It may sound like it involves birch twigs and saunas, it may even conjure up less salubrious images than that, but Swedish massage is one of the most well known and frequently used forms of Therapeutic Massage in the west. However people seem unsure of what to expect when visiting a Swedish Massage Therapist So here to dispel some myths and bring clarity is Sarah Yapp, who has worked as a fully qualified Swedish masseuse for the past seven years.
Any massage you are likely to have in Europe or America today will have its roots well and truly set in the mother of modern massage which is Swedish Massage. The term refers to a set of strokes which was developed by scholar and athlete Per Henrik Ling at the University of Stockholm in 1812. Ling was a student and teacher of anatomy and physiology and gymnastics. He developed his own system of massage whilst in China studying the therapeutic effects of exercise and movement.
Swedish massage is one of the most basic techniques that are taught to professional massage therapists. Swedish massage is the foundation for other types of Western massage, including sports, deep tissue and aromatherapy. The focus of Swedish massage is general relaxation, stimulation of circulation, enhancing muscle tone and is also therapeutic in reducing muscle tightness. A good Swedish massage therapist will know how to apply the basic techniques to almost any condition, injury or situation.
The basic techniques of Swedish massage are Effleurage – long, gliding strokes, Pettrissage – kneading of individual muscles, Tapotement – tapping Vibration, cupping and hacking – the chopping action so favoured by film producers which looks painful but isn’t! A good massage will also include some gentle stretches and breathing techniques.
Your first Swedish Massage appointment
The therapist will take your medical history which will be kept on file and completely confidential. It is important therefore to have a note of any medication you are taking with you. The treatment is given on a specially designed couch. Should you feel discomfort at any time alert the therapist who will make adjustments to make you comfortable. The therapist will leave you to undress in the room and you need to remove all clothing except underpants You will be given a towel or sheet for modesty and warmth, and this will be used during the massage in a system termed “draping”, the therapist uncovering just the part required for massage and then covering up before moving onto the next area. Don’t be embarrassed if you fall asleep or if your tummy starts to rumble, these are all good signs that you are becoming super-relaxed!
The therapist generally uses massage oil to facilitate making long, smooth strokes over the body. Although this oil is not scented, as in Aromatherapy, it should be of a good quality so that it has therapeutic effects on the skin. I use a mix of four different plant oils and 2 vitamin oils in my massage blend, which leaves the skin soft and can alleviate wrinkles and scar tissue.
How does Swedish Massage improve your health?
The massage aims to help the flow of blood and lymph with all strokes directed towards the heart. This helps bring nutrients to all areas of the body, and to cleanse the system. After a massage you may feel thirsty or have an urgent need for the bathroom. This is an after effect of the massage and shows that the body is cleansing. The after effects should only last up to 12 hours after the treatment and can include slight nausea, tiredness or a running nose. These are all good signs that the massage is working.
Researchers at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami, Florida, have found that massage can reduce anxiety and depression, relieve back and muscle pain, lower high blood pressure, ease PMS symptoms, re-invigorate office workers, and increase levels of natural antioxidant cells that boost the immune system. Trials at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, showed massage could reduce anxiety and improve the quality of life in cancer patients.
I have worked all over the world and have added Ayurvedic and Thai techniques to my Swedish massage and had very good results, especially for emotional difficulties where sometimes a caring touch is the only thing required to put a person on the road to wellness.
Ensure that you use a fully qualified therapist.
Massage of the abdomen should be avoided in the first three months of pregnancy. And a midwife’s consent is usually required for any complementary therapy
Consult a doctor before having a massage if you have phlebitis, thrombosis, varicose veins, acute back pain, cancer, psychotic illness or any undiagnosed pain, lumps or bumps.
If you have a serious ailment, avoid massage in a ‘health and beauty’ context.
Be wary of advertisements with phrases like ‘exclusive services’ or ‘executive massage’.
Do not ask a therapist for “extras” as the result could be painful!
Sarah Yapp BA (Hons) ITEC MCThA
Sarah Yapp Therapies