The Definitive Guide to Swedish Massage

Close-up of massage therapist pouring oil in hands during massage at the spa.

Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage found in spas, health clinics and resorts. It is also a popular choice for massage therapists practicing their skills to serve many different clients. Because of its relaxing and therapeutic nature, many people prefer Swedish massage. Not only is it beneficial to the overall wellness of the massage client, but it can help them to relax and feel rejuvenated in a way that they never thought possible.

What is Swedish Massage?

When most people think about a whole-body massage, they are picturing a Swedish massage. Swedish massage is the foundation for many types of massage therapy. Swedish massage movements help warm up the muscle tissue, release tension and break up muscle knots. Swedish massage combines these movements with joint movement to relax and energize the body.

What Makes Swedish Massage Different?

During a Swedish massage, the massage therapist will lubricate the skin with massage oil and perform various massage strokes. The specific massage strokes include effleurage (gliding) strokes, petrissage (kneading) strokes, friction, tapotement (percussive) strokes, and vibration.

The Basics of a Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage and Essential Oils

Swedish massages should always be done in a calm and relaxing environment so that the client is able to relax. Because long, gliding strokes are often required to perform the massage properly, oil is often used in conjunction with the hand movements. Essential oils have many different beneficial properties on their own and becoming familiar with each is important when becoming a massage therapist.

Some of the most common essential oils used in the practice include lavender, geranium, coriander, patchouli, sweet orange and cedarwood. Each oil has special properties and it is important to listen to your client. It is important to avoid using oils on clients who are sensitive to the fragrance. Always discuss oils with clients and give them the option to choose which one they would like to utilize.

Mixing Essential Oils

Likewise, all essential oils need to be mixed thoroughly with a carrier oil. Most essential oils are too potent to put directly onto the skin and can cause irritation and chemical burns. Some of the most common carrier oils include almond oil, jojoba oil, hemp seed, emu oil, grapeseed oil and olive oil. Carrier oils not only help to dilute the essential oil, but they often contain a myriad of health and skin benefits themselves.

Different Massage Needs

You will be working with a variety of clients with varying needs. One client may come to you because they want relaxing couple’s massages, while another person might come to you because they are experiencing muscle strain and pain. It is up to you to work with clients on an individual basis and to give them what they need. One client may want essential oils, while another wants just a carrier oil. Some clients will be specific in where they need tension relief, while others will give you freedom to use your own technique. By treating each person as an individual, you will find that this improves your ability to work as a massage therapist performing Swedish massages.

Swedish Massage Strokes

There are five primary strokes involved in Swedish massage and used on clients depending on their needs and what they want to have done.

Effleurage Strokes

These long, flowing strokes are part of distributing the oils onto the skin as well as allowing the massage therapist to feel the muscle tone for better precision of the massage.

Petrissage Strokes

This stroke involves kneading the muscle and tissue to help flush out any metabolic waste and toxins found in the area. It’s crucial for eliminating built-up lymphatic fluid.

Friction Strokes

These fast, short movements are specifically done to produce heat on the skin and are crucial for bringing vital blood flow to the area. Friction strokes are also great for loosening sore and strained ligaments.

Tapotement Strokes

This is the quintessential “karate chop” type stroke that most people are familiar with when it comes to receiving a Swedish massage. These strokes, or chops, are most often used to relax tense and sore muscles.

Vibration Strokes

Vibration strokes create movement in the entire body and when done correctly by the massage therapist, they can be incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating while improving circulation.

The History Behind Swedish Massage

The Swedish massage was designed and developed by a man named Per Henrik Ling, who hailed from Sweden. He brought the technique into the United States in 1858 and named it the Swedish Movement Cure. By combining techniques from the Chinese, Roman and Greek massage therapies, he developed this unique massage specifically to relax and rejuvenate those who received it. Not only does the massage helps to ease tension and muscle strain, but it also helps to improve circulation as well as help with draining lymphatic fluid.

Benefits of Swedish Massage

When performed properly, this massage technique has many benefits that are helpful to both mind and body. Some of the physical benefits of a Swedish massage include:

  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Improved circulation
  • Ease of muscle tension
  • Increased oxygen levels in the blood
  • Improved flexibility

Mental Benefits of Swedish Massage

Some of the mental benefits of having this technique performed include:

  • Relaxes the client
  • Decreases cortisol levels
  • Helps in reducing anxiety and stress
  • Allows the client to feel rejuvenated

Because of the large number of benefits that come from having this technique performed, it is no wonder that going for a Swedish massage is a common and a wonderful way to both benefit from the physical and mental aspects of each session. For this reason, massage therapists need to be well-versed in this technique so that they can provide their clients with a wonderfully unique experience.

Massage Therapy Training

The great thing about most massage therapy programs is they are relatively quick and teach students all the techniques necessary to begin working in the field of massage therapy. Massage therapy training is crucial for learning how to perform a proper Swedish massage. Because many clients turn to massage therapists when they are dealing with stress, muscle tension, aches and pains, being able to perform the technique properly is important to help these individuals.

Massage Therapy is a Career (not just a job)

Becoming a therapist who specializes in performing massages is critical in developing a career that you can feel proud of. Not only will you be helping a wide range of clients of varying needs, but you are doing something that is highly rewarding and is a skill that you can use for the rest of your life. Massage therapists who perform massages often work with clients, but they can also help family members and friends who need muscle relaxation and the relief of tension and stress.

Want to Learn More?

Did this information interest you in becoming a massage therapist? If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 5 months with full time enrollment*. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a hairstylist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.

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