You’ve made it your vacation destination, you’ve reclined on the poolside lounge chair, and you’ve successfully balanced piña colada in one hand and tablet in the other. The time has come to book your massage. Ah, the first (and hopefully only) debacle you’ll experience on your holiday—how to choose which one?
Swedish massage is the bread and butter of a massage spa. As the most common massage technique in the USA, you’ve probably heard this name thrown around or even casually dropped it into conversation when mingling with sophisticated wellness friends. But how much do you really know about Swedish massage? If your answer is something along the lines of “clearly it’s a style of physical therapy invented by a Swede,” then this article is for you.
So What Exactly Is It?
For starters, Swedish massage was invented by a Dutch practitioner by the name of Johan Georg Mezger. However, unless you’re a history buff with a particle fixation on 19th-century gymnastics, your interest in Swedish massage likely extends no farther than the massage table. So, history aside, let’s get to it.
The goal of Swedish massage is overall relaxation and improvement of blood circulation. Your muscles are kneaded in long strokes that follow the movement of blood to your heart. The aim is to soothe, not strain. Those searching for grit-your-teeth style relief will be more entertained by another technique.
How Does It Work?
Swedish massage targets your superficial muscles rather than the connective tissues through a series of five strokes.
Patients first lie down on a massage table and are covered with a clean sheet. The masseuse uses massage oils to perform the following:
- Effleurage: This is the most common stroke used during a Swedish massage. It consists of long, gliding movements along the muscles, using both firm and light pressure. This stroke aims to break down the knots and tension in the tissue.
- Petrissage: Commonly used after effleurage, this stroke is similar to kneading bread. The thumb and knuckles of the fingers are used to squeeze the muscle and achieve deeper penetration.
- Rhythmic tapping: Using the fist of the cupped hand, the muscles are tapped to loosen and relax any tension.
- Friction: The masseuse will rub their hands together or rub them on the skin of their client to produce heat. The warmth that builds in the muscle helps to obtain a deeper massage.
- Vibration: The muscles are literally shaken to loosen the tension. The masseuse will use a back and forth motion of the fingertips or the heel of their palm.
Who Is It For?
There’s a reason Swedish massage is the most common technique in the USA. Just call it the crowd pleasure.
Nonetheless, Swedish massage has specific, tangible benefits for a range of people. If you suffer from any of the following, Swedish massage may be an ideal holistic remedy for you.
- Stiffness: Through the five strokes of a Swedish massage, muscles will loosen, and tension will be released. Muscles become more flexible through the process, aiding in the prevention of future stiffness.
- Headaches: Many headaches can be traced back to stress, poor circulation, or stiffness. Swedish massage attacks the root of the problem by improving blood flow in the body and eliminating stiffness.
- Stress: Swedish massage raises the amount of serotonin and oxytocin in your blood. Think “happy hormones.” The technique also reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and arginine vasopressin-a.
- Insomnia: Stress is one of the leading factors of restlessness. By attacking the core of stress’ causation, patients can more easily sleep when the head hits the pillow. Your body also creates melatonin (a sleep hormone) from serotonin, one of the primary hormones produced during a Swedish massage.
- Chronic pain: Many patients with illnesses causing chronic pain, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, use Swedish massage as a natural remedy. Pain is alleviated through the release of muscle tension and stimulation of blood circulation.
- Athlete’s pain: Exercising provokes the production and storage of lactic acid in your muscles, and without a channel for release, pain and stiffness ensue. Swedish massage releases the lactic acid and sends oxygenated blood to your muscles.
And of course, you can never go wrong offering a Swedish massage as a gift to a loved one or treating yourself to some quality relaxation time.