What is a Swedish Massage?
A Swedish massage is a type of full body massage that the majority of us are most familiar with and is the type of massage that is often referred to when the word “massage” is generally used. The majority of the verified trials on massage therapy have utilised Swedish or Swedish-type massage.
The Swedish massage that we now know of today was invented in 1812 by a man called Henry Peter Ling, a Swedish physiologist. Sometimes called the Swedish relaxation massage, the Swedish style massage is gentle and uses long strokes, deep circular movements, kneading, vibration and tapping to relax and rejuvenate. Therapist’s will ensure that they work in the direction of the heart to promote blood flow and circulation. In massage centre’s this massage methodology is typically associated with relaxation, but it has also been used as an effective means to help relieve pain, especially in conjunction with other treatments.
An important thing to know about the Swedish massage is that it is gentle in nature. From a massage therapy standpoint, it does not utilise heavy pressure or target specific pain points, which is the case for treatments such as deep tissue or neuromuscular massages. This differs from the Thai massage technique. It uses very little friction and is therefore good for people with sensitive skin as it is not abrasive. A good therapist will generally use full body massage oils to ensure that contact with their patient’s body is smooth and non abrasive.
The Swedish massage is also as you may have guessed a very relaxing massage. It’s very effective for patients with long term pain. The long duration of pain can often also cause a patient to become tense, and the ability of this kind of massage to relax a sufferer is valuable on its own.
Also, in spite of how gentle the Swedish massage is, it encourages blood circulation and can increase oxygen levels in the blood. Which, like neuromuscular treatment, it can help to alleviate muscle pain and remove excess lactic acid from the patient’s muscles.
Travelling a long way from its origins, our Swedish Massage in Sydney consists of the following parts:
What does a Swedish massage include?
Swedish massages typically begin with effleurage strokes. The word effleurage has its origins in French meaning “to skim”. With effleurage your massage therapists hands are moved rhythmically over your skin in a single direction, with the aim of increasing blood flow to that area. The strokes are long, and sweeping, beginning with a lighter touch at the start of the session. This builds up to deeper pressure, with slower movements for increased circulation and light stretching of the tissue. The aim of this style of massage at the beginning is to help the client feel at ease and introduce them to touch, increase blood circulation and lightly stretch tissues.
‘Petrissage’ another word of French origin. The word means ‘to knead’. It is performed in a similar fashion to the way that a person kneads dough. The clients skin is lifted up, pressed down and squeezed, pinched and rolled. The petrissage technique in a Swedish massage increases the blood flow to the targeted muscle and loosens muscles. Much alike effleurage, pressure is directed towards the heart to encourage venous return. The benefits of the petrissage technique are that it helps to improve a client’s muscle tone, improve digestion and reduce pain.
Although the Swedish massage demands that the muscles and body parts be relaxed. Tension is seen as a good thing, following the gliding of effleurage and kneading technique of petrissage, the targeted muscles require a friction massage. The friction massage technique is primarily used to increase blood circulation and release areas of the body that are tight, in particular around joints and areas of adhesion within muscles or tendons. The Friction technique is defined as “an accurately delivered penetrating pressure applied through fingertips. Cyriax, who is seen as the founder of friction therapy, believed that deep frictions are appropriate for the treatment of tendinopathy, muscle strains, ligament lesions and scar healing.
The goal of friction massage is to influence cell behavior in all soft tissues. Friction massage is supposed to induce:
- Traumatic hyperemia, which helps to evacuate pain triggering metabolites.
- Movement of the affected structure which prevents or destroys adhesions and helps optimize the quality of scar tissue and mechanoreceptor stimulation.
- Stimulation of mechanoreceptors, producing a quantity of afferent impulses that stimulate a temporary analgesia.
- Fibroblastic proliferation, responsible for the repair and regeneration of collagen.
- Realignment of collagen fibers, determined by the magnitude of applied pressure.
The word tapotement has its origins in the French word “tapoter” which means to tap or pat. With this technique, muscles are tapped in a rapid, rhythmic movement with a very loose fist or a cupped hand, the strikes are normally done at a rate of 4 to 10 strikes per second. These movements are for a very short period of time and are only done on the fleshy part of the body, as to perform this technique on bony areas would be painful for the recipient. Performed at the end of the Swedish massage, tapotement works best on muscles that are already relaxed. Towards the end of a Swedish massage, the stimulation given by tapotement brings the client back to a more level and grounded state of consciousness.
Tapotement has a hyperemic effect. Which means that it increases blood circulation, which, in turn, helps to warm and soften the underlying tissue. The skin will often feel warm to the touch and appear to be flushed. It is often used to help warm-up an athlete prior to a sporting event.
The final technique of the Swedish massage, vibration comes from the Latin term for “shaker”. The vibration massage technique is a type of stroke that ranges from quick shaking to rhythmic rocking by moving the heel of the hand, the side of the hand, or the fingertips.
In applying contact, the vibration massage soothes aggravated nerves, amplifies relaxation and creates a sense of reinvigoration. The vibration massage is intended to increase circulation and is also commonly used in preparation for sports competitions.
In a Swedish massage it’s also common practice for the patient to be nude. The massage therapist then uses a towel or sheet to cover the patient. Only the area of the body which is currently being treated will be exposed, so the patient will never be completely bare. This practice is referred to in the industry as draping. An individual might not however, be comfortable with complete nudity, under a sheet or otherwise. So with this in mind, it is generally acceptable for a patient to keep their underwear on.
It doesn’t make logical sense to undergo what is should to be an extremely relaxing massage only to feel uncomfortable because of what you can or can’t wear. Swedish massage is worth a little daring, but if nudity is more than you can stomach, there are other forms of massage to explore.