The Basics of Swedish Massage

The Basics of Swedish Massage

When you hear the term Swedish massage, what comes to mind?

Long flowing strokes? Relaxation? General massage techniques? Explore the foundations of this modality below, starting with the strokes and techniques used to achieve the relaxation response, as well as the effect these strokes have on the body.

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The long flowing strokes associated with Swedish massage are your effleurage strokes. These strokes are beneficial is “clearing out” an area that has had specific work done.

For example, if the therapist finds a build-up of tension in the shoulder area, they may have done some focus work to break up the tension. He or she will follow it up with an effleurage stroke to allow the lymph and blood to circulate, allowing the area to clear.


Petrissage strokes are beneficial in breaking up and squeezing out build-up within the muscle. These strokes are identified as your kneading strokes.

They are often going to look like grasping, twisting, and squeezing strokes. After warming up the tissue with effleurage strokes it is beneficial to do more specific work with your petrissage strokes.


When people think of the “karate chop” (which is called hacking) motion, they are thinking of the term tapotement. Tapotement is going to be used at the end of the massage.

It is a more stimulating stroke that is used at the end of the massage to help bring your client’s awareness back to the present. It will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system with is responsible for making them more alert.


Friction is beneficial before you even start spreading your lotion. It can be used to warm up the tissue and prepare the area for the massage that is about to begin.

Cross-fiber friction is a variation of this stroke. It targets the tendons of the muscle and helps release tightness and lengthen the tissue.


Oscillation strokes come in various forms. As the term oscillation suggests, it creates a back-and-forth motion. Techniques such as rocking, vibration, and jostling are all forms of oscillation. You can use this technique to induce the relaxation response.

It is also beneficial to use these strokes if your client has muscle guarding. The back-and-forth motion will disrupt the nerve signals allowing your client to relax that area.

Why use Swedish massage?

There are numerous benefits to consider with Swedish massage, including:

  • Relaxation: A Swedish massage is going to induce a parasympathetic dominate state. This is the state that allows the body to rest and digest. This is the time in which the body does its healing.
  • Increased circulation: Massage is not only going to increase the circulation of blood throughout the body, but it also increases the flow of lymph fluid. Pairing both together will improve the body’s immune system response.
  • Decreased tension: The goal of every massage is to release tension that has been built up in the muscle tissue. With Swedish massage, you can effectively breakup tension without an overabundance of pressure.
  • Increased flexibility: This type of massage is going to use a passive range of motion with the client. This means that client’s joints go through a full range of motion during the massage, potentially increasing their flexibility.
  • Improved sleep: Receiving a relaxation massage can improve a client’s sleep quality. A particular study showed that receiving a 90-minute Swedish massage once a week for 20 weeks improved the quality of sleep for patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Decreases anxiety and depression: According to a study published in Complementary Therapies of Medicine, massage is effective in reducing acute generalized anxiety. During this study, participants received Swedish Massage twice a week for 6 weeks. Anxiety levels decreased compared to the control group. When extending the study another 6 weeks, anxiety levels continued to decrease. However, the largest drop in numbers occurred in the initial 6 weeks. With results like this, a Swedish massage can be a large benefit to our mental and emotional well-being.

This article was adapted from our sister site, Elite Learning.

This article was written by Jami Cooley

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