What is Swedish/Relaxation Massage?

Swedish massage is a type of massage that promotes relaxation by releasing muscle tension through a series of several techniques like long strokes, kneading, friction, deep circular movements, tapping, percussion, vibration and shaking motions. The pressure applied should be targeted between the muscles and bones, towards the direction of the flow of blood returning to the heart. The techniques used in a Swedish massage helps to relax the client by stimulating their nerve endings and increasing blood flow and lymphatic drainage.

Back in the 19th century, when it was developed by Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling, Swedish massage was called "Medical Gymnastics". When it got to Europe, it was renamed "Swedish Movements" and then "the Swedish Movement Cure" when it arrived in the U.S. in 1858. These days, people just call it Swedish massage.

What is Swedish massage?

How Does Swedish/Relaxation Massage Work?

Traditionally, Swedish massage involves the whole body. The therapist starts on either the back or the stomach and then flips over at the halfway point. If there is a particular concern like a tight neck, the therapist can spend more time working on this area. Also, the therapist can adjust the pressure from light, medium to firm depending on the client's preferences.

In most full-body Swedish massage sessions, the client is expected to undress to their level of comfort. However, they may opt to keep their underwear on. The therapist will drape a sheet over the client's body and only uncovers the part that needs to be worked on. In addition, the therapist uses lotion or oil to allow smoother strokes.

The following are the sequence of techniques typically used in Swedish massage:

  • Effleurage which involves gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs and/or fingertips
  • Petrissage which involves kneading movements with the hands, thumbs and/or fingertips
  • Friction which involves circular pressures with the palms of hands, thumbs and/or fingertips
  • Vibration which involves oscillatory movements that shake or vibrate the body
  • Percussion which involves brisk hacking or tapping
  • Passive and Active Movements which involve bending and stretching

What are the Benefits of Swedish/Relaxation Massage?

Swedish massage helps increase the flow of oxygen in the blood and thereby releasing toxins from the muscles. The various techniques used in this type of massage is devised to improve circulation, soothe muscles and make the client feel more relaxed.

Swedish massage uses stronger strokes on thicker muscle coverage, while softer strokes are used on the bonier and more delicate parts of the body. The adjustment of pressure makes for an ideal massage for relaxation, which keeps the tendons and ligaments flexible while reducing physical and emotional stress.

In addition to loosening up tight muscles and tissue restriction, Swedish massage calms the nervous system and helps people cope better with a variety of conditions that affect the mind, body and emotions like the following:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Lower back pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Ischemia
  • Digestive problems
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog
  • Recovery from injury or illness

What Can You Expect From Swedish/Relaxation Massage?

Whether you're new to massage or a regular at massage clinics, you will surely enjoy the relaxation techniques used in a Swedish massage session. It usually lasts from 60 to 90 minutes per session, while the frequency of the treatment depends on your preference or physical needs.

Before the massage session begins, the therapist will ask you about the state of your health or any injuries that you may have sustained. Be sure to let your therapist know about any allergies that you may have as well as the level of pressure that you can tolerate. 

Once the therapist has gathered all of the information that they need to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs, they will ask you to lie down on the massage table underneath a towel or blanket after you have undressed. They will leave you for a couple of minutes and come back once you're ready. The massage therapist will then apply creams or oils onto your skin before working on the affected areas.

Is Swedish/Relaxation Massage Safe?

Swedish massage is the most common type of massage because it's the safest. In fact, it's the only massage recommended to pregnant women after their first trimester. However, if you have a medical condition where massage may be a contraindication, it would be best to consult your doctor first before booking a schedule with a Swedish massage therapist.