What is Swedish Massage and Gymnastics?

Swedish massage (also known as classic massage). It is a massage modality that is based on the anatomy and physiology of the body and uses the following strokes: Swedish gymnastics, effleurage, petrissage, friction, vibration/jostling, and tapotement (see definitions below). It is usually a full body massage and incorporates a number of different types of massage strokes with the goal of achieving the following benefits:

Benefits of Swedish Massage

o       Reduce stress

o Increase flexibility

o Increase relaxation

o Increase muscle tone

o Restore range of motion

o Restore posture to an optimal state

o Shorten recovery time from muscular strain

o Stimulate circulation

o Increase oxygen flow in the blood

o Stimulate nervous system

o Help the recipient obtain a feeling of connectedness

o Stretch ligaments, tendons, and muscles

o And more…

A Brief History of Swedish Massage!

Swedish massage is attributed to Pehr Henrik Ling (1776-1839) who was a Swedish physiologist and gymnastics instructor. He developed a system that combined assisted stretching, passive range of motion, and massage techniques with the goal of improving circulation, relieving muscle tension, improving range of motion, and promoting general relaxation.

A Dutch physician, Johann Mezger (1817-1893) added names to Ling’s Swedish massage techniques and promoted massage in the European medical profession as a beneficial treatment for injuries.

In 1856 Swedish massage was introduced in the United States by George Henry Taylor and Charles Fayette Taylor. Swedish massage was a central component of the development of physical therapy and massage therapy in the United States.

The Main Strokes Used in Swedish Massage!

Swedish Gymnastics

Swedish Gymnastics is done by the massage therapist moving joints though the available range of motion. The goal is to restore range of motion, reduce pain, maintain health, and stretch muscles.

Effleurage

This is the most common Swedish massage stroke. It is a light or deep gliding stroke that contours the body over superficial tissue and is used to warm tissue, increase circulation, enhance relaxation, and apply massage lotion or oil.

Petrissage

Petrissage is a Swedish massage stroke that gently lifts muscles up and away from the bone by using a kneading or compression motion. This stroke stimulates circulation, creates space in the tissue, loosens and softens tissue, enhances nutrient exchange, improves skin and muscle tone, and prepares for deeper work.

Friction

The deepest massage stroke used in Swedish massage is friction and is a basis for deep tissue massage. During friction strokes the superficial tissue is pressed firmly into the underlying surfaces to a point of restriction/resistance. Friction strokes are used to break down adhesions (knots), relieve pain, improve flexibility, reduce fascial restrictions, enhance local fluid movement, and relieve trigger points.

Vibration/Jostling

Vibration or jostling is applied with hands or fingertips and is a rapid shaking, quivering, trembling or rocking motion. The purpose is release tension, release muscle guarding, loosen superficial tissue, redistribute synovial fluid in joints, and increase circulation.

Tapotement

Tapotement is a Swedish massage stroke that is done by alternately striking the tissue with an open hand, loose fist or fingertips with the goal of reducing congestion, increasing muscle tone, stimulating histamine release, and inducing relaxation or invigoration depending on the rhythm of the strokes.

Sources:

Rattray, Fiona, Ludwig, Linda., Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating over 70 Conditions. Talus Incorporated. 2000.

Salvo, Susan G., Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice. Third Edition. Saunders. 2007.

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