Swedish massage is a tried and tested massage therapy that has been around for many years. It is based around techniques accredited to 2 Swedish therapists, Per Henrik Ling and Dr Johann Mezgner. It involves the manipulation of tissues for either therapeutic relaxation, using slow gentle pressure or stimulation, using faster, higher pressure strokes.
Definition of Swedish Massage
Swedish massage is the manipulation of tissues for therapeutic relaxation or stimulation based around techniques accredited to Per Henrik Ling and Dr Johann Mezgner.
It can help your muscles to relax and reduce tension caused by stress. This is what most people require as a benefit from a treatment. But, it can also stimulate your body. It all depends on what you want.
For relaxation slow and gentle strokes are used. The pressure used increases and strokes used change as the massage progresses. Each treatment is adapted for you individually, based on what you want and your consultation.
Main Strokes Used in Swedish Massage Treatment and Their Effects
During a massage there is a general order in which the different strokes will be used. The strokes, the order in which they are use generally and their effects are as follows.
- Light Gliding Strokes / Effleurage (The Long Stroke, Circling, Feathering): These are used to spread oil over the surface of the area to be massaged. Light and then heavier pressure is used using both hands. The stroke starts in the direction of venous blood flow (toward the heart) and increases in pressure as you get close to lymph nodes. Then very light pressure is used to return to start position.
- Effects of Effleurage: These strokes are very relaxing and soothing. Effleurage warms up the surface tissues bringing blood to the surface, increasing circulation. It also increases the flow of lymph, which is the fluid between muscles cells that contains toxins we want to remove.
- Medium Depth Strokes (Kneading, Wringing) are more stimulating strokes than effleurage, that are used to reach tissue under the dermis.
- Kneading: This strokes action is similar to kneading bread dough, although obviously it is used on tissue. It uses 2 hands to apply pressure to muscles which lie deeper under the skin. Kneading uses the palm, fingers and thumbs or a combination of these.
- Effects of Kneading: Speeds up blood flow and lymph flow. Can help to reduces pain and muscle stiffness. It eases muscle tension and helps peoples muscles to relax. Increases how flexible and extensible muscles are. Presses muscle against bones increasing blood flow to those bones. May stimulate or relax depending on how vigorous or slow the stroke is. Stimulates skin to produce more sebum (the skins natural oil), improving its condition.
- Wringing: Similar to wringing out a tea towel. Tissues are pinched lightly between palm, fingers and thumb and lifted away from underlying bones by both hands. Once lifted one hands fingers moves diagonally to the other hands thumb. Stroke continues up and down along the muscle.
- Effects of Wringing: As with kneading. Also may relieve pain and soften adipose (fat) tissue under the skin.
- Percussion Strokes (Cupping, Hacking) are more stimulating than relaxing as they simulate circulation more than all other strokes.
- Cupping: Hands started cupped as if to hold water in the palm. Strike down with alternate hands on fleshy parts moving up and down along the muscle from the elbows with relaxed wrists. Make a clapping noise down and then suction will pull flesh up slightly.
- Effects of Cupping: As with hacking but, over a wider surface and so, the effect is not so deep.
- Hacking: Hands start above muscles to be hacked in prayer position. Move hands up and down from the elbows with relaxed wrists to strike muscle with alternate hands with its ridge.
- Effects of Hacking: As with kneading. Also may increase muscle tone.
- Return to Effluerage: in reverse order compared to above. That being heavy followed by lighter strokes to finish.
- Effects: The effect here is to push toxins out of muscles, that have been loosened up with all other strokes. Then the lighter strokes will allow you to feel a gentle, soothing touch meaning, this section of your body has been completed.
- Feathering: Very light touch than means you stay in constant contact while you move to a different area of the body.
- Effects of Feathering: It will make the client aware that the massage has not finished. When there is no contact, either it is time to turn over on the table or, the session has been completed.