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What is Swedish massage?

In Sweden, "Swedish massage" is simply known as "classic massage". And that is exactly what it is - a classic treatment which represents the western standard for massage.

Swedish massage has been portrayed on TV in the past as a very hard massage performed by some sadistic therapist in a medical-style uniform, but this is just TV...

Actually, the five main techniques used in Swedish massage - stroking and gliding; kneading; rubbing; tapping or "pounding"; vibration - are probably what spring to mind when you think about a "typical" massage. They're designed to improve your circulation, soothe your muscles and make you more relaxed.

What is Swedish massage good for?

Swedish massage uses softer strokes on the bonier and more delicate parts of the body, and stronger strokes where there is thicker muscle coverage. This sensitivity to pressure makes it ideal for relaxation.

Besides the calming benefits, Swedish massage is thought to be good for:

  • easing muscular strain by flushing out toxins
  • improving circulation by increasing oxygen flow in the blood
  • helping to keep ligaments and tendons supple
  • stimulating the nervous system
  • reducing emotional and physical stress.

Before you go

Check with the spa about what you should wear. If the thought of removing all your clothes makes you blush, you will need to bring loose, comfortable clothing. Be aware that the oils and lotions used in massage can stain fabrics, so it's a good idea to opt for something old.

Precautions

As with all treatments, inform your therapist of any medical conditions you may have and tell them if you are - or just think you might be - pregnant.

It's best to avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the hours leading up to your massage.

What to expect from a Swedish massage

Your massage will probably last around 60 or 90 minutes. You'll be given time to undress privately and lie down on the massage table, usually padded for extra comfort, where you may cover yourself with towels. You don't have to be completely exposed at any point; your therapist can uncover one little bit of you at a time depending on the area she is focusing on. If you're worried about anything, don't hesitate to say so.

Your therapist might assess your complexion at the start of your treatment and choose essential oils or lotions to suit your skin type. These will be massaged into your body with a series of strokes and techniques classic to Swedish massage. The treatment is very sensitive to pressure and takes into account the delicate or tender areas of your body, so it should be comfortable and soothing.

Some therapists like to play music during massage, as it can help you to unwind. Don't be afraid to say if you'd prefer not to have it - or indeed if you're unhappy with anything else in the treatment room. Being content in your surroundings is important for relaxation and will help you sink happily into your massage.

The same goes for talking. Most therapists are very sensitive to how much their client wants to communicate and will limit or encourage conversation accordingly. Some people like to chat a bit; others don't. It doesn't matter as long as you're comfortable, relaxed and receptive.

Hot tip!

All massage can leave you feeling thirsty and needing to go to the toilet more than usual - this is because it's got your lymph circulation going and your body is flushing out toxins. Drink plenty of water afterwards as you slowly drift back to planet Earth.

Afterwards

You'll probably feel quite relaxed and maybe even sleepy, so give yourself plenty of time to unwind. Savour the feeling of having every muscle in your body gently stretched and smoothed out.

Different kinds of Swedish massage

Because Swedish massage is one of the most classic forms of massage, its strokes and techniques form the basis for many other treatments. Do check to see what your chosen spa offers, but here are some therapies which may include Swedish massage:

  • Duet massage for couples
  • Aromatherapy massage
  • Hot stone therapy
  • Seated chair massage

Courtesy of the Good Spa Guide

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