Let’s start with Massage itself. Massage is the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. Let me add that massage therapy requires skillful application in order to reduce pain, and is highly effective in promoting relaxation and healing.
Swedish massage, specifically, includes a variety of hand or forearm movements which aid in this process. Some of these techniques include:
Effleurage – Long, gliding strokes
Petrissage – Classic kneading of the muscles
Tapotement – Rhythmic or arrhythmic percussive movements
Friction – Rubbing one surface over another
Compression – Evenly sustained firm pressure
Vibration – Jostling motions to loosen muscle tissue
So, why is it called Swedish massage? Pehr Henrik Ling, a Swedish physiologist and gymnastics instructor, is generally credited as the father of this type of massage. Ling created Medical Gymnastics, a therapeutic treatment by systematic exercise of the organs forming the motor apparatus of the body, which later developed into Physical Therapy. The specific terminology relating to Swedish massage may be credited to Johann Mezger, a Dutch physician who is responsible for making massage a fundamental part of physical rehabilitation.
Oftentimes there tends to be a perception of Swedish massage as relying on superficial pressure but, in actuality, the pressure may vary to include deep tissue work, including use of forearms, elbows, or feet. Deep pressure, on a healthy client, is commonly used on thicker tissues as opposed to more delicate or thinner tissues. For this reason, it is important to remember, that your therapist must be properly credentialed. William Edwards Deming said it best, ”It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and THEN do your best.”
All Licensed Massage Therapists (LMT’s) have formal education in anatomy and physiology, in addition to hands-on skills practice. Many have completed coursework to specialize in populations that require special care, such as Prenatal Massage or Sports Massage. My own speciality is in Oncology Massage, safely providing the benefits of massage to those affected by various forms of cancer.