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Everything you need to know about Swedish Massage

an overview of swedish massage types

Most of you reading have probably heard of Swedish massage before, and even more of you have probably had one. After all, it is the most well-known massage style in the West. This style is based on the Western concepts of physiology and anatomy and is usually practiced in 50, 60, 75 or 90 minute sessions. A Swedish massage can be vigorous and stimulating or soothing and gentle, depending on the therapist’s style or the needs of the client. Whether you’re looking to ease some tension from your muscles or just want to relax, Swedish massage is a fantastic go to. Here’s everything you need to know about this classic style:

What happens during a typical massage session?

Most Swedish masseuses begin by lubricating the body with massage oil in order to perform various massage strokes. These techniques warm up the muscle tissue, relive knots, ease tension and break up any adhesions from the body. During a Swedish massage, clients are sometimes expected to be naked; but don’t let that put you off. Masseuses use towels to cover intimate areas and will only ever remove them for several minutes at a time if they need to access the buttocks. If you’re really shy, let your masseuse know. She will probably let you keep your underwear on!

Massage techniques

Generally speaking, Swedish massage uses more invasive massage techniques than other popular styles. Why, might you ask? Well, this is so that oxygenation of the blood is increased, metabolic waste is released and the heart rate is lowered.

1.    Petrissage

Petrissage- aka kneading. This is a deeper tissue style that is used to penetrate further into the muscles in the body. This is performed using the thumbs and the knuckles of the fingers, whereby the masseuse pushes into the muscles like a baker kneading bread.

2.    Effleurage

This technique is less strenuous, and is designed more for relaxation. Effleurage is essentially a series of stroking techniques that are used to cover large areas of the body. These sweeping motions can be light or firm, and are often performed using the palm of the hands and fingertips.

3.    Friction

Essentially, this technique is used to warm up the muscles. Masseuses rub their hands together in order to create heat, and then place the palms of their hands onto different parts of the body so that the muscles can become more relaxed.

4.    Vibration/ Shaking

This method is used to loosen up the muscles. It uses back and forth motions of the fingertips of the heels of the hands to loosen and relax the muscles.

5.    Tapotement/ Rhythmic Tapping

As you’ve probably deciphered for yourself, this method consists of tapping across the body using fists or cupped hands. This energises the muscles, but also relaxes them.

The health benefits

Believe it or not, Swedish massages aren’t commissioned purely for relaxation purposes. They’re also associated with a huge list of health benefits.

Pain Relief

A lot of athletes use Swedish massage- for one good reason. They’re great for relieving pain. If masseuses are informed of a particular injury before a session, she is usually able to tailor her style to accommodate an injury. Whether that’s by focusing on that particular area or simply easing off the pain, masseuses can reverse the effects of an injury.

Depression and Anxiety

Again, this style of massage doesn’t just encourage physical health benefits; it inspires mental ones, too. It is a known face that massage relaxes us- but most people overlook the fact that remaining relaxed is one of the key ingredients needed to tackle depression and anxiety. The techniques used during a Swedish massage encourage a number of chemicals and hormones to be released- all of which are closely linked to our happiness. Serotonin and oxytocin are hormones that literally make us feel happy. These powerful stimulants, known as the ‘love drugs’, play a massive role in our mental contentment. So basically, if you want to feel happy, get a Swedish massage.

Boosts the immune system

Aside from releasing chemicals, getting a Swedish massage will increase your white blood cell count. That might mean nothing to you, but they’re responsible for battling illness. The more white blood cells you have, the less likely you are to get sick.

Improves the skin

Swedish massage is essentially the equivalent of getting a full body facial for your skin. First of all, the massage oils used during a session or usually nourishing, and actually moisturise the skin. But deeper than that, the techniques performed during a Swedish massage increase blood flow to the skin, making the surface soft, smooth and more elastic.

Last minute tips

Drink Plenty of water afterwards- Although getting a Swedish massage involves little effort or movement by you, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’ll probably leave you feeling dehydrated. Swedish massage encourages toxins to be released from the body, and therefore uses up a great deal of water in order to do so. Remaining hydrated will make the benefits of the massage last far longer.
Don’t exercise afterwards- Getting a massage relaxes the muscles- it doesn’t prepare them for vigorous exercise. You’re essentially reversing the effects of the massage by working out, and you’ll probably injure yourself in the process, too. Do yourself a favour; don’t hit the gym after your session!

Avoid going back to work if you can

Getting a massage should be a relaxing experience, the effects of which should last hours, days or sometimes even weeks afterwards. However, heading back to the office right after a massage is a bad idea, because it’ll knock the relaxation right out of you! Always try and schedule in for a massage when you have no prior commitments following it. They can be expensive, so don’t waste your money.

There are many massages out there on the market that are good for different things, but you can always rely on a Swedish massage to relax your mind, body and soul.

Read more about massage types on our post “The A-Z of Oriental Massage Therapies”