Swedish massage is performed by a trained and licensed massage therapists who lubricate the skin with massage oil and usually takes 50 to 60 minutes to massage the whole body.
The father of Swedish massage (and also) physical therapy is Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) of Smaaland, Sweden, a physiologist and fencing master.
In the early 19th century he developed a system called “Medical Gymnastics” which included movements performed by a therapist. These became the known as “Swedish movements” in Europe and “the Swedish Movement Cure” when they came to the U.S. in 1858. Today it is simply known as Swedish massage. Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology as opposed to energy work. It can be slow and gentle, or vigorous and bracing, depending on what the therapist wants to achieve.
Massage therapists use a combination of classic Swedish massage strokes to work the muscle tissue:
- smooth, gliding strokes, called “effleurage,” warm up the muscle tissue. It can be done slowly or quickly, depending on the therapist. In general, a slower pace is more relaxing and quicker is more invigorating.
- kneading the muscle tissue by lifting and pulling the fleshy muscle away from the skeletal structure. This is called “petrissage.” This starts to work the tissue a bit more deeply
- cross-fiber friction is when the therapist targets a particular trouble spot (called an “adhesion”) to separate the tissues, restore circulation and make the muscle softer and more pliable. They might use their thumb or fingers…or sometimes even an elbow (the most intense). Cross-fiber friction might feel uncomfortable or good, depending on how much pressure the therapist uses and how you interpret the sensation.
All massage therapists have their own style. Some might do deep tissue in a slow, gentle way. Others might give you a vigorous Swedish massage. Either way, always remember a massage should never cause serious pain. The Swedish massage in particular should feel very soothing and relaxing and is perfect for beginners.