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The Basic Swedish Massage Techniques

written by: Kristina Dems • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/16/2011

There are many different massages and Swedish massage is one of the most common chosen by many to relax their body and relieve stress. Learn the basic Swedish massage techniques, benefits and precautionary measures.

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    Massage is a therapeutic way to relieve muscle strains and stress, both physical and emotional. It is highly recommended for people with fast-paced lifestyles. There are several types of massage and one of which is the Swedish massage.

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    What is a Swedish Massage?

    Swedish massage is done by manipulating the tissues and muscles using the hands, arms and elbow. The rubbing is done in the same direction the blood flows to the heart to stimulate blood circulation. The focal point of this massage is to promote relaxation, enhance muscle tone, and lessen muscle tightness.

    Contrary to many, Swedish massage did not come from Sweden nor invented by a Swedish. It was wrongly associated to Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish gymnast who also became a medical practitioner. It was a Dutch doctor in the name of Johan Georg Mezger who started calling the Swedish massage as what it is known today.

    The Swedish massage techniques are as follows in exact order:

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    It includes gliding strokes from the back of the neck down to the sacral part and shoulder to the fingertip using the palms of the hands. The two types of effleurage according to pressure are light and deep. Light effleurage is done to spread oil and evaluate the tissue. Its effect is to relax the muscles; slow down the heart rate and blood pressure; and relieve pain. Deep effleurage is done for deeper relaxation of the muscles.

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    It involves picking up, kneading, squeezing, lifting and skin rolling by the use of thumbs and fingertips. The purpose of this stroke is to alleviate congestion, decrease swelling and treat fatigue. The effects of this stroke are to relax the nervous system and increase peristaltic movement to enhance digestion when performed over the abdomen.

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    Friction stroke also known as connective tissue massage, targets deep tissues and it is done after the tissues have been warmed-up from previous techniques. It is performed by firmly rubbing the skin in circular motion and in deep pressure with the use of thumb, fingertips, knuckles or palm depending on the area covered.

    There are four types of friction strokes:

    1. Direct Pressure Friction reduces pain and also increases peristaltic movement to enhance digestive processes and defecation.
    2. Linear Friction broadens muscle fibers and increases muscle tone.
    3. Cross Fiber Friction relaxes the muscles.
    4. Heat Rub Friction stimulates vasodilation to promote blood circulation and muscle relaxation.
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    Commonly known as percussion, tapotement is done in a fast pace by cupping or tapping the muscles. It should not be performed on bony areas. This technique promotes gas exchange, relaxes tired muscles and helps in tightening saggy skin (especially the buttocks and thigh).

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    This technique is performed over the abdomen to facilitate digestion; thoracic and chest area to relieve respiratory problems such as asthma and to loosen phlegm for easy excretion; and nerve linings to stimulate nerve impulses especially on the weakened or tired muscles. Fine vibration is done by small and gentle trembling motions on the areas of the body with the use of either the palm of the hands or fingertips, while coarse vibration is done with large vigorous trembling or shaking around large areas. It is important to consider that upon performing this stroke, hands should be relaxed and pressure should be light.

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    Precautionary Measures

    Unfortunately, not all are allowed to experience Swedish massage techniques, particularly those who have the following health conditions: edema, fracture, osteoporosis, diabetes, hemophilia, open wounds and varicosities, among others. Though it is a standard, some massage therapist may miss to ask their clients about their health conditions. So, it is very important that you inform your massage therapist of whatever ailments you have for your own safety because some strokes, especially deep pressures, may aggravate your situation. Also, make sure that the person performing the massage is a licensed massage therapist to ensure he is well trained to deliver a patterned therapeutic massage rather than random skin manipulation that could put you at risk.

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    • Swedish Massage Technique:
    • Per Henrik Ling and Swedish Massage:
    • Frequently asked questions:
    • What is a Swedish Massage?:

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