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Types of Massage Explained: Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is one of the most common massage modalities, particularly in the United States.

Before we dive into the Swedish Massage, let’s tackle a term you will be hearing from me quite frequently –modality.  ‘Type of massage’ or ‘massage type’ is often used by the layman where they should be using the term ‘modality.’ The term modality does refer to a method used, however, it more specifically points to a specific method of touch to physically treat a problem.

The defining characteristics of a Swedish Massage are long smooth strokes that focus on moving blood and lymph in the direction of the heart. This type of massage is designed to be more relaxing. It focuses on increasing oxygen, decreasing toxins, and improving circulation all while easing tension. 

Techniques Used in Swedish Massage

Most massages incorporate some level of Swedish techniques which include effleurage, petrissage, vibration, friction, and tapotement.

Effleurage is the smooth long superficial strokes typically used to warm up the tissues.

Petrissage involves “milking” the muscles by pulling them away from the bone and then afterward compressing towards the bone repetitively.

Vibration is relatively self-explanatory as we use rapid vibrating motions to break up adhesions and promote circulation.

Friction involves muscular cross fiber motions also intended for breaking up adhesions or knots.

Tapotement is a rapid tapping, hacking or slapping of the body to stimulate and increase circulation.

While these techniques could be used in deeper therapeutic modalities as well, Swedish massage focuses more superficially (the layers of muscle right beneath the skin).

The thing to be careful of when requesting this modality is a lazy therapist who uses the superficiality of the modality as an excuse to perform a mediocre massage.

Some therapists do little more than rub lotion into the skin and call it a Swedish massage which is a gross misrepresentation of this important modality.