What is Swedish Massage?

Swedish Massage is one of the most common and best-known type of massage in the West. Western massage modalities are those massage techniques that are based on a modern or Western understanding of anatomy. These types of massage emphasize treating the soft tissue, muscles, joints, and ligaments of the body through firm pressure and stretching to alleviate tension.

For most, Swedish massage is done for relaxation and uses light to medium pressure. If it’s your first time, or you don’t get massage often, Swedish Massage is often a good choice to make.

During this type of therapy session the therapist will work with the soft tissues and muscles in the body to help restore balance and health using a combination of 5 (or 6) massage techniques. Each technique has variations within them as well, and can be used specifically within a session, or be used in combination with each other.

  • Effleurage
    • A French word meaning “to skim” or “to touch lightly on”.
    • Effleurage is basically a form of massage involving long strokes, that move in a circular stroking movement, made with the palm of the hand.
    • This soothing movement is most often used at the beginning and end of the massage. It is also used as a linking move between the different strokes and movements.
  • Petrissage
    • This term means ‘to knead’ and is also used in French professional bread baking describing a particular stage during dough development.
    • These are massage movements, that use applied pressure to compress the underlying muscles. This technique has the most variations that can be used.
    • Kneading, wringing, skin rolling, tissue pulling are all petrissage movements.
    • Knuckling is another form of kneading but using the knuckles to knead and lift in circular and upwards motion.
    • Scissoring is another petrissage movement that is performed only over a flat area with very little pressure. The index and middle fingers of both hands are only used for this movement. They are placed opposite each other and then are slowly worked towards each other lifting and releasing as they go.
  • Compression
    • Sometime included in petrissage, but is actually distinct in that there is no stroking or kneading involved.
  • Tapotement
    • The name of this stroke is taken from the French word “Tapoter,” meaning to tap or to drum.
    • This technique is rhythmic percussion, most frequently administered with the edge of the hand, a cupped hand or with the tips of the fingers.
    • Tapotement is primarily used to “wake up” the nervous system, soften hardened tissue, increase blood flow to the tissue and also as a stimulating stroke which can release lymphatic build up in the back.
    • There are five types of tapotement including Beating (closed fist lightly hitting area), Slapping (use of fingers to gently slap), Hacking (use the edge of hand on pinky finger side), Tapping (use just fingertips) and Cupping (make your hand look like a cup and gently tap area).
    • A 6th form of tapotement uses vibration, often referred to the piezoelectric effect, that does the tapping with tools. This tapping can either be directly on the body with the tool, or tapping on a medium that is resting on the body, such a stone or bell.
  • Rocking
    • Can you remember back to a time when someone who loved you dearly gently rocked you into a peaceful place of calm reassurance? Or perhaps you have sweet memories of when you soothingly rocked your own little one to sleep. This simple yet profoundly effective type of bodywork has numerous benefits.
    • Gently rocking and shaking the body helps relax muscles, calm the nervous system, open up joints, and helps bring the body into balance.
  • Friction
    • In friction massage tissues are manipulated using strong movements of the hand. It consists of deeper circular or transverse movements made with the thumbs, fingertips, knuckles, palms, or elbows. It is a stroke that aims to penetrate through the skin and to manipulate the muscles beneath. It is the most penetrating of the strokes, targeting the deeper layers of the tissue.
    • Friction is a massage technique is used to increase circulation and release areas that are tight; particularly around joints and where there are adhesions within the muscles or tendons.
    • Massage Friction Classification:
      • Circular and Transverse. Based on the direction of the manipulation.
      • Finger friction. Small circles made with the fingertips or with the thumb.
      • Palm Friction. Large circles made with the palm.
      • Cross Fiber Friction. Any friction that is executed across the muscle fiber. Various angles are permitted. This pressure is usually very deep.
      • Other types: elbow friction and knuckle friction.

The end result will relax all of the muscles in your body and release any pain that  tension may exist.

A Swedish body massage is the perfect way for anyone who is overly worked and stressed out to relax their body and mind. By relieving muscle tension, Swedish therapy can be both relaxing and energizing. And it may even help after an injury.

Why It’s Called Swedish Massage?

While massage may be the oldest medical practice in history, it was not until the 1800s that specific massage techniques were codified into a particular style or modality. The Swedish Massage modality was invented around 1868 by Dutch doctor Johann Georg Mezger. However, it is Per Henrik Ling, who is often (and wrongly) credited with inventing Swedish Massage. The historical mix-up is common and it’s worth briefly exploring who both men were and why this inaccuracy still exists today.

Swedish massage is the foundation for other types of Western massage, including sports massage, deep tissue massage and aromatherapy massage.

What Happens During a Swedish Massage?

In a Swedish massage, the therapist directly lubricates the skin with massage oil or lotion and performs various massage strokes. These movements warm up the muscle tissue, release tension and gradually break up muscle “knots” or adhered tissues, called adhesions.

Before the massage, the therapist should ask you about any injuries or other conditions that he or she should know about. Things you would want tell a therapist include areas of tightness or pain, allergies, and conditions like pregnancy. You can also tell them up front if you have a preference for light or firm pressure.

Health Benefits of Swedish Massage

The Swedish massage helps to improve the function of your lymph system by relaxing your muscles. The lymph system works to move nutrient-filled fluids and waste around your body. The fluid is moved only through voluntary movements from the muscles.

Anyone who has problems from muscular strain will benefit from a Swedish massage. As the therapist relaxes the muscles the lymph system will have the ability to flush out all of the metabolic waste from the muscles. This will help you to heal faster.

The Swedish massage can also be used as therapy for people who suffer from any type of debilitating joint disorder that causes them pain. This benefit of the Swedish massage works to increase the elasticity in the tissues, flexibility, and to reduce the pain that they feel. After the Swedish massage many of these people will find that they are able to use their joints more than before and with little to no pain.

Personal Benefits of Swedish Massage

While a Swedish massage works great to help people who suffer from health conditions it also works wonders on people who suffer from everyday troubles and concerns. There are many things in our life that can cause us to be stressed and worried on a constant basis. The more stress we have, the more tense our muscles become, and the more difficult it is to relax them on our own.

The pressure used during a Swedish massage therapy help to relax the muscles and relieve all of the tension that has built up. Touching the skin also helps to clear the mind and bring us to the present. Therapists suggest a Swedish massage to anyone who is feeling run down or suffering from mild depression, because it will help give you the energy you need to relax your whole body. It also enables you to put things into perspective.

Another benefit of the Swedish massage is its ability to help you sleep. With sleep your mind will be able to rest and reset.



“The sessions uplift my week and I do my best to remember that feeling when life gets intense. To say the practitioner is gifted is an understatement. She seems to be guided by something mysterious as she chooses how to connect with my body. It is a deeply calming experience and my body relaxes in a way I haven’t experienced from other kinds of massage.” J.C.


Breema® regards the body as a holistic energy system. The aim is to increase vitality, not to fight sickness, and to create an atmosphere which allows the body to move toward a natural state of balance. Working with the 9 principles of Breema helps to create a receptive mind, supportive feelings, and a relaxed body. This helps free up energy that is usually consumed by conflict between the mind and feelings, creating physical tension. The bodywork is intended to enhance the flow of life energy and bring one to the present.

Breema sessions are traditionally done fully clothed with the recipient lying down or seated on a padded floor. The bodywork is a harmonious choreography of supported movements, gradual leaning, gentle stretching and bending, holding postures, nurturing brushes and rhythmic tapping. Each session is tailored to each recipient, at each visit. There is no standard program or sequence. For the best benefit loose comfortable slacks and a long sleeved shirt are recommended. A pair of clean socks can be brought, or provided, as well. Warmed stones, wrapped in cloth, pillows and aromatherapy are also incorporated into your session for deeper relaxation and beneficial support.



Christa has over 500 hours of training in Breema Bodywork and Self Breema Exercises and is the therapist who specifically provides this service.

Breema is a trademark of The Breema Center.

  THE BREEMA TOUCH: Being Present as a Massage Therapist

Body Comfortable

Mutual Support

Full Participation

No Judgement

Single Moment, Single Activity

Gentleness and Firmness

No Extra

No Force

No Hurry, No Pause


BREEMA: The Principles of Harmony


ACUPRESSURE and SHIATSU is traditionally a floor based bodywork, done on a padded mat, with the recipient wearing loose comfortable clothing. Aromatherapy, warmed stones, wrapped in cloth, and pillows are sometimes used to provide additional comfort and support for your body. This bodywork can also be modified to be done on a table and incorporated in a regular massage session. Please advise of your preference when booking your session.


Originally developed from the ancient Chinese massage technique anmo, shiatsu evolved in the early 1900’s in Japan. It is based on the concept of qi—the body’s vital life force flowing through defined channels or meridians along the surface of the body. When the body’s vital energy flow or qi is normal and harmonious, the body is balanced and healthy. Gentle yet firm pressure is applied along the meridians of the arms, legs, back, neck and head to open the pathways of qi to flow. Specific acupressure points are chosen and held in various combinations to further balance the qi. Acupressure points are specific locations along the meridians where the flow of qi gathers in vortices spiraling in inward and outward directions. Pressure or pain at a particular acupoint can reflect an imbalance. Stimulation of these acupoints will encourage deep muscular relaxation, circulation of blood, and qi balancing. A person will experience varying sensitivity at these acupoints depending on his/her condition. Sensations of softness, hardness, soreness, ticklishness, pulsation, heat or cold reflect obstruction in the energy along the meridian pathway. Oftentimes, the rhythm of shiatsu technique and the acupressure to the point sequences form a dance-like movement that lulls the recipient into a deep state of relaxation. Warmed stones and aromatherapy can also be incorporated into your session for deeper relaxation and benefit.


From timing and tips, to talking ander, tooting, a massage therapist answers your questions.

There’s no question that regular massage can benefit most everyone. Studies have shown massage can increase flexibility and circulation, help with sleep and anxiety, speed recovery and prevent injury, just to mention a few of the benefits. But the massage itself still poses questions, some too awkward to ask, especially for those inexperienced with receiving professional massages. Is a massage supposed to be this painful? When is the best time to schedule a massage? Should I wear underwear? What happens if I fart?

Here we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions about massage that we are asked:

What is the difference between a massage for relaxation, a deep tissue/sport massage and sessions like Acupressure or Reiki?
A relaxation massage tends to be more superficial, non-specific, connective and flowing. At most it will work the surface muscles and connective tissue and is usually light to medium in pressure. The 6 basic Swedish Massage techniques are the cornerstone of what to expect when receiving this type of massage. A Deep Tissue/Sports Massage, on the other hand, goes deeper into the muscles and connective tissue, can be more vigorous, and involves the use of multiple modalities, which still can include relaxing Swedish-type massage techniques. This type of massage can be more stimulating and at times needs to match the intensity of the person’s athletic ability. If it is being done for sport-specific reasons, it should be added as part of an athlete’s regular training schedule. If it is being done for chronic pain and body restructuring reasons, it should be added as part of your self health care regimen. The other type of non massage bodywork sessions are more around being able to receive bodywork without the need for the use of oils or lotions, or the need to undress. Some, like Reiki or Breema, are very gentle and more energetic in their approach. Others, like the more advanced Breema and Shaistu/Acupressure, can be more hands on and active with stretching and movement.

The pressure isn’t deep enough, but I don’t want to insult my massage therapist. What should I do?
Communication between client and therapist is essential to provide the best therapeutic massage possible. A professional massage therapist should not be offended by a client who asks them for adjustments to the work being done, such a more or less pressure, moving a little left or right, the need for more support under the knees, the need for more of less heat to an area, ect. If they do get offended, then please let the spa know of your issue.

Is there such a thing as too much pressure, or should I take as much as I can stand?
Yes. A therapeutic massage can at times be intense, but, it should never be painful. A painful massage is counterproductive and can, in fact, sometimes be injurious to your body. If you find yourself flinching during a session, or you can not breathe long and even breathes into the work, then you know the work being done is too deep and intense for your body. A skilled therapist can always find another way to approach your session.

What should I do if I get ticklish during a massage?
Being ticklish is a common concern people come in with. Communicate with your therapist. The therapist will adjust their touch/technique to help diminish the sensation, or if that does not work, we can aviod the area.

Why do I sometimes get a headache after a massage?
While uncommon, massage does effect vascular circulation which for some could elcit a headache. Also, excessive pressure on the sinus cavity from being face down in the face rest could bring on a headache. Anytime you feel excessive congestion, which is quite common, turn your head to the side to help you breathe. Communicate with your therapist if your face rest is uncomfortable because it’s angled too low or too high.

Is it normal to bruise once in a while after a session?
No, not from relaxation or even a sport maintenance massage. If the treatment consists of structural integration techniques, and releasing of bound fascia and scar tissue, then yes, bruising may occur due to the intensity of this type of work.

Does it make a massage more effective if I don’t wear underwear (or do wear underwear)?
We always maintain proper draping throughout your session, uncovering only the areas being worked on. Being completely undressed can allow the therapist to address all areas of tissue without the need of working through the sheet. This does not make the massage more effective, however. A professional, knowledgeable massage therapist can work through clothing or sheets and still be effective. If the client is more comfortable wearing underwear, then they should, as this will help them relax on the table and not worry about being exposed. If you are going to receive a lot of your session in the side lying position, such as a pre-natal massage, then wearing underpants can allow the massage therapist to be unencumbered by extra sheet tucking while draping. If you are receiving more intensive sports massage and bodywork, where there is going to be extensive stretching and movement, then wearing underwear and sports bras might be recommended. With floor based bodywork, loose comfortable clothing, without thick seams, that can stretch and move with your body, is recommended. If you are unsure about what to wear, feel free to communicate with your therapist prior to the session to determine what you should wear to meet your needs and wants.

I farted during a massage. I was so embarrassed, but I pretended like nothing happened. Should I have said something?
An “excuse me” would be nice! Even so, it is not necessary. It is a natural body function and nothing to worry about. The last time this happened, I asked my client, “what else did you have with your broccoli last night?” We both laughed! In the massage world, this is called “a release.” It’s going to happen. And yes, there may be giggles. Most often we ignore it and move on.

Sometimes I fall asleep on the table. Does that make things difficult for the therapist?
No, not at all! As a matter of fact, it can be construed as an act of trust. When your client is so comfortable and trusting of you, they fall asleep on the table, this is considered a huge compliment – they have completely given themselves to their therapist. A client who talks during their entire massage session is not reaping the rewards of the complete healing process the therapist is attempting to provide. As far as the athlete, they can often be injured and/or completely stressed out due to a rigorous training schedule. Sometimes the athlete needs a break from therapeutic work and receive a relaxing put-me-to-sleep massage.

I like my massage therapist, but she’s very chatty. How do I let her know I’d rather not talk?
Communicate with them. Let them know you prefer a quiet session. Let the therapist know you are not trying to be rude by not answering or engaging in their conversation, you just want to completely be in the moment of your therapy session. Your therapist will understand, and if they don’t, find another therapist.

I’ve never had a massage before. Should I let the therapist know?
Yes. It is very important you let your therapist know you have never received a session before and you do not want to receive an overly intense massage. Being it will be the first time for your body to experience massage, do not allow them to go to deep or too intense.

Is there ever a circumstance or injury where massage could make things worse instead of better?
Yes, there are contraindications when a massage should not be performed: an acute injury, an opened wound, when you are feverish, to name a few. First duty of a massage therapist is to cause no harm. If in doubt, communicate with your therapist.

How often should I schedule massage?
Receiving massage can easily be a form of everyday self self care. All bodies are different though, so knowing your body will help you determine how often to get massage, and what type it should be. Much like weight training, some types of bodywork and massage do require periods of rest before receiving again. For structurally integrative and fascia oriented massage, if there is ever any signs of an inflammatory response or bruising, then that must completely heal before resuming further work of that nature.

I’m never sure about gratuities. How much should I tip?
Gratuity is an act of gratitude, it is never a requirement to tip. If you are a gracious receiver of an awesome massage 15-20% is a standard percentage. The ultimate gratuity is not a gratuity, but re-booking the next massage.

Why does my therapist always tell me to drink lots of water after the massage is over?
There is an overused myth in the massage world which expresses massage therapy releases toxins. Massage therapists ask clients to drink plenty of water to help flush out these toxins. However, there is no clinical research to provide evidence that massage therapy releases toxins. That being said, massage therapy does generate heat. This heat can create a sensation of thirst, so, drinking water will help quench this thirst, plus, drinking water is known to stimulate the lymphatic and urinary systems which are good for the body.

* If you have a question that has not been addressed here, please feel free to write us at: therapy_by_the_sea@yahoo.com. We will be happy to address it for you and may even add it to this post!