Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the United States. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health.
The Swedish massage is credited to a Swede, was developed by a Dutchman, and might just be the most famous massage treatment in the world. Here in Sweden, the home of the Swedish massage, it is known as a ‘classic massage’ and is a part of the Swedish concept of wellness.
What is core to the Swedish massage treatment is the physical and mental aspects of wellbeing and the method uses five styles of long flowing strokes; long, gliding strokes, kneading and lifting the muscles, rhythmic tapping, friction and vibration/shaking.
Swedish Massage Techniques
Swedish massage techniques are different from other massage techniques in that they are quite specific in the order in which the massage is done. These techniques apply deeper pressure than other kind of massages and they are also known to increase oxygenation of blood and release metabolic waste such as lactic and uric acids from the tissues of the muscles.
This consists of long, gliding strokes from the neck down to the base of the spine or from the shoulder down to the fingertips. When done on the limbs, all strokes are toward the heart to aid blood and lymphatic flow. It is done with the whole hand or the thumb pads. Effleurage is designed to acquaint the therapist with his or her subject’s body and vice versa.
This is the most penetrating of the strokes, and consists of deep circular or transverse movements made with the thumb pads or fingertips. The therapist applies deep, circular movement near joints and other bony areas (such as the sides of the spine). Friction breaks down adhesions, which are knots that result when muscle fibers bind together during the healing process, thus contributing to more flexible muscles and joints.
This involves gently lifting muscles up and away from the bones, then rolling and squeezing them, again with a gentle pressure. It generally involves kneading and compression motions – rolling, squeezing, or pressing the muscles to enhance deeper circulation. Petrissage attempts to increase circulation with clearing out toxins from muscle and nerve tissue.
Vibration or Shaking
This involves the therapist pressing his or her hands on the back or limbs, and rapidly shaking for a few seconds. It boosts circulation and increase the power of the muscles to contact. Vibration is particularly helpful to people suffering from low-back pain.
This consists of a series of briskly applied percussive movements, using the hands alternately to strike or tap the muscles for an invigorating effect. There are many variations on this stroke. It may be applied with the edge of the hand, with the tips of the fingers, or with a closed fist. Tapotement attempts to release tension and cramping from muscles in spasm.
Swedish massage requires the following equipment:
- Massage surface: This may be a professional massage table or any firm but well-padded surface.
- A clean sheet to cover the part of the body that is not massaged.
- Cushions: These may be needed, depending on the client’s wishes, to prevent lower back pain. The cushions may be placed under the head and the knees.
- Oils: The base oil should be a vegetable oil, cold pressed, unrefined, and free of additives. These oils contain such nutrients as vitamins and minerals in addition to fatty acids. They do not clog the pores as mineral oils often do. Essential (aromatic) oils may be added to provide additional relaxation or other therapeutic effects.
Massage oil should be warmed in the therapist’s hands before it is applied to the client’s skin.
Benefits Of Swedish Massage Therapy
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Promotes relaxation
- Improves circulation
- Relieves general body tension
- Relieves aches and muscle stiffness
- Improves muscle tone
- Removes toxins from the muscles
- Improves flexibility in muscles and joints
- Improves immune system
- Improves digestion and elimination
- Promotes healthy skin