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Swedish Therapeutic Massage

Updated on July 9, 2013

There are several categories of massage techniques involved in Swedish or Western massage. Knowledge of these techniques is necessary to do proper, therapeutic massage.

The Benefits of Massage Therapy
The Benefits of Massage Therapy


The first of these techniques is Effleurage. This is the one a therapist must always start with and end with, and is a sliding or gliding stroke done in a smooth continuous motion.

This technique distributes the oil or cream on the body. It allows the patient to become accustomed to the therapist's touch. It allows the therapist to assess the condition of the client's skin and muscle tissues, as well as to transition from one body region to the next without losing contact and the energy connection.

It assists in venous and lymph return on extremities. It increases local circulation in tissues, meaning it brings nutrients and removes wastes. It can calm the nervous system when done slowly; and stimulate the nervous system when done quickly. Furthermore, it prepares the body for deeper strokes because it warms the tissues.


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The second massage technique is Petrissage. This technique is one that lifts, wrings, rolls or squeezes in a kneading motion.

It is used to “milk” tissues of waste products, assist in venous lymph return, increase local circulation, separate muscle fibers, and evoke muscular relaxation.

It is always preceded by a sufficient amount of effleurage strokes to warm up the area and for absorption of the lubricant. Too much lubricant in this technique, prohibits efficient grasping of the tissues.



The third technique is friction. This technique involves a stroke that does not slide over the skin, but moves the skin over deeper tissue layers until the skin gets warm. Friction gets rid of hypertonic tissue, which is hard, dense knots.

It is used to increase local circulation. It breaks down adhesions or knots. It loosens stiffness in the joint. It allows the therapist to work in areas with little blood supply, such as tendons and ligaments.

This technique is preceded by effleurage and petrissage, strokes for proper warm up and lubricant absorption.


The technique used in a lot in sports massage is tapotement. It is the most stimulating stroke in all of Swedish massage. It is a series of rapid percussion or drumming movements of the hands, performed in an alternating or simultaneous fashion.

This technique is used to stimulate nerve endings. It is often used at the end of a massage to prevent sending a too sedated client back to work or on the road.

It also tones muscles as well as preparing muscles for performance, as in athletics or dance. It dislodges phlegm in the lungs. It desensitizes hypersensitive areas.

This technique cannot be done immediately after exercising, because it activates muscle spindles resulting in cramping. It also should never be used in delicate and unprotected areas, which means, any area that is not protected with bone cavities or muscles; or any area that has superficial bone structures, such as vertebrae, scapula, varicose veins, abdomen, and anterior neck, to name a few. These are called endangerment sites.



This final technique is interchangeable with the previous one, and can be done prior to it, if necessary. It is a tremulous quivering, shaking, rocking movement that is applied with the fingers, full hand, or appliance.
It is used to enhance relaxation, increase circulation, relieve pain, stimulate peristalsis or the propelling of the intestine, and it assists in postural drainage.

At the start as well as the end of any good massage, the therapist will come back to effleurage to finish the session.


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    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M. Urquhart 7 years ago from Florida

      Thank you. Thanks for the visit.

    • balticirongrey profile image

      balticirongrey 7 years ago

      nice hub! hope to see more of this! i really want to know more about massage techniques and how its done.