What is Swedish Massage?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in in this form, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in it before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as classic massage.

Ling initially called his massage technique Medical Gymnastics and intended it to supplement traditional medical care. Another physician, Johann Mezger, gave the techniques used in it French names and popularized the style. Today, it is offered at spas and massage studios all over the world, and many other massage styles are rooted in this form.

Swedish massage uses five basic movements to increase circulation and remove toxins from the muscles. Always working towards the heart, the massage therapist incorporates these techniques into a flowing massage session that leaves the patient physically and emotionally relaxed. The trademark move is Effleurage, long gliding strokes that can be firm or soft, depending on purpose and client. Many therapists start out a session with Effleurage to familiarize themselves with the patient, and then start to bring more pressure to bear for deeper work.


Massage techniques also include Petrissage, or kneading, which is designed to release toxins from the muscles by lifting, separating, and rolling them. Gentle pressure is used to compress and relax the tissue and enhance circulation. Another technique, Tapotement, involves tapping the muscles with a percussive stroke. The side of the hand, fingers, or palm may be used to release tension and cramping. Many therapists also incorporate vibration, a later technique, which involves the therapist centering his or her hands on the back of a limb and shaking them briskly for several seconds to release tension, encourage circulation, and help muscles to contract.

The deepest work in Swedish massage is accomplished with friction, where the therapist works deep into the muscles with the fingers, elbow, or base of the palm. Using circular movements, the therapist works deeply into the muscle, especially in bony areas, to release adhesions that can restrict movement. Friction helps the client to be more flexible, and it also releases deep seated muscle tension.

Clients interested in experiencing Swedish massage should seek out a reputable massage therapist to explore it. Often it takes several visits to multiple therapists to find one who is a good match with the client. Like other massage modalities, this form is most effective when undertaken at least once a month, although once every two weeks is a more therapeutically useful interval. Clients should remember to communicate clearly with the therapist for a productive session.


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Post 3

Has anyone ever attended the North Texas School of Swedish Massage? I am interviewing massage therapists for my spa, and have several candidates from this school.

Has anyone attended there, or know how good the training there is?

Thanks so much!

Post 2

I never knew there was so much involved in Swedish massage therapy training. I think that a lot of times massage therapy spas are so relaxing that we forget how hard the people there actually work.

I wonder how one chooses a Swedish massage school? Do they have ratings, like a top ten Swedish schools of massage for 2010?

Does anybody know?

Post 1

As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to massage therapy techniques, there's nothing better than Swedish massage therapy.

None of that deep tissue massage for me -- I want to walk out of my massage relaxed, not limping!

I'd take a Swedish massage -- chair or table, I don't care -- any day of the week.

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