The Swedish Massage: Full Body Therapy

Is there a way to boost circulation, stimulate relaxation, and improve your immune health all in one sitting?

Absolutely there is. It’s called a Swedish massage.

A professional Swedish massage does more for your body than most people realize. The movements provide full-body therapy, extending from your mind to your toes. That’s why 88% of Americans believe massage therapy effectively reduces pain, and 70% consider massage therapy a form of healthcare.

What is a Swedish massage, and what benefits does it provide? We have answered all of your questions below. Let’s explore.

What Is a Swedish Massage?

A Swedish massage provides full-body relaxation. It is a holistic treatment that eases tension in the muscles, joints, and tendons.

A massage therapist stimulates deep tissue healing by rubbing muscles in the same direction of blood returning to the heart. 

When performing a Swedish massage, a therapist may use their hands, forearms, and elbows to reach deep layers of muscle. This is what ignites the full-body benefits.

A Swedish massage is the standard routine most spas, wellness centers, and clinics offer customers. It is best for people with tension in their shoulders, neck, and lower back.

Most Swedish massages include lotions or gels. The lubricant allows a therapist to perform long glides throughout the body with ease. Some therapists may also incorporate aromatherapy (such as essential oils, incense, or candles) into the massage to enhance relaxation.

What Makes It Swedish?

Swedish massages come from a Swedish fencing instructor in the 1830s named Per Henrik Ling. Ling suffered from elbow injuries. But he cured himself by performing deep strokes around the infected area.

News of Ling curing his aches and pains through deep tissue stimulation spread like wildfire. In the 1850s, two brothers introduced the technique to the United States.

What to Expect During a Swedish Massage

A standard Swedish massage is more gentle than a deep tissue one. It is perfect for people who:

Unless instructed otherwise, a therapist will massage your entire body. If you have a specific area of concern that you want to focus on, let your therapist know ahead of time.

Your massage therapist may also ask about your preference for pressure. A Swedish massage can use light, medium, or firm pressure. If it is your first time, start light and work your way to firm.

When you arrive for your Swedish massage, you will get undressed. When it is time for the massage, your therapist will drape a sheet over your body. You will remain covered for the majority of the full-body massage. The therapist will work around the sheet to target different areas of the body.

Swedish Massage: Different Strokes for Different Benefits

Massage therapy uses different strokes to invoke widespread benefits. A massage therapist will incorporate four types of movements into a Swedish massage, including:

  • Effleurage (gliding strokes)
  • Petrissage (squeezing, rolling, and kneading)
  • Friction (deep circular movements)
  • Tapotement (short taps with the fingers or cupped hands)

The various strokes work together to energize nerve endings. They boost circulation and blood flow. The strokes relieve tension all throughout the body.


Effleurage is the process of providing long and smooth strokes all over the body. The gliding movement stimulates relaxation and eases tension in soft tissues. In French, Effleurage translates to “touch lightly on.”

Effleurage is used at the start of the Swedish massage. The smooth movements warm up the body, soothe muscle tightness, and relax the nervous system. Effleurage also stimulates blood flow in the muscles, tissues, and skin.

Clients looking for stress relief may request the effleurage technique throughout the entire massage. It is a relaxing movement that eases physical and mental stress. Effleurage also improves lymphatic drainage, circulation, and swelling.


To understand petrissage, think of a baker kneading bread. A therapist may roll, pull, and squeeze the skin. Petrissage may be light in pressure, or it can be very firm. It is safe to perform in all areas of the body.

The massage therapist may use their fingers, hands, and palms to perform petrissage. The movements enhance circulation and revive soft tissue. When performed at a high speed, petrissage can energize and invigorate a person.

Petrissage includes skin rolling. A massage therapist uses a finger to gently pull the skin away from the muscle and roll it in different directions. Skin rolling helps people dealing with myofascial tightness and chronic pain in the fascial system.


A massage therapist rubs areas of the body together to create a friction effect. It can be uncomfortable at times. But the movement provides long-lasting benefits that overcome discomfort.

Friction causes deep layers of tissue to rub against one another. The movement boosts blood flow and breaks down scar tissue. It stimulates new tissue development and realigns tendon fibers.

Many people suffering from tendon-related injuries (such as tendonitis) benefit from the friction effect. Friction decreases chronic pain in the tendons and boosts healing. Swedish massages using friction decrease recovery time for athletes with tendon-related injuries.

Friction also restores injuries due to surgery or repetitive stress. It breaks down adhesions and scar tissue. This reduces inflammation, boosts range of motion, and enhances functionality. 


Tapotement, also known as percussion, involves short, alternating taps with the hand. The massage therapist may use their fingers or cup their hands to create the sensations.

During a Swedish massage, tapotement relieves tight and tense muscles. It occurs near the end of the session. Tapotement helps clients feel refreshed and alive after a Swedish massage.

The percussion movements provide full-body benefits, including:

  • Increasing blood flow
  • Relieving physical pain
  • Toning atrophied muscles
  • Energizing nerve endings
  • Reducing congestion and providing sinus relief

Tapotement can be performed in a wide range of speeds and depths. The therapist may start light, move to faster and firmer, and gradually go back to slow movements.

Swedish Massage: Boosting Immune Health Like Never Before

An apple a day keeps the doctor away? More like a Swedish massage a day keeps the doctor away.

Massage therapy stimulates white blood cell activity. This is great news for our immune system.

The body relies on white blood cells to prevent foreign invaders from wreaking havoc on our health. Invaders include viruses, parasites, and bacteria. The more white blood cells, the stronger the immune system.

A Swedish massage, in particular, increases lymphocyte production.

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell known as “natural killer cells.” They are key players when it comes to fighting infections and destroying harmful microbes. T-cells and B-cells are the two main types of lymphocytes in the human body.

HIV-positive research participants received regular Swedish massages for 12 weeks. By the end of the study, researchers observed increased lymphocyte levels in participants. Higher lymphocyte production led to faster bodily responses and stronger immune systems.

A similar study discovered the impact Swedish massages have on strengthening the immune system to fight off breast cancer. After receiving massage therapy, stage 1 and 2 breast cancer patients displayed increases in dopamine, serotonin, and lymphocyte cells.

Swedish Massage: Relieving Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are mental ailments that affect a person’s emotional state. An estimated 21.4% of American adults experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. The rate is slightly higher in females.

The relaxing effects of a Swedish massage impact mental health. Massage therapy provides relief for those suffering from mood disorder symptoms. A five-week study found that women who underwent massage therapy noticed a decrease in anxiety, depression, and anger.

Anxiety Disorders & Swedish Massage

Anxiety disorders are extremely prevalent across the United States. They cause stress, physical tension, and cardiovascular problems. But massage therapy can help.

An hour-long Swedish massage encourages full-body relaxation. The gliding strokes target tension locked deep inside the tendons and muscles. It lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels by as much as 30%. Less cortisol leads to better moods, sleep, and cognitive functions.

One study found that after receiving massage therapy for 12 weeks, participants noticed a 50% decrease in anxiety symptoms. The effects of the massages were also long-lasting. Participants reported noticing fewer symptoms 26 weeks later.

Depression & Swedish Massage

Depression is a leading disability in America.

Many researchers believe depression stems from a lack of serotonin. The neurotransmitters relay information from one area of the brain to the other. They regulate mood, sex drive, sleep, learning, social behavior, appetite, and memory.

Low serotonin activity is linked to anxiety, depression, pain, anger, and OCD. Many antidepressant medications increase serotonin activity to ease depression symptoms. But a Swedish massage can have the same effects.

Massage therapy increases the secretion of serotonin. This leads to heightened neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

A professional massage also boosts dopamine and endorphin production. It lowers stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. 

Massage therapy in the winter helps people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression affects people during the cold months. A Swedish massage can prevent symptoms of SAD from destroying a person’s mood.

Swedish Massage: Regulating Blood Pressure

One of the many benefits of a Swedish massage is the effects the movements have on blood flow. The friction method encourages circulation. It increases blood flow throughout the body and builds stronger muscles.

As blood flow and circulation increase, blood pressure may decrease. This is good news for those who suffer from hypertension.

Researchers observed blood pressure ratings for 150 participants before and after their massage. They found that a Swedish massage pinpointed trigger points that decreased blood pressure levels.

People suffering from hypertension should consider adding regular Swedish massages to their routine. They should combine massage therapy with other healthy lifestyle changes, such as:

  • A heart-healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Calming activities (like yoga, meditation, and hot bubble baths)

In addition to enhancing circulation, a Swedish massage also lowers blood pressure brought on by stress.

Tense muscles make blood vessels smaller, which leads to increased pressure. A Swedish massage uses long strokes to loosen tight muscles, assuage tension, and lower blood pressure levels.

Swedish Massage: Improving Flexibility and Posture

The different strokes in a Swedish massage decrease swelling and tension in tendons and joints. The movements elongate the muscles. This boosts their range of movement, balance, and flexibility.

The constant strain we put on our muscles and tendons, like sitting or standing for hours, is bad for our muscles. It causes poor balance and posture.

Swedish massage targets tissue stimulation. It soothes the muscular holding that causes poor posture.

Why is improving flexibility and posture important?

Flexibility reduces your risk of injuries and chronic pain while increasing athletic performance. Good posture protects the joints. It leads to less shoulder, neck, and back discomfort.

Swedish Massage: Alleviating Head Pain

Headaches can range from a few minutes of pain to weeks of suffering. In severe cases, migraines cause nausea and make a person unable to function. Massage therapy is a natural yet effective way to relieve headaches.

A Swedish massage relaxes the entire body. When muscles calm down, the body experiences fewer spasms and better blood flow. The widespread benefits lead to fewer vascular and tension headaches.

A traditional Swedish massage also alleviates eye pain, which often leads to headaches and migraines. We spend hours straining our eyes looking at computer screens. A Swedish massage can reduce sinus pressure and boost circulation around the frontal lobe. 

Swedish Massage: Healing Pain & Rejuvenating Your Body

Massage therapy is popular because it works.

There are a lot of reasons why more and more Americans are turning to Swedish massage. The treatment provides full-body benefits that have long-lasting effects on our wellness.

Are you searching for massage therapy in Northern Kentucky? Look no further.

Sanctuary of Integration Wellness Center provides an extensive range of bodywork services. From Swedish massage to TMJ therapy, we are the experts in alleviating pain and boosting your wellbeing.

Explore our services or contact our team to learn more about what we can do for you.

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