Swedish massage techniques differ from alternative massage methods in that there is a disciplined order in which the massage is delivered.  These techniques can apply deeper pressure than other types of massage and are known to increase oxygenation of blood and release metabolic waste such as lactic and uric acids from the tissues of the muscles.

Swedish massage techniques can help to relieve both physical and emotional stress and can have other medical and therapeutic uses.  It can help towards reducing joint pain and stiffness, and has also been known to help those with osteoarthritis.

 Many people who have this type of massage also report to enjoying enhanced flexibility. These particular massage techniques are also thought to help improve blood circulation.

 The 5 main Swedish massage techniques as developed by Swedish doctor Per Henrik Ling, are summarized below:

 1. Effleurage

These are the sliding or gliding strokes which cover different areas of the body in preparation for deeper techniques. They are long sweeping strokes that alternate between firm and light pressure and with can be performed using the palm of the hand or the fingertips.  Effleurage strokes are a vital part of massage procedure, and they:

  • Establish first contact between the therapist and client
  • Spread lubrication oil or wax over the skin
  • Act as a connective stroke between movements
  • Assist in the regeneration of the skin
  • Assist in eliminating toxins from areas worked using deeper movements

2. Petrissage

This is the technique of kneading/rubbing (from French Petrir-to knead or rub) the muscles of the body to attain deeper massage penetration. The thumbs and the knuckles of the fingers are used to knead the muscles of the body and to compress tissue against tissue.  This manipulation releases muscle tightness, tension and toxins in preparation for the techniques that follow.

3. Percussion

This is a striking ‘wake-up’ stroke and has a stimulating effect.  Percussion consists of a series of manipulations using the hands or pads of fingers which lightly strike the body.  Movements include Tapotement (gentle finger drumming to face and head), hacking, cupping (fleshy areas) and beating/pounding (glutes only).  This manipulation step stimulates nerve endings, warms muscles and fibres, draws blood to the surface and breaks down tissues.

4. Friction

This move seeks to create heat to bring about relaxation of the muscles. The movement compresses tissue against bone and is frequently used around joints, across tendons and around tender spots on the back to break down areas of tension.  Effects of friction include tension release in muscles, loosening tightness around joints, heating of local area, improvements in circulation and lymph drainage and breakdown of fibres and fatty tissue.

5. Vibration or Shaking

This is a pain relieving stroke that clears nervous pathways and helps to loosen muscles.  These movements also release tension, relax muscles and warm tissue.

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