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  • Writer's pictureLucila Izaguirre

What’s a Swedish Massage?

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Acupuncture and Pregnancy

Therapeutic massages are one of the most popular and relaxing ways to promote good health. Aside from providing many benefits like boosting the immune system and improving circulation, they are also excellent tools to use in conjunction with conventional treatments of both physical and psychological diseases. Massages have been around for centuries and are still used today all over the world.

Swedish massage, as it's known in English and Dutch-speaking countries, is also referred to as a classic massage. It was invented in the 1860s by a Swedish physician called Per Henrik Ling, credited with applying the first techniques used in modern massages today. This type of therapy uses actions like percussion, kneading, vibration, tapping, and rolling, along with massage oil or lotion to relieve areas of tension and other soft-tissue problems.

By using specific techniques, this type of massage therapy can improve digestion, blood pressure, and muscle tone and help relieve ailments like back and neck pain. In this article, Somerset Family Chiropractic will discuss the differences between deep tissue and Swedish massages, the benefits, techniques, and what to expect in your massage appointment.

What is the difference between a Swedish massage and a deep tissue massage?

The most significant difference between Swedish and deep tissue massage is their focus and application. Swedish massages tend to be gentler and more suited for people looking to relax and relieve muscle tension. In contrast, deep-tissue massages are better suited for athletes and people with more severe injuries. Although they are similar in nature, these massage techniques will differ in the following:

  • Pressure: A Swedish massage is gentler and uses less tension; it usually only involves using a therapist's palms and fingers. Deep tissue massages involve deeper kneading and pressure and sometimes involve elbows and forearms.

  • Applied techniques: Swedish techniques involve long gliding strokes and no deep tissue work. Deep tissue therapy uses more substantial pressure to break muscle tension.

  • Uses: Deep tissue massages can treat chronic muscle pain and sports injuries, while Swedish massages are primarily used to promote relaxation.

  • Area of focus: Swedish massages treat superficial layers of muscle where your body holds the most tension. Deep tissue massages target the inner layers of your muscle tissue.

What are the benefits of Swedish massage therapy?

According to the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association), 21% of women and 25% of men are likely to undergo massage therapy. More than 70% of massage consumers list health and wellness are their primary reasons for undergoing a massage appointment. Pain relief and pain management were the top concern when patients discussed massage as a treatment alternative with a doctor.

These statistics ring true. Clinical studies have found that a Swedish massage can reduce pain, fatigue, joint stiffness, and anxiety and improve motor functions in people with joint and muscle weaknesses. The NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) states that Swedish massage benefits alleviate a number of symptoms and disorders — like lower back pain, neck pain, and arthritis — but it can help improve other diseases like:

  • Anxiety: Encouraging calmness and relaxation during a massage session can decrease anxiety symptoms when performed by a trained massage therapist.

  • Digestive Disorders: Chronic constipation and abdominal tension are improved by relaxing muscle stiffness. This promotes intestinal motility and gut health.

  • Insomnia: Stress reduction leads to improved sleeping patterns.

  • Headaches: By loosening muscle stiffness due to poor posture, stress, and injury, recurring headaches can be diminished. Improving muscle tone can significantly improve this symptom.

  • Mood Problems: By boosting dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin production, as well as reducing cortisol levels, Swedish massages can drastically improve your mood and promote a happier lifestyle.

  • Muscle Tension: Swedish massage is known for helping to loosen up tight muscles. It is also effective at breaking down knots and relieving tension.

  • Lymph drainage: If you suffer from poor mobility or extreme muscle tension, lymphatic fluid can accumulate, thus building up toxins in your tissues. Massages can significantly improve lymphatic drainage, promoting the release of harmful toxins and improving your overall health.

Swedish Massage Techniques

There are five main techniques applied in Swedish massages:


This French term means to "touch lightly on" or "to skim." It's applied to Swedish massages at the beginning of the process by applying long strokes and gentle circular motions. This way, your therapist will warm you up before using the other techniques.


Petrissage is a technique that uses slow rhythmic kneading, squeezing, and rolling to massage soft tissues. It derives from the French word meaning "to knead." This technique is beneficial for stretching, loosening muscles, and improving blood circulation. You will spend most of your massage time in this process.


Blood flow and endorphins are stimulated by rhythmic tapping across the patient's body. This word means "to tap" or "drum" in French. Anything from tapping, to cupping, to hacking can be used to achieve this technique.


Though this type of massage technique is self-explanatory, friction softens tense muscle fibers and treats joints. Rubbing is applied to specific problem areas on your back and neck.


By rhythmically shaking your body, this technique promotes relaxation. Massage therapists use this to soothe nerves and treat areas with problematic scar tissue.

Preparing for a Swedish Massage

It's important to know what to expect during a Swedish massage, but knowing how to prepare for one is also an essential part of the process. The first start is to talk to your therapist and discuss why you are seeking a massage appointment. A Swedish massage therapist will want to know your symptoms and injuries so they can assess your massage process accurately. Communicating your comfort levels, goals, and expectations will lead to a better experience on the massage table.

Remember, during most full-body massages, you will be asked to undress, but it's up to you whether or not you keep your underwear on. Your appointed massage therapist will do their best to make you feel at ease and adjust to your comfort levels. They will ask how much pressure you can handle and work on your problem areas. Hydrating and warming up with a hot shower before your appointment can help relax your muscles and make for an even more pleasant massage.

How often should you get a Swedish massage?

There is no set frequency at which you should get a Swedish massage. You can get them as often or as little as you'd like. Massage therapists usually recommend follow-ups every 2-3 weeks; however, it's not realistic for everyone to pay or visit a Spa or wellness clinic that often.

We recommend monthly appointments to keep your body feeling relaxed and revitalized.

Experience Swedish Massages at Our Chiropractic Clinic

If you're looking for a Swedish massage in Ajax, Ontario, Somerset Family Chiropractic will be more than happy to accommodate you in our schedule. We count on experienced therapists prepared to deliver the soothing services you're looking for.


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