Swedish Massage is perhaps the most fundamental of all massage modalities. It’s a term that even a first-time client seems to be familiar with, but few really understand what the technique is. Today, I’m going to explore the basics of Swedish Massage for my clients who are interested in learning more about this enjoyable massage style.
There are many benefits to Swedish Massage. Here are a few of the most common ones:
– Increased blood and lymph circulation.
– Increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to bodily tissue.
– Soothing of the nervous system through repetitive movements.
– Enhanced removal of metabolic wastes.
– Better relaxation and sleep, as well as the relief of stress.
– Increased bodily awareness through the use of long strokes (which create the sensation of length and connectedness).
Swedish Massage, as I mentioned above, is a fairly basic massage style that provides the foundation for many other modalities. It strongly features connected, gliding strokes known as effleurage. For those who are interested, effleurage is defined as “involving a circular stroking movement with the palm of the hand,” which is the basis of most massage you’ll experience.
Other strokes used in Swedish Massage include petrissage, tapotement, compression, deep friction, and vibration.
At the beginning of your session, the strokes will be fairly light and increase in intensity as the massage goes on. Often, we begin with palpation (or gentle, exploratory touch) and effleurage, working centripetally (or towards the heart) to increase circulation in the limbs. During these introductory strokes, your therapist is gently easing your body into a state of relaxation. This essentially sets the rhythm for the rest of your session and provides the foundation for a more positive, relaxing experience. Your therapist will then move into some of the other Swedish techniques.
Petrissage: This technique involves rhythmic kneading of the body. Your therapist will compress, lift, and gently squeeze your muscle mass to flush out waste. This is also referred to as “milking the muscle.” When certain muscles are over- or under-used, they accumulate waste that prohibits the entry of fresh blood and nutrients. Petrissage flushes out those muscles, leaving them refreshed. It can also improve circulation and take pressure off of nerves for people who suffer from issues such as sciatica.
Tapotement: This technique is the only Swedish Massage stroke that tones the muscles. Tapotement strokes are brief and rapid, used to increase local circulation, provide sensory stimulation, and infuse new energy into a session. There are a few different types of tapotement strokes, including cupping (where the therapist’s palms make a sort of suction cup with which they strike the client), pincement (in which the therapist plucks with thumbs and fingers alternately), and hacking (where the side of the therapist’s pinkies strike the client). Though the techniques might sound violent, tapotement can be extremely useful and relaxing. Therapists are also very cautious of the areas that they can safely strike, preventing any pain or discomfort.
Compression: This technique increases blood flow using a slight “pumping” action. Your therapist will rhythmically apply and release pressure to the muscle tissue. This technique can also spread muscle fibers, preparing your body for deepr massage.
Deep Friction: This technique uses a non-gliding stroke and is most often implemented around joints such as the ankles and knees. This stroke can loosen scar tissue, break up deposits, restore joint mobility, and increase circulation – among many other benefits. Like tapotement, deep friction can provide a nice change of pace during a session.
Vibration: This technique is a continuous, rhythmic “trembling” that can be effective over clothing or draping. Of all Swedish Massage techniques, this one has the deepest effect, and it can actually affect the body on the neurological level. It requires only the lightest of pressure, making it ideal for clients who would suffer pain from heavier strokes. It’s especially effective for addressing nerve-related inflammation in the limbs.
Vibration can also include a sort of shaking or “jostling.” This can be effective for relaxing and stimulating muscles as well as warming up the body before entering deeper work.
Is Swedish Massage for You?
Swedish Massage is good for clients as long as they do not suffer from any of the following conditions:
– Any condition that can be spread through the skin, lymph, or blood systems.
– Any area on your body is bleeding (including internal bleeding or recent bruising).
– You suffer from acute inflammation.
– You suffer from circulatory disorders such as acute phlebitis, deep venous thrombosis, or edema due to chronic heart failure or kidney failure.
– You are taking a medication that causes abnormal (decreased or increased) sensation.
– Your immune system is compromised.
– Previous Swedish Massage treatment has caused you pain or discomfort.
Generally, before a session, I discuss health history with my patients at length to ensure that massage is the right thing for them. I am more than willing to adjust my modalities to suit your particular needs.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about Swedish Massage, I would encourage you to reach out and contact me or bring it up at your next session.