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Making the Most of a Swedish Massage

Swedish massage, a technique invented by Per Henrik Ling, has become the most common type of massage in America. Ling was a Swedish fencing instructor in the 1830s and originally practiced the techniques on his own muscles. With his technique, using hands, forearms or elbows, the therapist manipulates the surface muscle layers. This technique is also known as deep tissue massage.

The benefits of a Swedish massage include:
1. decreased stress
2. relaxation
3. improved blood circulation
4. decreased muscle tension
5. improved range of motion
6. relief of cramped muscles and spasms
7. firms up muscles and skin tone
8. release of impurities and lactic acid that cause muscle tension and pain.

Some therapists also claim that health issues such as asthma, arthritis, myofacial pain, headaches and TMJ are improved through Swedish massage.

When having a Swedish massage, the client lies on a massage table and is covered with a sheet. Options usually include a full body or upper body massage with sessions lasting 30-60 minutes. There are several basic techniques used with Swedish massage.

Effleurage is the most common technique using the palms of the hands gliding toward the heart. Typically, oil is applied and the therapist uses a lighter constant pressure. This stage is considered a warm up for calming the nerves, relaxing the body and improving circulation.

The next technique involves kneading the flesh between and under the hands. The Petrissage technique is used to release muscle tension and improve blood circulation. It involves going deeper in the muscle tissue.

Other methods used in the process of the massage include vibration and friction. With vibration, the therapist uses finger tips to gently shake the surface muscles. This technique is most often used on the face and spine. Friction is a more aggressive, deeper technique where the therapist actually applies full body weight pressure using fingers, hands and forearms. The pressure is then slowly relieved. Tapotement involves striking or pounding the tissue repeatedly. The goal is to stimulate blood circulation.

An effective therapist will use a combination of techniques to achieve various results. The variations depend on which muscle group is being treated and the severity of the muscle damage. It is important for the patient to stay hydrated after each session, preferably with water, because the massage therapy will release toxins from muscles. It is important to get the toxins out of the body as soon as possible.

Swedish massages are typically available at spas, chiropractic offices and health clubs. It is wise to check on the credentials of a massage therapist, requesting licensing and continuing education information before allowing treatment. Try more than one therapist until finding the one that suits your needs is advised. Every therapist has a different touch and even spas environments vary.