contrast to most Asian styles, Swedish massage uses long, firm strokes
and gentle tapping. Asian styles emphasize more focused pressure on
The Swedish massage is the most common style practiced among massage therapists.
The modern form of Swedish massage was probably developed in Sweden around the beginning of the 19th century, though the actual details of its origin is disputed. Many attribute the original techniques to Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish gymnastics instructor who, it is said, developed the style for athletes.
Others claim that credit goes to a Dutch born physician by the name of Johann Metzger.
Whoever actually should get the credit for this innovation, the techniques that are now practiced worldwide are largely agreed on. In contrast to most Asian styles, Swedish massage uses long, firm strokes and gentle tapping. Asian styles of massage tend to call for more focused pressure on specific areas.
One result of this type of bodywork is improved circulation, as muscles are encouraged to release blood trapped within them. Joints seem to be made more limber while tense muscles relax under the gentle but firm pressure of a well done Swedish massage.
These results are achieved by a combination of five different traditional movements employed by the massage therapist.
is a gliding stroke, a movement in which the masseuse or masseur uses
long arm movements with the flat of the hand to apply gentle pressure
over large areas. In this way, long muscles receive a full
range of attention and blood flow is evened out.
is a complementary technique which kneads selected areas, but still
with a larger surface than in Shiatsu.
Compression strokes are used in conjunction.
Pressure is the ratio of force to area. As the area
is increased, for a given force, the pressure is lowered.
This makes Swedish petrissage less intense than Shiatsu.
applied at the correct level, warms the surface of the body, which
stimulates good circulation. It also invariably accompanies
the gentle pressure that causes muscles to relax.
is the percussive tapping or light pounding traditionally associated
with a massage. The technique has been seen in a hundred
films and TV shows and it helps loosen muscles and provides a gentle
is often used in concert with the other techniques. A rapid,
small-movement, shaking can help limber joints and relieve stress.
This differs from the small rocking movements used in other
styles in which limbs are grasped and moved as a whole.
Often, a traditional Swedish massage will be carried out using oil or
lotion. Some clients find the decreased friction that results
pleasurable and the aromas can add to the experience. Some specialty
oils that heat on contact are sometimes used, though they aren't part
of the traditional technique.
Many forms of massage, such as sports
tissue massage and others use Swedish techniques as a
starting foundation. It's usually carried out while the
client wears minimal or no clothing, covered with a drape that's
uncovered a section at a time.
Systematically proceeding through different sections of the body, the
massage therapist provides an overall body massage that leaves the
recipient feeling relaxed. The overall mood elevation that
results is a commonly reported benefit in addition to those already
Essentials of Swedish Massage
Basics and Benefits of Aromatherapy