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About Swedish Massage
What is a Swedish Massage?

Swedish massages are arguably one of the most performed massage therapy conducted in the USA.

Many people find Swedish massages to be the most relaxing type of massage. It is a full-body massage known to provide physical and mental relaxation while increasing blood flow and improving circulations. The increased blood flow to vital organs, including the brain, is similar to exercise and provides a feeling of overall well being. Swedish massages are also known to decrease stress and tension in the muscles while improving the range of motion.

Swedish massages are performed using the elbows, hands, and forearms to manipulate the muscle layers and joints.

What are the origins of Swedish massage?

Swedish massage history goes back to the 1830s where it was invented by a fencing instructor who had an elbow injury and found that tapping strokes around the affected area were helping him to recover from his injury. The instructor, Per Henrik Ling, cured himself with the technique he later developed into the Swedish massage.

Swedish massage was indeed invented in Sweden, and the technique was brought to the USA by two enterprising brothers named Dr. Charles and Dr. George Taylor about 20 years after it was created in the 1850s. The methods used in a Swedish massage include gliding strokes, kneading, tapping, and friction of the soft tissue, and some active and or passive joint manipulation is also performed.

What are the benefits of Swedish Massage?

Many Americans resort to drug therapy as a quick fix to ailing and persistent issues such as chronic pain, tension, muscle soreness, and blood flow. The use of drugs can have long-lasting side effects. However, massage therapy, which can treat superficial issues, is very safe and provides many benefits.

Physical Benefits

There are many benefits to the use of Swedish massages:

  • Swedish massages can improve skin tone and provide firmer muscles due to the increased circulation.
  • Increased strength in the muscles.
  • Decreasing muscle fatigue, cramps, and spasms while loosening tight muscles and providing stretching for connective tissues experiencing tension.
  • Joints become looser and increase range of motion.
  • Stimulating blood flow and circulation which also calms the nervous system.
  • Swedish massage also relieves symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, acute pain, headache, facial pain, asthma, TMJ dysfunction, and many other athletic-type injuries.
  • Swedish massages can also improve and accelerate the healing process for injuries and illness and improve the removal of metabolic waste and lymphatic drainage.

Emotional and mental benefits of Swedish massage

  • Better overall sleep, your quality of sleep with an increase
  • Mental and emotional relaxation
  • Stress relief includes the relief of anxiety, irritation, and depression
  • A better sense of wellbeing
  • The ability to concentrate better
How are Swedish massages performed?

The patient in a Swedish massage lies flat on a massage bed and is covered with a sheet. The treatment is a complete body treatment performed on an unclothed body. The patient decides whether to leave undergarments on or remove them, which is a personal preference. There are areas of the body that are obviously off-limits and will always be covered, and the patient can also include or exclude regions they wish not to be touched.

The patient’s preferences will dictate what basic techniques will be used during the massage, which usually ranges from 60 to 120 minutes. The methods are as follows:

  • Effleurage

    Effleurage is the most popular movement in a Swedish massage, and it involves pushing blood to the heart by stroking the body with guiding, free-flowing strokes which trace the contours of the body using one or both hands and palms. This technique is usually the first part of the message. This gives the therapist time to apply oil to the body. It immediately begins increasing blood flow and oxygen to the rest of the body, which aids in maximizing the benefits to the rest of the body. The constant application of pressure in this step warms up the muscles, calms the nerves, and improves heart function, which leads to lymphatic drainage.

  • Pétrissage

    Much as with the actions involved with kneading dough, pétrissage is focused on lifting and essentially squeezing the flesh. The goal here is for patient to feel increased relaxation, benefit from enhanced lymphatic drainage, and improve overall blood flow.

  • Friction

    Going deeper into the tissue than some of the other Swedish massage techniques, in friction, there is a more intensive pressure stroke applied. What happens with this particular technique is that the massage therapist will leverage the weight of their body in pressing down either with the flat of their hand or the forearm. This pressure is then relaxed, and the process repeats. Generally, this is done with circular, gliding motions.

  • Vibration

    As the name of this Swedish massage technique suggests, the therapist will shake the flesh using their hands and fingers. The effect of vibration is that it can help to release muscle tension in smaller areas throughout the body. It can almost feel like trembling.

  • Tapotement

    Tapotement is a form of tapping and involves a series of faster, choppier movements. The results include an enhanced stimulating effect upon whatever body area is being worked on. Under the umbrella term tapotement, there are a few variations, such include:

    • Cupping: With this technique, the massage therapist will form a cup with their hands; thumbs remain next to the palm. The therapist will then initiate a series of rapid taps using the flat of the hand.
    • Hacking: With hacking, very similar to cupping, the sides of the hand are used to produce quick chopping strokes.
    • Pummeling: Finally, the therapist relies upon a loose fist formation to apply chopping strokes to the buttocks and thighs.
Preparations

As with many massage types, particularly with Swedish massage, there are specific preparations needed, for example:

  • The massage table must be firm and still padded for maximum comfort.
  • Usually, a sheet will cover whatever parts of the body are not being massaged.
  • Almost all therapists will use oils during a Swedish massage. Most oils are free of any additives and, when possible, organic and cold-pressed. Lubricants are excellent for the body as they contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy skin. The key is to avoid heavy, pore-clogging oils. The oils will usually be warmed to ensure the optimal Swedish massage experience.
Precautions

When getting a Swedish massage, you want to make sure that it is the appropriate message type. Those with the following conditions should avoid Swedish massage:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Broken bones or dislocations
  • Any spreadable diseases
  • Open wounds
  • Varicose veins
  • If you’ve had surgery recently
  • Kidney disease
  • Any hernias
  • Torn ligaments or muscles
  • Any known heart problems
  • Various types of cancer
  • History of phlebitis or thrombosis
  • Those being treated with blood thinners
Are there Side effects with a Swedish Massage?

While side effects with Swedish massage are generally rare, there have been recorded instances of increased muscle pain and bleeding in organs such as the liver. Also, blood clots becoming dislodged, while rare, can occur.

General acceptance

In addition to more conventional medical treatments, Swedish massage has been recognized as a complementary treatment in many circumstances. The research indicates that massage causes overall bodily relaxation, removal of muscle tension, and decreased heart-rate/blood pressure. This is incredibly helpful for facilitating any healing process. Many physicians have prescribed massage for helping in treating chronic pain, headache, athletic injuries, carpal tunnel, and depression, among numerous other issues. Also, consider that many insurance companies will now cover and reimburse patients for massage therapy.