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Massage types

Swedish massage

Swedish Massage, also known as Classical Massage (especially in Scandinavia) or as Massage Therapy (mostly in the US), is the basic massage form that most Western world massage-types are based on.

The massage consists of a series of basic movements which are all used to manipulate the soft tissue (muscles etc.) in order to relieve stresses, increase blood flow, loosen muscles, detoxify tissue and strengthen the muscle and make it more subtle.

There are six basic strokes:

  • Effleurage – soft caressing movements towards the heart usually used to start and conclude the massage of a specific area and to connect various body parts during the session.
  • Petrissage – kneading movements working in depth on the muscles, releasing tensions or knots and increasing blood-flow. This can also include some trigger point manipulation and deep tissue massage.
  • Friction – rapid movements usually done by the palm to heat the skin and upper muscle layers. It increases the blood-flow to an area and the heat makes the muscles relax.
  • Tapotement – tapping of muscles in order to increase blood-flow and loosen the muscles. It “wakes” up the body.
  • Compression – squeezing and twisting the muscles in order to lift, relax and drain the muscles.
  • Vibration – used to relax the muscles and loosen tensions.

Deep tissue massage is based on Swedish massage, but with special focus on loosening knots and tensions, working deeply into the muscle and releasing chronic pain. One massage will not be enough to deal with chronic tensions and a deep tissue package will not only include several massages, but also physical exercise and relaxation exercises.

Swedish massage can easily be adopted to other massage forms such as Californian Massage or Aromatherapy since the main difference technically is pressure, speed and intensity.

It is useful to keep in mind that in the US it is demanded by law that a client is always covered/draped by a sheet/towel during the massage if naked. In France there are no such laws and it is normal to receive the massage naked without any draping. This always will depend on the comfort level of the client and you as receiver will always have final say.

There is a lot of different definitions on massage types and what they are depending on where in the world you’re located, and as such it can be difficult to figure out precisely what a name like Swedish massage covers. Especially since Swedish Massage isn’t Swedish but the system attributed to a Dutch practitioner Johan Georg Mezger. His work might be based on a movement system created by Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish gymnastics teacher and fencer. His work might have been based on various Asian massage and treatment methods.

Further reading:

About Pia Poulsen

Pia Poulsen is educated as a wellness massage therapist at Institut FIGARI in Paris, from where she passed her certification exam in January 2008. Since then she has expanded her skills to become the first Advanced LaStone® practitioner in France as well as a certified LaStone® instructor.


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