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Swedish Massage

The Swedish massage uses five specific strokes that are designed to reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve circulation in the underlying connective tissues of the body.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: October 3, 2013

The Swedish massage is very much like a deep tissue massage. What makes the Swedish massage unique is its use of five specific strokes that are meant to reduce joint pain and stiffness, and improve circulation in the underlying connective tissues of the body.

These movements are sliding, kneading, rhythmic tapping, cross fiber friction (moving the thumb across the grain of a muscle without the use of oil), and vibrations.

Unless you're in the U.S., the Swedish massage is actually known as the classic massage, since it is the most basic type there is. Its worldlier nickname comes from the Swedish physiologist who developed the technique.

The origins of Swedish Massage: The invention of Swedish massage is typically attributed to Swedish gymnast Pehr Henrik Ling, who invented a form of physical movement in the early 19th century that included five specific movements: effleurage,or long strokes; prettrisage, or kneading the muscles; friction, or circular rubbing movements; tapotement, or tapping; and vibration, or shaking certain muscles rapidly.

Other physicians, including Dutch doctor Johan Mezger, turned Ling's innovations into the Swedish massage we know today.

Benefits Of Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is one of the most popular massage types in the world. It's good for relaxation and for the stimulation of the lymphatic and immune system. A Swedish massage typically increases a sense of well-being.

What To Expect

When getting a Swedish massage, you can expect varying amounts of pressure, ranging from gentle to firm, which are meant to release muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Performed by massage therapists, a Swedish massage makes use of fragrant oils that facilitate the effleurage (sliding strokes). The use of oils necessitates that clients lie on the massage table nude, or in underwear, underneath a towel.

For modesty's sake, only the body part that is being massaged is unveiled—a method known as "draping."

Specialized equipment: Swedish massage clients lie on a padded table. Therapists use massage oil to facilitate gliding strokes like effleurage.

Recommended sessions: Even a single Swedish massage session can relieve stress and muscle aches, though a series of massages is better suited to treat chronic stress and muscle tension.

Preparation: Make sure to tell the therapist if anything is uncomfortable before or during the massage. Drink at least eight ounces of water following the session.


When properly performed, Swedish massage is nearly risk-free.

Who wouldn't benefit: Almost anyone can benefit fro a Swedish massage, though people healing from physical injuries, broken bones and cancer should see a doctor first, as any massage can shift ligaments and muscles.

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