What Is Swedish Massage?

 
Swedish massage is designed to relax tissues through gentle, smooth strokes.  It helps with circulation, reduces swelling, and induces a general feeling of calmness and serenity.  It is considered “basic massage” or “spa-style massage.”

 

Where Was Swedish Massage Developed?

Swedish massage is what is generally considered “basic” or “traditional” massage in the United States.  It was developed by Dr. Ling in Sweden in the 1820’s and borrowed on ancient massage techniques found in Rome, Egypt, China, and Greece.

 

Pressure and Technique in Swedish Massage

Swedish massage uses medium pressure and gliding strokes that gently, but firmly compress and stretch muscles and structural tissues like fascia.  Much of the popularity of Swedish massage is due to the fact that the pressure is comfortable for most people (not too hard, not too light) and that the results on the body as a whole are quite noticeable.

Other types of techniques used in Swedish massage are tapping, kneading (as one might do with dough), gentle shaking, and friction.

 

Why Swedish Massage Works

What makes Swedish massage very effective is that it is generally a full body massage rather than a spot, or targeted, massage.  The Swedish technique greatly improves circulation throughout the body.  This encourages fresh blood and lymph (a clear fluid that exists between our cells that is heavily involved in immune function) to move into areas that were cramped and restricted.  At the same time, stagnant pools of blood and lymph are moved out of those areas, carrying away waste to be filtered out of the body by the kidneys.

In addition to improving circulation, the nervous system is relaxed through touch.  When the nervous system quietens, the person receiving the massage relaxes mentally and physically allowing tight muscles to be worked in a deeper manner.

 

What Conditions Can be Treated with Swedish Massage?

 

  • Joint stiffness
  • Osteoarthritis (OA) / Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

 

Who Should Not Get Swedish Massage?

Swedish Massage is generally safe for most people.  However, people who have Congestive Heart Failure, kidney disease, bleeding condition, or who are taking blood thinners should get medical clearance before getting any type of massage, even Swedish.

Anyone who has an active infection, whether it be a cold, the flu, or an infected wound should not get a massage.  Not only are colds and flu contagious, but infections can be made worse and/or spread throughout the body through a massage.

People who have recent injuries or injuries that do not heal should consult a physician prior to getting a massage.  Anyone who has been in a serious accident such as a car crash should wait a minimum of 72 hours prior to getting a massage and have the clearance of a physician.  This is because our bodies often do not show symptoms of severe trauma for 2-3 days post-accident.  A massage could exacerbate the symptoms or cause further injury.

 

How Swedish Massage is Performed

Swedish massage is typically done on a table with sheets.  The person receiving the massage is typically unclothed, (although some people may leave on their underwear), and a sheet and blanket are used to cover the body.  The massage therapist will uncover each section of the body (for example, leg, back, arm) in order to work on it and then cover it again before moving onto the next area.