As the backbone of classic western massage, Swedish Massage is an excellent place to start if you have never tried a massage before.

What is Swedish Massage good for?

The focus is on relaxing muscles and reducing stress. Controlled trials have shown the following benefits:

  • Pain relief
  • Better circulation and lymph flow
  • Quicker recovery from injuries
  • Reduced cortisol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced susceptibility to anxiety
  • Reduced sub-clinical depression
  • The activatation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming down bit)
  • Triggers the release of serotonin and oxytocin

What happens in a Swedish Massage?

You will need to outline your medical history beforehand and your therapist may ask you more about particular areas, for example any accidents or illnesses. This will ensure your treatment is safe and that you get the kind of massage you want. The therapist will leave the room while you undress and it's a good idea to talk about how much it's appropriate to undress beforehand, it can sometimes feel more intimate to have someone un-do and fasten your bra!

Most treatments start with the back because it's a less vulnerable area than the front and easier to relax. You will be covered by towels and only the area of body which is being worked on will be exposed.

It's important to find a way of lying that does not create tension in your body: face cradles, body cushions and propping can all be helpful to get you comfortable. The head, face, arms, belly, hips, legs and feet may all be worked on in a full body massage, depending on what you decided with your therapist.

What are the techniques of Swedish Massage?

There are five specific techniques:

Effleurage – at the start your body is warmed up with long, flowing strokes that welcome your body to the massage couch.

Petrissage – kneading which will get the tiny muscle fibers gliding smoothly against each other, disperse lymph and improve circulation.

Friction – deep, penetrating work which is good for un-gluing any adhesion in the muscles.

Tappotment – percussive tapping and hacking movements that improve blood flow and bring vibrancy.

Vibration – rhythmic shaking which allows the muscles to relax.

As it's common for massage therapists to train in many different styles, you may benefit from other techniques too. All therapists have their own style - their touch is a bit like their way of being. It's fine to ask for more work on a particular area or to request a different level of pressure.

Who should go?

Swedish Massage is a great general relaxation treatment, especially if you haven't had a massage before or haven't had one for a while.

Who should not go for a Swedish Massage?

Good massage therapists keep their skills up-to-date and have an extensive understanding of common complaints and conditions, however they do not diagnose and if you have any particular issues, it's a good idea to find a specific therapist that is trained to work with them. Nevertheless, most therapists will be able to avoid acute areas or position you comfortably so you can still receive some massage. There are still a few conditions where you should not get a Swedish massage:

  • Recent injuries
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Cardiovascular complaints
  • Early pregnancy
  • Over varicose veins
  • Phlebitis
  • On-going and undiagnosed pain

If you anything infectious or a fever, do everyone a favour and stay home


Though generally attributed to Swedish fencing master, Per Henrik Ling, Swedish massage is likely to have been formalised by Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909). A Dutch physician and physical therapist; Mezger's 'golden thumbs' successfully treated King William III's joint pain.