Swedish massage is the most popular form of massage in the United States. In fact, when you hear someone referring to “getting a regular massage”, they’re probably talking about Swedish Massage.
In Swedish Massage, your massage practitioner will use their hands, forearms and elbows to work with the superficial (or surface) layers of your muscles. They may also actively or passively move your joints to get the best response from your body.
The first recorded instance of Swedish massage was in the 1830s, when a (not surprisingly) Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling wanted to find a way to cure his aching elbows after fencing practice. By using percussive strokes around the afflicted areas, Ling managed to alleviate his painful problem. These percussive strokes, used commonly in Swedish Massage, are called “tapping”.
Starting with tapping (also known as tapotement), there are five main motions used in Swedish massage.
- Tapotement: A percussive chopping or tapping motion, used to stimulate or tone a muscle.
- Vibration: The massage therapist will gently shake an area with hands or fingertips to release tension in concentrated areas, such as the side of the face or the shoulder.
- Effleurage: The most common motion in Swedish massage, the massage therapist will use smooth, gliding motions to guide blood towards the heart. Palms will trace the contours of each muscle group.
- Pétrissage: A kneading motion intended to relieve tension, improve lymphatic drainage, and increase blood flow.
- Friction: The deepest motion used in Swedish Massage, intended to reach muscles below the superficial layer. The massage therapist creates pressure by pushing down on thumbs, hands, or forearms, then releases slowly in a gliding or circular motion.
There are numerous applications to Swedish Massage, many of which are being embraced by the medical community as treatments for various ailments. Doctors have been known to prescribe Swedish Massage as treatment for migraines and headaches, arthritis, stress, and athletic injuries, to name only a few of the ways that Swedish Massage can be used.
Swedish Massage, along with other forms of massage, is known to reduce cortisol levels in the bloodstream, which in turn reduces stress. Contact from massage can also cause the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone which increases comfort and relaxation. The increased state of relaxation induced by massage has been known to lower blood pressure.
The next time you want to get a relaxing massage, request the Swedish treatment, and see the difference that it makes!