What is the Difference Between a Swedish Massage and a Regular Massage?

Massage therapist helping a client

Did you know that you can become a massage therapist in as little as 12 months, attending full-time? Interested in learning the difference between Swedish massage and regular massages? There are many different types of massage that you will learn during a massage therapy program at a vocational school, from Swedish massage to Himalayan hot stone and everything in between. Many massages derive their technique from Swedish massage, but each has a different technique and use. No one type of massage is better than another, but their goals vary. As a massage therapist, you should choose the type of massage that best suits the clients’ unique needs. Whether it is deep tissue massage that offers more pressure or chair massage that uses Swedish massage on the upper body, it is important to learn about the different types of massage so you can create a unique massage plan for your clients.

Swedish Massage History

Swedish massage was invented by Pehr Henrik Ling, in the 19th century. Injured himself, Pehr created a unique massage technique based on an early form of massage using percussion strokes. The massage technique originated in Sweden was brought back to the US in the mid-19th century. The traditional version of Swedish massage included five massage strokes: vibration, petrissage, friction, effleurage and tapotement.

Vibration – as a massage therapist, you will use the palm of your hand to massage in a back-and-forth motion to loosen muscles with vigorous vibration.

Petrissage – a deeper stroke to knead muscles. Using the knuckles and thumbs, you dig deep to prepare the muscles for further massage.

Friction – you use a rubbing action with your hands to produce heat and then place the heat on the muscles to warm them.

Effleurage – use of long gliding strokes to reduce tension in the muscles.

Tapotement – a fast tapping or patting of the muscles with a hand, soft fist and fingertips.

What are the Different Types of Massage Therapy?

During your massage therapy program, you will learn about Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, chair massage, prenatal massage, and Himalayan hot stone. It is important to learn many different types of massage in order to tailor a unique plan for each individual client. They will have unique ailments and pain thresholds that will require different types of massage. The main massage type and one that many massage techniques derive from is Swedish massage.

Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage, also known Western Massage is the basis of most massage therapy performed in America today. It is the most common form of massage found in spas, health clubs, and private practices. Swedish massage techniques aid in the circulation of blood and lymph, relaxing muscles, improving joint mobility, and inducing general relaxation. Some Swedish techniques include; effleurage: sliding or gliding over the skin with a smooth continues motion, Petrissage: lifting wringing or squeezing soft tissues in a kneading motion, Friction: rubbing one surface over another repeatedly to create heat and stimulate the skin, Tapotement: a series of brisk rhythmic percussive movements that have a stimulating effect, Vibration: oscillating, quivering, or trembling motion used to stimulate digestion or bring greater circulation to a muscle to help it relax. Each massage technique produces a different effect that aids in the decrease of muscle tension and increase relaxation. 

Deep Tissue Massage

The massage techniques used in deep tissue massage mirror that of Swedish massage. However, deep tissue massage also involves the use of deeper pressure and trigger point therapy. Trigger point therapy involves the identification and deactivation of painful fibrous nodules in muscles and connective tissue called trigger points. Trigger points can be felt as taut bands of tissue that elicit pain if pressed and that refer pain to other areas of the body. The deactivation of trigger points allows muscle tension to decrease and allows more blood flow to the muscle. Deep tissue therapy, although more intense than Swedish massage, can be extremely beneficial to a person’s overall health and well-being.

Sports Massage

Sports massage is the application of massage and related techniques to maintain the health of an athlete to enhance athletic performance. Sports massage is based on traditional western massage techniques. Most of the principals of sports massage are applicable to anyone engaged in physical fitness activities. Sports massage helps care for the wear and tear and minor injuries sustained in the performance of any strenuous physical activity. Some techniques are used more than others, depending on the situation and desired results. Techniques are applied very specifically to certain muscles and tendons; therefore, sports massage specialists have well developed palpation skills and knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy.  

Chair Massage

Derived from Swedish massage, chair massage focuses on the upper part of the body. The client sits in a chair designed for massage. As a massage therapist, you massage the head, neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands to relieve stress and tension. Many offices will bring in a massage therapist to perform chair massage on employees that sit for extended periods of the day and need relief from stiffness and repetitive motions. Chair massages are also common in malls, casinos, and other open environments for clients that are on their feet or sitting for extended periods of time.

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is a form of Swedish massage that is performed on mothers-to-be when they are pregnant and feeling the effects of carrying around a baby for up to nine months. The main purpose of prenatal massage is to relieve back and neck pain. While a client may lie face down during a Swedish massage, a prenatal massage has the client lay with special cushioning to help them lie down properly without putting pression on blood vessels that can disrupt blood flow to the baby. It is important for you to have your client get permission from their doctor before engaging in prenatal massage as the doctor will know about the contraindicators of massage for that specific client. Prenatal massage has been considered safe after the first trimester and also can be used for post-partum depression after the baby is born.

Prenatal massage is used to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension, according to the American Pregnancy Organization. Prenatal massage can also be used to decrease the symptoms of depression, improve labor outcomes as well as improve newborn health.

Himalayan Hot Stone

A hot stone massage uses hot or cold stones to induce relaxation and relieve pain. The most common type of stone used today is basalt, smooth, flat volcanic rocks that retain heat and are thought to channel healing energies. Himalayan hot stone massage uses hot stones with minerals to exfoliate the skin, softening the client’s skin. Himalayan hot stones give off negative ions to balance out the positive ions that cause inflammation in the body. Himalayan hot stone massage helps reduce stress, offering a calm and warm atmosphere.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do Day-to-Day?

A massage therapist’s job is to relieve the stress and tension of a client’s body by manipulating muscles and soft tissue with different types of massage therapy techniques. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a massage therapist will communicate with clients to understand their symptoms, medical histories and massage goals. They will evaluate the client’s body to better understand which massage technique will help relieved muscle pain and restore range of motion. The massage therapist will help educate clients in between appointments to stretch, strengthen and relax their bodies and improve posture. They will also document the client’s condition and record the progress of the massage therapy treatment.

A massage therapist may work in a spa or resort, open up their own business location or travel to client’s residence and commercial buildings to offer massage to their clients. After graduating from an accredited vocational school that offers a massage therapy program, the massage therapist will work to pass the licensing exam. Once the massage therapist is licensed, they may start seeing clients for massage therapy sessions.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between Swedish massage and regular massage, are you interested in learning more about massage therapy? Becoming a massage therapist is a rewarding career and allows you to help others that are experiencing acute or chronic pain. You work with all types of clients, from office workers to pregnant mothers-to-be. If you are interested in starting a satisfying career, then becoming a massage therapist may be the right career path for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for massage therapist is expected to grow 21 percent in the coming decade. In the face of technology and outsourcing, a massage therapist will continue to be in demand for many years to come.

Want to Learn More?

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 13 months. 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 massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

What is Swedish Massage? A Massage Therapist’s Guide

Massage therapy is an exciting field full of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of many different people. The array of techniques allows massage to be helpful in a variety of ways. It can help people ease their pain, relieve their stress and alleviate the tension that can prematurely wear their bodies down. There are a lot of different reasons that someone might make an appointment for a massage, but their appointment will have more than one benefit. Massage therapy that manually stimulates soft tissue and muscle groups releases toxins, improves circulation and helps with joint support.

Know What to Expect

Knowing what kind of appointment to book can be more confusing than it initially seems. There are a lot of variations of massage methods and techniques to choose from and they all offer something different. You probably know what kind of end result you want, but that doesn’t mean you know what kind of massage will get you there. It is highly likely that Swedish massage has been suggested or recommended to you at some point. This form of massage therapy is so popular that it is often referred to as “classic massage.” But will it give you what you are looking for? Let’s take a look at what Swedish massage is, and what it is utilized for.

Defining Traits of Swedish Massage Technique

The trademark of this massage method is slow, gliding motions that lead blood flow back toward the heart. There are a lot of movements that can be included in the Swedish massage experience to help release the tension and stress from the body. They are generally classified as stroking, kneading, striking, and rubbing and vibration. Each technique produces a different effect that relieves stress in a different way.

A massage therapist will have had the training to determine the right combination to help their client feel happier and more relaxed by the end of their appointment. This experience can be confined to a certain area of the body or include the entirety of it. It all depends on how inclusive the client wants their relaxation effort to be and whether their tension is carried in any specific places.

How to Utilize Swedish Massage

There is a myriad of benefits to receiving a Swedish massage, but the primary reason for booking one is to relax the entire body. This can be achieved by focusing on an area that carries stress and focusing all the attention to that section. It can also be achieved by systematically approaching each area of the body and relieving pressure and tension to maximize a client’s general comfort and relief. Whatever the case might be, Swedish massage is generally low-impact and meant to make someone feel good. Here are a few good reasons think about booking one or recommending one to a friend.

General Stress

Life is stressful, and never in just one area at a time. Trying to balance an overloaded schedule or resolve problems does more than just stress someone out mentally and emotionally. The demands of a profession, family and personal life can actually manifest as physical problems that can make daily tasks more uncomfortable. Cumulative stress needs a release to avoid the long term physical and mental health damage that can be done by being perpetually overtaxed. Getting a classic massage regularly may help stabilize mood and get rid of tension that would otherwise build up and become unhealthy.

Cubicle Tension

Just because someone sits at a desk doesn’t mean their body doesn’t suffer wear and tear from their job. The repetitive impact of sitting and the sustained motion of activities such as typing can do damage to muscles, joints and tendons over long periods of time. This mild, gradual damage can evolve into injuries that affect daily life. By booking an appointment for a Swedish massage on a semi-frequent basis a client can help to slow and avoid the physical damage done by sedentary office and administrative work. They may also want to consider a classic massage to combat the negative impact that repetitive clerical work can have on their overall mood and demeanor.

For Special Occassions

This is the perfect kind of massage to book for group outings like bachelorette/bachelor parties, birthdays, mother’s/father’s day and other celebrations because it is low impact and therefore low risk for everyone in the group. Swedish massages are generally pleasant and gentle which means they are going to be enjoyable for many people. So even if a member of a party has never had a massage or is dealing with a physical issue of some sort, they can still enjoy a Swedish massage.

Self Care

A client can also get a classic massage for no reason at all! Their primary purpose is for the body and mind to feel relaxed and to feel comfortably at ease. So even if a client doesn’t have “a good reason” or “an excuse” for a massage, they can treat themselves to some hands-on self-care and make the appointment anyway. We often find reasons to neglect our own pleasure and satisfaction, but there is no reason not to give oneself a gift that will have lasting health benefits.

When Not to Utilize Swedish Massage

Classic or Swedish massages can be a gift to oneself that is both helpful and luxurious. They are not, however, meant to be used exclusively or as a remedy for all physical issues. There are many other massage techniques that have been developed to deal with many issues. Some massage techniques deal with certain areas of the body, some deal with certain kinds of damage or injury. Here are a few examples of issues the classic technique is not used to deal with.

Hard Labor Relief

The Swedish method might be effective when it comes to combating the effects of office and administrative work, but it is not quite aggressive enough for much of the damage sustained during hard labor jobs. Physically demanding career fields such as construction, child-care and other manual labor jobs can cause stress and damage that a classic massage may not be able to address properly. The damage from the high stress and direct impact of these positions often requires deeper and more focused attention to deep muscle and soft tissue groups.

Swedish massage might be too superficial of a manual manipulation technique to reach the problem areas the way they need to be. It is not uncommon to experience discomfort when achieving results through the more intense massage methods. The classic method primarily focuses on making one feel comfortable. Please consult your healthcare professional to see if massage is the right choice for your discomfort.


Massage therapy can be helpful when recovering from an injury. It is a tool that can help in the physical rehabilitation of most areas of the body. Sports and hobbies can cause pulled or knotted muscles, strained tendons and stressed tissues. Swedish massages might help someone relax after a single stressful event, but Swedish massage is probably not the best massage choice to use for addressing the immediate impact and prolonged effects of an actual injury. It could be that the techniques used in the classic method might worsen the injury and extend the damage. So, it is important to identify and isolate any injuries or trouble spots before a massage therapist begins any kind of massage.

Deep Detoxification

There will be a small amount of toxins released during any kind of massage. However, there are some methods that are more effective at detoxification than others. If someone is hoping to use massage as a way to release the systemic toxic build up throughout one’s body, they are going to need a method firmer than the Swedish technique. It may be incredible for relaxation, but they are going to need a method that reaches deep into their tissues if they are looking for a deep toxin release. Getting to these deeper layers requires a bit of pressure and can be briefly unpleasant, which means the classic relaxation technique may not be the best detox solution.

Extreme Increase in Range of Motion

Swedish massage will help relax and loosen up someone’s movements, but it is not going to cause a serious increase in range of motion or flexibility. If classic massage is a regular part of physical maintenance a client may see a slow, gradual increase in their freedom of movement and their overall comfort. However, if a client wants to incorporate massage into their efforts to become more flexible, they should consider a massage method that will focus on their joints and prioritize the muscles and tissues around them. Going with a technique with greater focus will be more effective for achieving quicker, more dramatic flexibility results. Swedish massage is broader than a person will likely need to increase their range of motion.

Which Method is Best?

Massage therapy can be intimidating if not familiar with it. It can be tough to distinguish between the different methods and keep straight what they are all used for. There are many different theories and practices to keep track of and new ones being developed and discovered all the time. Becoming a massage therapist is without a doubt the best way to choose what massage method would be most beneficial to a specific physical and mental needs. The education would also allow to extend knowledge and support to others who may be in need of relief. A person can focus on getting pampered while getting a general feel for how a massage appointment typically goes. This can make it easier to explore new career paths, try new methods or simply book another Swedish massage appointment.

Want to Learn More?

Did this information about what a Swedish massage is interest you? 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 13 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 massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.

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 13 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.