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What Is A Swedish Massage And How Does It Differ From Others?

deep tissue massage

You often find yourself complaining from back pains after sitting on your office chair for long hours and hunched on a report you need to submit on a deadline. Or you might be a housewife with a day filled with chores and errands you need to accomplish amidst crying toddlers and needy grade-schoolers

Prolonged sitting on a chair or frantically moving around the house could cause tightening of the muscles, resulting in aches all over your back, shoulders, and joints. 

Many people prefer to destress and soothe body aches through massages like a Swedish massage.

Swedish massage is one of the most common and widely used massage techniques available in spas and massage places.

People prefer it because it relaxes tight muscles and joints, relieves stress and pain by promoting blood circulation in a relaxing and comfortable way. 

But how exactly does Swedish massage differ from other massage techniques? Here are the main points:

It Stimulates The Nerves

The comfortable pressure and strokes used in Swedish massage help stimulate nerves located in various body parts. So, if you have shoulder pains, lower backaches, and cramps on your calves, make sure to mention this to your masseuse. 

You’ll know it when certain parts of your body feel tightened and need some loosening up. In addition, while touching these parts you may notice that it’s stiff and has knots or small hard lumps, these are also called muscle knots or myofascial trigger points, which could be painful when touched or pressed. Applying a steady, gentle pressure on the knots will loosen and release the tightening and make it softer.

It Uses A Variety Of Techniques

The variety of techniques in a Swedish massage allows a masseuse to address different problems of an individual. It’s not a one-stroke wonder but very scientific in its’ approach to managing various body pains. Here are the techniques used in Swedish massage:

  1. Effleurage – This technique uses smooth, flowing strokes going toward the direction of the heart to stimulate blood flow. Masseuses do the stroke with their palm’s base, starting from the hips to the top of the shoulders. Usually, the masseuse follows the body contour of an individual and uses massage oil to prevent pulling the skin and hair. 
  2. Petrissage – Petrissage in common term is called kneading. It uses deep pressure to reach the underlying muscle to free up the movement of tissues and loosen muscle knots and spasms. Doing this technique will improve blood circulation, relax the muscles and break up adhesions which are the stiffened muscles caused by scar tissues that developed after an injury.
  3. Tapotement or Percussion

Tapotement originated from the French verb ‘tapoter’ that means to tap or pat. The rhythmic movement by the hands starts from a relaxed wrist that strikes the body briskly in an alternate fashion. It’s usually done towards the end of the massage session to bring the individual back to a more grounded awareness. 

This technique is often used in sports to increase local blood circulation, stimulate muscle reflexes, and nerve endings. You would often see this done to athletes before starting a game to make them feel physically and mentally invigorated. 

Today, technological advancements have made it possible to have this stimulating massage technique done at your home or your place of work, or even do it on yourself before the start of a game. Massage guns have become popular because celebrities and athletes vouch for their effectivity and portability. 

You may use the massage gun in any areas you may feel muscle soreness and tension. Post-game and post-workout muscle recovery is just one of the many massage gun benefits.

Friction – This technique involves the ball of the masseuse’s thumb applying deep, slight circular pressure to penetrate deep tissues on crevices of your body. The strokes can be circular or rubbed back and forth.

The shoulders, arms, hands, and feet are the most common areas where friction works best. Friction is also recommended to soften adhesions that develop during surgery. Scar tissues are formed when the tissue heals, while collagen forms to bind the scar together. 

When this occurs, the muscle where the scar is located may not be stretched as it would typically be. The area where the scar is located may be tight and less pliable. Friction helps to get that area gliding better, which improves the range of motion, especially if the location is near the joints. 

Vibration – This technique, as the name suggests, uses vibrating techniques or tremors by using up and down movements utilizing the palms of the hand or the fingertips of both hands. Vibration is often applied to soft tissues to engage the whole muscles. 

Lighter vibrations may help relax the muscles and stimulate the parasympathetic system, the division of the nervous system responsible for regulating heartbeat and improving digestion. When stimulated, the parasympathetic nervous system increases digestive secretions and slows down the heartbeat, making your stomach digest better and giving you a more relaxed and calmer vibe. 

Faster vibrations, however, loosen soft tissues and stimulate the circulatory system. Which improves blood circulation and gives a more relaxed feeling. 

Increase One’s Flexibility

The strokes employed in the massage elongate the muscle, decrease swelling, and open the joints, resulting in ease and a more comprehensive range of movement. 

Improve Posture

Sometimes when you feel pain in some parts of your body, the opposite side of that part overcompensates in terms of movement, as a consequence, forms body aches and affects your posture. Overworked muscles because of repetitive strain may be addressed by Swedish massage through the Petrissage technique.

 The deep pressure applied on tensed muscles will free up the movement, and the stress on the overworked muscles will be released so you may sit and stand up straight with ease.

Enhances Mood

When one gets a Swedish massage, the strokes used by the masseuse increase the production of ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins. Resulting in a more enhanced mood. 

Improves Sleep 

Getting a Swedish massage increases the production of serotonin in the body. The hormone responsible for making one fall asleep faster and stays asleep longer. The increase in the level of serotonin improves one’s sleep quality leaving you more rested and less sluggish, thereby giving you a better mood waking up the following day.

Relieves Headaches

Tension headaches give someone a dull, aching pain across the forehead, the sides, and back of the head. These are often triggered by stress and poor blood circulation. The effleurage technique in Swedish massage helps in improving the blood flow, thereby relieving headaches. 

Flushes Out Toxins

When your body lacks oxygen, it converts glucose into energy and forms lactic acid in the process. This toxin is responsible for muscle soreness and stiffness or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). And at times, it may cause stomach aches, nausea, and vomiting. The strokes in the massage help stimulate the circulatory system to flush this toxin out of your body. 

A high intake of red meat, seafood, and alcoholic beverages increases your body’s uric acid levels. Swedish massage also helps flush out these toxins that could eventually lead to gout and liver damage. 

Increases Energy

Stimulating the circulatory system increases oxygen levels in the body. And since the massage helped you sleep better, you’ll have more reserved energy to use the entire day.  Having enough energy prevents you from being lethargic. Which is a type of tiredness and fatigue that affects both your physical and mental health. 

Enhances Emotional Well-being 

Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that send signals from nerve cells to target cells. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin are essential neurotransmitters that support your body’s emotional well-being. Low levels of these neurotransmitters often lead to mood problems, poor decision-making, and depression.

Regulating and increasing levels of these neurotransmitters may be achieved through massages. When your mood is regulated, and you have plenty of sleep, you’ll feel happier and more balanced.


Swedish massage is only one way to attain relaxation. To feel better and have improved body function you also need to follow better health practices like drinking plenty of water, having sufficient exercise, eating a balanced diet, and having a positive outlook in life.

Choosing to visit a spa, or have a masseuse give you a home service is a great way to treat yourself from time to time. Addressing stress and muscle tension early on may prevent you from dealing with diseases that could put you at risk. 

In addition, you may also use a device like a massage gun to give you immediate relief for your body sores and muscle tensions.  Massage guns have been proven to improve muscle recovery for athletes and gym-goers. The development of this portable hand-held device stemmed from the need of athletes and exercise enthusiasts to have something that could easily address muscle soreness after each strenuous activity.  So, whether it’s a traditional massage or a modern device, you now have more options to choose from. 

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