dough. It involves lifting, rolling, and squeezing the flesh under or between the hands. 
  3. Friction strokes are for work on deeper muscles, applying pressure with thumbs, knuckles and/or fingers, using the weight of the therapist’s body.  This movement is either a continuous sliding motion or a group of alternating circular motions.
  4. Vibration, gently shaking or trembling the flesh with the hand or fingertips.
  5. Tapotement, or tapping and percussion, is a quick choppy rhythmic movement that has a stimulating or toning effect.  This movement is the one least used.

In a one hour Swedish Massage I normally spend at least half of the time working on the back and shoulders.  This is generally the area where most people have problems, and as the central nervous system is located near the spine, it has the effect of relaxing the whole body.  I spend about 10 minutes working the back of the legs, 10 minutes on the front of the legs and the feet, and 8-10 minutes on the arms and neck.

I combine my professional training and 10 years of experience with an intuitive feel for finding and releasing the source of a muscular problem.

I usually use sweet almond oil, and sometimes grapeseed oil.  These oils contain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. They do not clog the pores as mineral oils (eg. baby oil) often do.

One Response to “Swedish Massage”

  1. Dallas Massage Says:

    Another well written article that covers all aspects of Swedish Massage. Thanks!

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