Everything You Need to Know about Swedish Massage – and Why It’s the Most Popular Massage Today

I have to admit: I am a fan of massage therapy. After a long week at work, nothing eases my stress more than getting a nice, relaxing massage at home. At home, you say? Yes, I am that much of a fan that I have my own massage table and a massage therapist who visits me and does what I fondly refer to as her ‘magic tricks’ to those stubborn knots on my back and shoulders.

Although I’ve experienced different kinds of massages, there is still one massage that gets me drooling (sorry about the visual image) every time: the Swedish massage. The Swedish massage is probably the most popular type of massage, and it’s not difficult to see why. The gentle, kneading strokes of this massage are enough to make a massage first-timer into a convert for life.

Where it all began and what it is

The Swedish massage was pioneered by (who else?) a Swedish physiologist named Per Henrik Ling. The concept behind Swedish massage is slow and gentle movements with a focus on the Western principles of physiology and anatomy, as opposed to more vigorous and intense movements and pressure shown in Asian massages, which focus on meridians and ‘lines’ on the body. But nowadays, you can also get variations – you can get a combination Swedish and deep tissue massage, which has more intense pressure, depending on your need and preference. A good massage therapist will be able to evaluate the kind of technique you need for specific pain and symptoms.

What to expect

A Swedish massage is supposed to give you an immense feeling of calm and relaxation. At the beginning you will be asked to remove your clothing and be in a partially undressed state according to your degree of comfort. A towel or sheet will then be draped over you as you lie down on a massage table. Massage tables are specially-designed couches for massage sessions, typically with built-in face cradles where you can place your head facing downwards, for a better position for your spine. The therapist will uncover only one part of the body at a time – the part where they are focusing their attention on –while the rest of the body remains covered.

The massage therapist will then ask you about any symptoms or pain in any area, or previous conditions or injuries you have experienced. Let the therapist know if you are pregnant or are allergic to any oils, and whether you prefer light or intense pressure.

Once the massage session commences, the therapist will usually begin by applying oil on your back as you lie face down on the massage table. Swedish massage techniques include kneading, tapping, stroking or effleurage (a gliding motion done on a large surface, such as your back, arms, or legs), stretching, and rubbing.

After working on the back, the therapist then focuses on the backs of your legs. You are then asked to turn around, and the therapist will then work on your legs, front, arms, and then your shoulders and neck. The usual time for a Swedish massage is 60 minutes, as this is the ideal period to get your muscles and entire body relaxed, but some prefer longer massages lasting to up to 90 minutes for a more intense and firm focus on problem areas.

Image attributed to: FreeDigitalPhotos.net Serge Bertasius Photography