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The Massage Encyclopaedia: Swedish Massage

Updated: Feb 21

The Swedish massage is the most popular type of relaxation massage in Christchurch. It involves massaging the surface layers of the muscles with the hands, forearms, or elbows in order to promote mental and physical wellness. This massage might also include active or passive joint movement.

Some of the scientifically-proven advantages of Swedish massage are:

  • Increased blood circulation

  • Mental and physical relaxation

  • Reduced stress and muscular tension, and

  • Enhanced range of motion

Where Did the Swedish Massage Originate From?

Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish fencing instructor, pioneered Swedish massage in the 1830s. He seemed to have treated himself, after he got hurt in the elbows, by implementing tapping (percussion) strokes around the affected portion. He went on to create what we know as the Swedish massage technique, which is prevalent even today.

After nearly two decades, in the 1850s, two brothers - Dr Charles and Dr George Taylor - imported this procedure from Sweden to the United States.

The process typically includes long gliding strokes, friction, kneading and tapping movements on the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes, a therapist might also use passive and active joint motions.

Swedish Massage Benefits

Massage treatments are reasonably safe and barely have any contra-indications, unlike that of drug therapy, which leads to plenty of several systemic and long-term negative side effects.

Some advantages of a Swedish massage include:

Physical benefits

Swedish massage has a few physical advantages, including:

  • Relieving cramps, muscle spasms and fatigue by releasing those stiff muscles and stretching connective tissues

  • Muscular strength improvement

  • Relaxation of the nervous system

  • Stimulation of proper blood circulation

  • Firming up of muscles and toning the skin

  • Relieving certain disorders such as asthma, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic and acute pain syndromes, myofascial pain, headache, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, and athletic injuries

  • Speeding up the recovery process post-accident or illness or workout

  • Improving lymphatic drainage of metabolic wastes

Mental and emotional benefits

This type of massage also comes with amazing benefits for the mind and our overall health, including:

  • Relaxation of the mind

  • Improving the duration and quality of sleep

  • Relieving stress, depression, anxiety, and irritability and a

  • Better feeling of well-being

The process

The person receiving a Swedish massage is wrapped with a towel or sheet and lays on a massage table. It is a full-body massage, except where contra-indications exist or when the client expresses a desire not to be touched.

Massage strokes are facilitated by the application of scented or unscented oil or lotion. Each session is approximately 30-60 minutes long. A massage session may include many or all of the following fundamental methods, depending on the client's preferences: effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration, and tapotement.


Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It involves a gliding, free-flowing movement towards the heart, following the body's outlines with one palm or both hands. The therapist would usually start by applying this kind of stroke, using body oil. The process uses mild or medium pressure, and the therapist’s hand movements help warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm your nerves, improve blood circulation and cardiac function, and the lymphatic drainage system.


The process is similar to kneading dough— lifting, rolling, and squeezing the flesh beneath or between the hands are all parts of the process. Pétrissage is a technique for releasing muscular tension, increasing blood flow, and lymphatic drainage.


Friction strokes address deeper muscular tissues, than the ones mentioned above. This technique is the deepest among Swedish massage therapies and involves a pressure stroke. The massage therapist applies pressure by resting their weight on the palm and the thumb pads, knuckles, fingers, or the backs of the forearms, then slowly and gently releasing the pressure. This movement should be a series of alternating circular movements or a continuous sliding motion.


The massage therapist gently shakes or trembles the skin using his or her palm or fingers to create vibration, then goes on to another spot and repeats the technique. Vibrations are used to relieve muscular tension in tiny muscle groups like those on the face and along the spine.


Tapotement, also known as tapping and percussion, is a choppy rhythmic movement that stimulates or tones the body. Tapotement can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Cupping: The therapist shapes the hands into a cup shape, keeping the thumbs near to the palms and the fingers straight but bending only at the lower knuckles. In a quick sequence, the therapist hits the skin with the flats of his palms.

  • Hacking is a comparable approach to cupping. To create a chopping pattern, the therapist uses the sides of his hands with palms facing each other.

  • Pummeling: The therapist produces loose fists in both hands and swiftly applies them over the thighs and buttocks during this stroke.

Most people find tapotement techniques to be energising, but some may find them to be too intense. Tapotement can cause nerve and muscle overstimulation and weariness if used for too long. It should also not be applied directly over varicose veins or bony structures.


The following items are required for the Swedish massage:

  • A professional massage table or any hard but well-padded surface can be used as the massage surface.

  • A clean sheet to cover the body portion that will not be massaged.

  • Cushions: Depending on the client's needs (for example, someone with lower back pain), the use of cushions can work as support (for the head and knees).

  • Oils: The base oil should be a vegetable oil, cold-pressed, unrefined, and devoid of additives. Vitamins and minerals, in addition to fatty acids, are found in these oils. Mineral oils frequently block pores, but they don't.

Essential (aromatic) oils can be applied to increase relaxation or give other therapeutic benefits. Before applying massage oil to the client's skin, the therapist should warm it in his or her hands.


Patients with the following physical problems or conditions should not get a Swedish massage, or at the very least, consult a doctor before scheduling one:

  • Those with fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea

  • Those with broken bones, fractures, dislocations, or severe sprains

  • Those with infectious diseases

  • Those with exposed wounds or sores that haven't healed

  • Those with inflamed, swollen, or bruised parts of the body

  • Those with varicose veins—a type of vein that runs through the body

  • Those who have undergone recent surgery

  • Those suffering from extreme discomfort

  • Those with jaundice

  • Those with frostbite

  • Those with renal failure

  • Those with hernia

  • Those with ruptured ligaments, tendons, or muscles haemorrhaging

  • Those with high blood pressure or cardiac issues

  • Those with certain types of cancer

  • Those with phlebitis or thrombosis (these patients may have blood clots that may become dislodged and travel to the lungs, with potentially fatal results.)

  • Those who use blood thinners as a therapy (these drugs raise the risk of internal bleeding).

Some customers who’ve experienced any kind of physical assault or abuse may feel hesitant to remove their clothes or wish to participate in certain aspects of the massage therapy. Hence, it’s always a good idea to give a quick brief of what’s going to happen during the course of the massage session and how it might help the client.

Side effects

Massages done with low or moderate-intensity have rarely been reported for any side effects. Intense massage, on the other hand, can put the body in danger. Muscle soreness and injuries such as bleeding in the liver or other essential organs, as well as the dislodgment of blood clots, have all been linked to a vigorous massage session. It is, therefore, highly advisable that you seek a true professional’s help prior to scheduling.

Research & general acceptance

Swedish massages are gradually being recognised as a complementary therapy by the medical world. This type of massage has been proven to calm the body, lower blood pressure and regulate your heart rate. Plus, a session alleviates stress and depression according to several scientific studies. Just one or a couple of sessions may also help with the symptoms of several chronic conditions.

Massage therapies are increasingly often prescribed as a symptomatic treatment for headaches, face discomfort, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, various chronic and acute diseases, stress, and sports injuries by many doctors. If you feel that you can benefit from it, then it’s time to seek a professional massage therapist to help you out.

To book a relaxing massage in Christchurch, NZ, feel free to reach out to us.

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