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What Is Swedish Massage?

Swedish Massage

Although many assume Swedish massage comes from Sweden, Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909), a Dutch man, is often credited with formalizing the system known as Swedish massage—sometimes referred to as “classic massage” in Europe. Mezger assigned French names— effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement—to the specific strokes used in Swedish massage application. These words in English are known as stroking, kneading, rubbing (friction), and striking. Although Swedish massage may seem to be a more aggressive application than other massage and bodywork techniques such as shiatsu or acupressure, practitioners take a gentle approach and may even incorporate shiatsu and acupressure in their sessions.

Swedish massage is focused primarily on the body and, therefore, is a more physical approach to relieving stress, aches, pains, and tension. Another benefit of Swedish massage is its ability to relax the mind-brain connection—the mind being the energy and thoughts, and the brain being the physical matter. This can contribute to a more balanced, stimulated, and integrated system. A healthy mind-brain connection also helps facilitate better physical health.

What Is a Swedish Massage Session Like?

Swedish massage may be gentle, seem more aggressive in its approach, or something in-between. As a client, you can request light, medium, or intense pressure and ask the practitioner to adjust their touch accordingly. Sessions typically last 30-60 minutes.

Similar to Thai massage, with Swedish massage your joints and muscles are compressed and stretched. This can cause an immediate release of energy which may cause the skin to flush, or you could experience a few temporary aches from your body readjusting itself. This may depend on your level of flexibility and any physical ailments you are experiencing. For example, if you arrive at a practitioner’s office with an ultra-tight muscle that has been traumatized, there may be a little pain while massaging and working through the trauma. In massage, areas of stress and pain are blockages to the body’s circulation, energy flow, and overall well-being.

During a Swedish Massage Session:

To enhance the therapeutic benefits, your practitioner will likely incorporate the following into your Swedish massage session:

Oils, balms, herbal applications, or heat may be applied to the skin to calm the body and mind. With these external applications, the body begins to release stress and is more receptive to receive the massage technique’s benefits.

Soft music is often used to further assist in relaxation.

To help facilitate the symbolic action of “letting go” of stress and blockages, many Swedish massage practitioners will leave the room and invite the client disrobe, with either a sheet or large towel always covering the client’s private areas.

 Stroking in smooth movements, kneading to loosen muscles, rubbing or friction with the practitioner using both hands back and forth in opposite directions, and striking (tapping or chopping the body with fingers or hands) are all used in combination to relax the body, increase circulation, and assisting in the drainage and lymphatic system.

The client may feel a little dizzy at the completion of the Swedish massage session, and must sit up slowly for a few moments. This is due to the new and intense sensation of the body’s renewed energy and circulation. If possible, a nap is usually a good idea, to give the body more time to savor the experience.

What Are the Health Benefits of Swedish Massage?

Swedish massage helps the body heal itself by physically manipulating and stimulating the body’s circulatory and lymphatic systems. This works to energize and help eliminate toxins in the body. Also, through Swedish massage, a high level of relaxation is achieved, which prepares the body to be an open, receptive vessel for healing to occur.

Studies have provided evidence that Swedish massage may be beneficial for specific conditions such as arthritis in the knees, reducing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, lowering blood pressure, boosting the body’s immune system, reducing the severity of headaches and migraines, and reducing the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Additionally, a study by the University of Miami Medical School determined that massage therapy can have significant mental health benefits too. Participants in a five-week massage experiment reported less depression, lowered anxiety, and better overall social function when compared to a group that received only standard medical treatment.

Swedish Massage for Self-Care.

A healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you will help in nearly every encounter, from the home to the workplace. Regular Swedish massage can help you maintain greater emotional balance, a better functioning immune system, and a healthier lifestyle overall. Consider finding the right Swedish massage provider to add massage therapy to your self-care routine. This will help ensure that you can be the best caregiver for others when needed and also helps ensure your own needs are met, which is the goal of any self-care routine.


  1. Calvert, R. H. (2014, April 24). Pages from history: swedish massage. Massage Magazine. Retrieved from
  1. French, R. (2015, April 15). The difference between Swedish massage and deep tissue massage. Livestrong. Retrieved from
  1. Mulcahy, J. (2015, October 29). The benefits of swedish massage. Livestrong. Retrieved from
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