When people talk about massage, the first thing that comes to mind is the Swedish massage which is one of the best known massage forms offered by massage facilities, fitness centers and spas. It is a full body workout that uses a set of five different techniques that are primarily purposed to relax the body. These five techniques or strokes are:
Sliding and Gliding
The official term is effleurage and it defines the long and gliding rubs along the body. The rubbing and pushing of the muscles helps a person relax and decreases the tension and stress levels. It is usually applied in the upper back, neck, and shoulders and it is the most common move during a session.
Simply put it looks like kneading dough. The motion of this technique discharges and softens any knobs or lactic acid from the muscle and officially it is called petrissage.
This is the gentle beating of the body with a motion that resembles drumming. To the connoisseurs it is called tapotement.
With circular or perpendicular motions to the muscle fibers.
Actually the term “Swedish massage” is used only in Hungary and English and Dutch speaking countries. To all other countries of the world it is referred to as classic massage.
Where Does Swedish Massage Come From?
Historical records attribute the creation of Swedish massage to a physiologist of the University of Stockholm named Henri Peter Ling in the 19th century, while the Dutch practitioner Johann Georg Mezger is the one who applied the terminology.
However, recent studies indicate that the name of Henri Peter Ling (for some) or Per Henrik Ling (for others) as the creator of the techniques, may be inaccurate.
Relaxing the body and easing the tension and stress is more of a physio – psychological and sensational effect. Medically, it improves the level of oxygen and blood circulation and it decreases the toxins in the muscles.
Recent studies at the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that a 45 minute massage reduces the level of the hormones cortisol and arginine vasopressin-a that are stress creating. The massage also increases the lymphocyte and white blood cell counts assisting in the protection against the common cold and the flu.
Swedish massage has also been known to reduce pain, the stiffness of the joints and improve the function of patients with knee osteoarthritis after a treatment of eight weeks.
Performing a Swedish Massage
Before the practitioner performs a massage on a person’s body he or she must ask the person about any medical history especially on previous physical injuries. The purpose of this information is for the practitioner to pay special attention to any injured areas, either to prevent further damage, or to assist the healing process of the tissue surrounding the affected area.
The next step is for the practitioner to instruct the person to lie on the table, either face up or face down, and cover himself or herself with a sheet or towel. As this is a procedure performed on a naked body, the practitioner will then ask the person to undress themselves and leaves the room to knock again later and ask for permission to enter the room and begin.
The massage begins with the use of a massage oil to lubricate the skin and gentle moves that warm up the muscles. During the massage the practitioner will uncover only the areas he or she is working on and generally starts with the back. The legs are to follow then the arms and the massage finishes with the neck and shoulders.
It is highly recommended, since the Swedish massage is detoxifying, after the massage has ended, to drink plenty of water and refrain from caffeine, alcohol and tobacco use for the next 24 hours. It is also advisable to avoid any vigorous exercise and try to rest.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often can a Swedish massage be performed?
There are no limits as to how frequent a massage session should be. It is recommended that unless there is a specific medical condition that needs to be treated with a specific program ordered by a physiotherapist, a regular monthly massage is quite ample. More frequent sessions are advisable if one’s profession involves repetitive motions and/or sports that stretch the muscles continuously.
Is it Always Appropriate?
This is why it is most important for the massage practitioner to ask about previous medical history. There are some medical conditions that will worsen if a massage is applied, and some others where a massage is actually forbidden. Such conditions are:
- A cold, flu or sinus conditions
- Unexplained back pain
- Open wounds or burns
- Fractured bones
- Blood pressure conditions or clots
- Rheumatic arthritis
- Severe osteoporosis
Is it better to have a massage in a fitness center or in a person’s residence?
A massage in the personal residence is more convenient and allows for a selection of a trusted personal practitioner, unless there is no privacy or enough room.
But it is definitely more costly than a massage to a fitness center which offers additional peripheral services that are not available in the personal residence such as special equipment that may be necessary (i.e. electrical warmers, thumpers, carpal tunnel gloves and power putties).
Special circumstance: The possibility of sexual arousal
Usually men avoid massages as they worry that they will be sexually aroused and they will not relax because of this fear. However, this is perfectly normal as gentle touches directed to any area of the body can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and cause a partial or full erection.
The professional practitioner is aware of this possibility and will ignore it. A solution can be provided by wearing tight briefs instead of boxers during the massage session.