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Swedish Massage: The Glue That Holds It All Together

Swedish Massage: The Glue that Holds It All Together

Megan Goodman, LMT

Megan Goodman, LMT

Megan here. I’ll admit right now that my relationship with Swedish massage is a complicated one. Sometimes new clients will come in and specifically request Swedish massage. When this happens, I always gently steer them away from Swedish as the central focus of the massage. Don’t get me wrong: I love Swedish techniques. In fact, they are absolutely essential to hold together all the other forms of massage that I practice. But I strongly believe that too much emphasis on Swedish massage really limits the benefits you can receive from your session.

That’s why I tend to heavily integrate more potent modalities like Myofascial Release (MFR), Fire Cupping, Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT), Sports Massage, and Craniosacral Therapy into my sessions. I find I can accomplish so much more and help you get to your health goals much faster when I focus on these types of therapies.

At the same time, my work with those other modalities would be severely limited without Swedish techniques. I depend on them to transition between different techniques throughout each session. I like to think of it as the glue that holds all massage together. It really makes the massage feel connected and whole. It’s also one of the most relaxing forms of massage, and it’s so important to me that I provide you with relaxation even when I’m therapeutically treating focused problems.

So what exactly is Swedish massage anyway? Swedish massage is probably the most instantly recognized form of massage. You could even say it’s the “front man” for massage therapy as a whole. If you close your eyes and visualize a massage therapy session, chances are you’re probably seeing Swedish techniques. And, if you’ve had massage therapy before, many of the basic techniques of Swedish massage will probably sound quite familiar to you. They include:

  • Effleurage — feels like sliding or gliding over the skin with a smooth continuous motion.
  • Petrissage — feels like lifting or squeezing of the muscles in a kneading motion. (Effleurage and petrissage are often used to warm the tissue before going deeper with friction.)
  • Friction — feels like a deeper technique, where my hands or forearms glide across a specific area of your body at your desired pressure.
  • Tapotement — feels like rapid percussive movements in a rhythmic manner.
  • Vibration — feels like a trembling movement on an area of tension to help relax the muscle.
  • Jostling — feels like shaking on a desired part of your body, which also helps to relax a specific muscle or muscle groups.

This is where Swedish massage gets complicated, because depending on how I use these techniques, it can completely change the session. I can easily alter Swedish techniques with timing and pressure for your needs and wants. For example, tapotement has a stimulating effect if received for a short period of time, but a sedating effect if received for a longer period of time.

Parts of Swedish massage overlap with all different modalities of massage. For example, jostling and vibrations are used vigorously in sports massage, but when used slowly and lightly, those same techniques can be very relaxing.

So what are the benefits of Swedish massage? The list is actually quite deep and broad.

Swedish massage:

  • Enhances tissue repair and scar formation
  • Promotes joint flexibility and range of motion as well as muscle relaxation
  • Reduces pain and increases circulation
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Promotes growth and development in infants
  • Increases mental clarity
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Facilitates emotional release
  • Promotes feelings of general well-being

While there are many benefits you can receive from Swedish massage, as I mentioned above, I enjoy taking Swedish to the next level by mixing the modalities that best fit your needs and greatly enhancing these benefits. Swedish really is the foundation of any great massage, and it connects all the other tools in my toolbox. I simply wouldn’t be able to provide the experience and results I provide to my clients without it.

Thanks for reading! Hope to see you on my massage table soon.


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