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Swedish Massage- in Touch With Your Body's Needs

Updated on January 28, 2011

History of Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is the most common type of massage offered by therapists and is a gentle and beneficial way of offering relief for many ailments, as well as relaxation and an enjoyable experience.
In Swedish massage there are five styles of massage strokes used to manipulate, soothe and relax the muscles. These techniques were first developed in Sweden by Per Henrik Ling, in 18th Century- although it was a Dutchman, Johan Georg Mezger who gave the techniques the French names They are now commonly known by.
The five styles are Effleurage; Petrissage; Tapotement (percussion); Friction (cross-fibre) and (Vibration/shaking), although there are a variety of strokes within each group. The therapist will discern the best ones to use for you and will change between the different strokes depending on the area of the body and how tense the muscles are. You will receive the massage that is right for you.

Benefits of Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a holistic therapy, which means that each massage is unique and aims to treat the individual as a whole. No two people or two treatments will be the same. Your massage will be tailor-made to suit your body's needs at that time. Since massage works on many different body systems at once, the effects it can have on well-being may come as a surprise to some people. The benefits of massage can be physical, mental and emotional. Increased circulation helps to carry blood, Oxygen and nutrients to vital areas of the body, and also helps to eliminate harmful wastes from the tissues. This alone will improve concentration, nutrition, breathing, painful and nervous complaints, however, the direct action of massage on the muscles has a further effect of soothing and relaxing the muscles causing pain relief and relaxation. When our body is relaxed, our mind is relaxed and the benefits of massage are not purely physical. The feel-good factor will also extend to your emotions and mind. The following are some of the benefits of swedish massage:

▪ Pain relief in muscles
▪ Relieves tension and knots in muscles
▪ Improves circulation and oxygen flow
▪ Soothes nervous system
▪ Releases endorphins (natural mood enhancing chemicals)
▪ Detoxes waste products and lactic acid from tissues
▪ Increases flexibility and mobility in joints
▪ Relaxes mind and helps to de-stress
▪ Restores healthy sleep patterns

Swedish Massage Strokes

Massage styles vary in their approach to the strokes used. Swedish massage uses 5 types of strokes and below is an outline of the most common techniques used by the majority of therapists, although skilled massage practitioners will often blend styles and will aim to create a flowing movement between different strokes.  The Five Styles are:

Effleurage
Gentle and Gliding strokes used throughout the massage.  These types of strokes are used in initial contact with the muscles, to soothe the nerves and muscle fibres, warm the tissues and to create a flowing, smooth transition between different areas of the body and between different strokes.

Kneading (Petrissage)
Wringing, twisting, kneading, pulling strokes deal with deeper tissues, and are used to ease tension of a more chronic nature.  These strokes also help to release lactic acid and toxins trapped in muscle cells, and are warming to muscles.

Percussion (Tapotement)
Hacking, cupping, tapping and percussive involve rapid, light hitting strokes to the skin and are used to increase circulation and blood flow to an area.  They should never be used directly on the spine, and are of particular use on areas of thick muscular layers such as the buttocks or thighs.

Friction
Friction is used on localised areas by vigorous rubbing of an area, maintaining pressure to disperse knots and stimulate circulation.

Vibration/ Shaking
Trembling motion on the tissues used to vibrate an entire area vigorously. This technique is useful in maintaining the health of the nervous system also to release tension in deeper muscles and skeletal structures.

Swedish Massage Treatment

Before the massage you will be taken through a brief health-history form which will allow the practitioner to tailor your treatment plan, specifically to your requirements. Depending on your needs, the therapist may choose to offer a full body treatment, or may decide to concentrate on the one area of tension, such as the back, neck and arms, of legs, for instance. During the massage, your therapist will be carefully judging the pressure they use and also looking for signs of discomfort. If you are experiencing any discomfort during a massage or if you require a firmer pressure it is important you tell your therapist.

Prevention and Cure

Swedish Massage is the ideal therapy for beginners with no previous experience of massage or as part of a regular regimen to maintain relaxation and physical health.  It is a versatile massage style that can be adapted to suit the individual, regardless or their age, body type or health.  This invaluable therapy is a panacea to all kinds of illness and an essential countermeasure to modern living.

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