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Swedish Massage

Whether you’re a massage newbie, or you’re after a relaxing, no frills rub down without the fuss, Swedish massage is one of the best places to start. It’s one of the most popular types of massage in the Western world and is totally customisable depending on what you and your massage therapist are trying to achieve.

In contrast to Asian massage techniques, which focus on energy, flow and “chi”, Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology.

What’s the big deal?

Swedish massage and it’s varied techniques form the basis for many other types of massage, including deep tissue, sports and aromatherapy massage, so there really is something for everyone.

Swedish massage was originally invented by Pehr Henrik Ling, a Swede, who combined sports medicine and gymnastic techniques to create a method for relieving sore muscles. However, Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger is often credited with defining the original strokes that make up its method.

Apart from in English and Dutch speaking countries, Swedish massage is actually referred to as “classic” massage around the world.

What can you expect from a Swedish massage?

The main aim of Swedish massage therapy is to relax the body and mind. This is accomplished by targeted rubbing of the muscles with long, smooth strokes - no slapping, pinching or prodding here, thank you very much.

Other benefits include increased blood circulation, decreased stress and muscle tension and an improved range of motion. A standard Swedish massage session can last anywhere between 30-90 minutes, and should cover most major muscle groups in the body.

Prior to your massage, a trained therapist will ask you whether you suffer from any existing injuries, or whether there’s any particular part of the body you’d like them to focus on. When it comes to getting a massage, or any kind of treatment for that matter, one of the most important things to remember is that communication is key. Your therapist might be a trained expert, but they’re probably not a mind reader (though if they are, we’d like to meet them).

You’ll usually be asked to lie face down on the massage table, your modesty covered with a towel, of course. The therapist will then apply some oil or lotion, and get to work.

Swedish Massage Techniques

To give you a better idea of what to expect, here’s a breakdown of the five main techniques used within Swedish massage therapy:

  • Effleurage, which involves long, sweeping strokes alternating between light and firm pressure.
  • Petrissage, a technique which involves kneading the muscles to achieve deeper penetration, using the thumbs and knuckles.
  • Tapotement, which involves steady, rhythmic tapping using cupped hands, which helps to simultaneously loosen and stimulate the muscles. Think of it as a kind of pared back, karate chop technique.
  • Friction, which uses rapid movement to create heat within the muscles. This is often used as a sort of warm-up to prepare the muscles for deeper massage.
  • Vibration, or shaking, where the therapist will use a back and forth action of the fingertips or heel of the hand to help loosen up and relax the muscles.

Phew! Sounds like a lot to take in, but the main thing you need to remember when getting a Swedish massage is that all strokes should go in the direction of the flow of blood towards the heart.

Whether you’re after slow and gentle, or vigorous and intense, Bookwell’s curated directory of trained and licensed Swedish massage therapists will have you on your way to relaxation town in no time.