What is Swedish Massage?

Swedish massage is one of the most popular massages to receive and to learn and gives a good foundation for other massage techniques, like Aromatherapy, sports, Indian head massage to name but a few. Swedish Massage was developed around the early 1800s in the University of Stockholm by Henri Peter Ling, in Sweden it is called the Classic Massage.

There are five basic groups of massage movements that form the basics of the Swedish Massage, these can all be performed in different a order, degrees of firmness and amounts to suit the client’s requirements and area being massaged.

The five basic groups of massage strokes practised in Swedish Massage are:

Effleurage – These are long sweeping movements (and always towards the heart) that have a soothing and relaxing effect, not only used at the start of a new area i.e. leg / arm to apply the massage medium but will also gently introduce the client to the therapists hands. These long soothing strokes are performed using the whole hand to mould around the contours of the body, this motion can be light and superficial or deeper depending on the area being massaged. Used to reduce tension in the muscles and increase the blood circulation and ‘warm up’ the body ready for more intense movements and used to sooth and ‘cool down’ the body at the end the massage sequence. Effleurage also aids desquamation (the removal of dead unwanted skin cells).

Petrissage – This is a firmer movement to work more deeply and intensely on a muscle or muscle group. Petrissage is a wringing, picking up, rolling and kneading technique working on muscles aiding the removal of muscular tension by helping rid the muscles of toxin build up. Can also be used to intensely warm and area prior to Tapotement.

Tapotement/Percussion – This is where the Tapping, hacking, cupping and quite stimulating movements come in. Used on areas with a larger muscle mass like the thighs, across the shoulders and top of the arms. A really good rhythm is required for tapotement, it can be very irritating for the client when the hacking, tapping or cupping is irregular. Never used over bone as this will be very uncomfortable and extreme care needs to be taken if you are using these techniques on elderly or very thin people as this could lead to bruising and extreme discomfort.

Vibration – This is exactly what it says, a trembling movement is produce through the hands and into the fingers by the constant contraction and relaxation of the therapist forearm, a movement I usually use around the neck and shoulders. It can be a difficult technique to master but one that is worthwhile the effort. The vibration sensation can stimulate the nerves and help to relieve pain and muscle fatigue.

Friction – Again just as it sounds, this is a fast localised movement using the palms of the hands or the tips of the fingers/thumbs in either circular or up and down/side to side motion. Great to help the reduction of tight nodules and adhesions; increasing the blood and lymph flow producing localised heat and erythema.

So what areas are massaged in a Swedish Massage? During a full body Swedish Massage the legs and feet, arms and hands, abdomen, upper chest, neck, shoulders, scalp and back are massaged.

Depending on the area being massaged will depend upon the massage techniques used and of course the clients own requirements. Your client may only like a very light massage or they may like a very firm massage, this will be established before the massage begins, during the client consultation, and a quick ‘how is the pressure I’m using for you?’ question at the start of the massage will reassure the client they can ask the therapist to adjust the firmness of the massage.

Massage should be relaxing for both the client and therapist.

Remember clients – the louder the snores the better – it is a real compliment to your therapist if you drift off during a massage. It shows that you feel comfortable enough in their company to fully relax.