Swedish Massage

So you’ve heard of Swedish Massage, but what does that mean – is it a type of massage that originated in Sweden?  Have you ever enjoyed the benefits of one, and know what the techniques are used for?  Let’s explore this wonderful healing modality and how it can be customized to a body’s specific needs, while on the road to relaxation for the entire mind, body and spirit!

Where did Swedish Massage Originate?

Swedish Massage was not created by a Swede, nor did it originate in Sweden.  In fact, in Sweden, there is no such thing as “Swedish massage;” instead, massage is referred to as “classic massage.”  In the U.S. however, the term “classic massage” is used very little, while “Swedish Massage” is considered the ‘classic’ and most basic of all massage methods.

According to massagemag.com:

Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) is generally credited (by physicians such as Emil Kleen and Richard Hael, who researched the origins of massage and gymnastics) as the man who adopted the French names to denote the basic strokes under which he systemized massage as we know it today, as Swedish or classic massage. Somehow, the term Swedish Movement System was transposed to Swedish Massage System sometime during the second half of the 19th century. Ling’s system was the Swedish Movement System or Swedish Gymnastic Movement System. This may be how he has become incorrectly associated for so long with Swedish massage. When the first books were written about Ling’s Swedish Gymnastic System, the writers used the French terms so prevalent since Mezger’s use of them. Later writers evidently attributed the French terms to Ling because of this.

What is a Swedish Massage?

This is accomplished by rubbing the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart.  But Swedish massage therapy goes beyond relaxation.  Swedish massage is exceptionally beneficial for increasing the level of oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle toxins, improving circulation and flexibility while easing tension.

What is a typical Massage Therapy session like?

A typical session is between 40 and 90 minutes.  Your massage will begin with a brief consultation and review of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle.  You will be asked to undress (many people keep thier underwear on) while therapist is out of the room, and lie face down under a sheet on a padded massage table.

Key principles:

A sequence of Swedish massage usually starts with stroking, followed by  kneading, friction, vibrations, percussion, stroking again, and then passive  movements.  It traditionally takes place on a massage chair, since it is  essential for the masseur to keep a straight back.  The massage usually begins on  the legs and feet, followed by the hands and arms, then the abdomen and chest,  and finally the back.

Techniques of a Swedish massage include: long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, percussion, vibration, effleurage, and shaking motions. The usually sequence of techniques are:

  1. Effleurage: Gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs and/or fingertips
  2. Petrissage: Kneading movements with the hands, thumbs and/or fingers
  3. Friction: Circular pressures with the palms of hands, thumbs and/or fingers
  4. Vibration: Oscillatory movements that shake or vibrate the body
  5. Percussion: Brisk hacking or tapping
  6. Passive and active movements: Bending and stretching

Tools for the massage:

Create an environment for the recipient to be comfortable.  Since clothing for this massage is optional, be sure the room is slighty warmer than normal.

  1. A massage table
  2. Towel
  3. Blanket and/or sheets
  4. Lotion or oil – Choose a lotion or oil that enables your hands to reduce friction acorss the skin.
  5. Candles or incense
  6. Soft Music

A study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and published in The New York Times, found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as arginine vasopressin-a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol.  Volunteers also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, and a boost in the immune cells that may help fight colds and the flu.

The overall, common benefits of a Swedish Massage are that it feels good, it’s relaxing and very invigorating!

Learn how to give relaxing, professional Swedish Massage yourself, at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona!  This gives the body-worker a framework onto which he/she can add many other modalities or use as a complete massage in itself.

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