Swedish massage is proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, according to the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, as well as to relieve depression and anxiety and aid in recuperation from chronic illness. Swedish massage is also referred to as classical massage, and — contrary to popular understanding — does not originate from Sweden. There are five main strokes, or movements, that make up a Swedish massage: effleurage, friction, petrissage, tapotement and vibration. Each technique was created to help soothe, stimulate, soften, and rejuvenate muscles and other soft tissue.
During a Swedish style massage, the client will lie on a massage table in a comfortable position — usually facedown to start. Clients can choose to be clothed or nude; if they are nude, the massage therapist will drape them with a cloth so they are never exposed. A Swedish massage typically lasts from 45 to 120 minutes, depending on client need and pricing agreement. During the massage, the therapist typically employs all of the stroke techniques as a way to ease any tension in the body. Swedish massage is one of the most gentle types of massage and is known for being soothing and relaxing.
Pregnancy massage is a therapeutic massage tailored specifically to the needs of a pregnant woman’s body. Before having a prenatal massage, always check in with your prenatal care provider and ask if massage therapy will be safe for you and your pregnancy. A pregnancy massage is much more than just an indulgence. The specialized strokes and techniques used to loosen tight muscles, reduce swelling, alleviate pressure, and ease tension provide positive health benefits for both you and your baby. Experts recommend finding a massage therapist who has received additional training on prenatal massage techniques. This is typically a certification above and beyond their standard massage therapy certification and training requirements. During the massage you will likely lie on your side or in a semi-reclined position; these supported poses keep you and the baby comfortable and free from strain or undue pressure. During the massage, the therapist will listen to what body challenges you are experiencing and work to release tension. The massage should be a relaxing and very soothing experience.
Thai massage, also called Thai yoga massage, combines acupressure and assisted yoga postures. Thai massage is based on the flow of energy through the body and focuses on energy lines called “sen.” It doesn’t use oils or lotions and, instead of rubbing muscles, the massage therapist compresses, pulls, stretches and rocks the recipient’s body to promote the flow of energy through these sen. In this form of massage therapy, practitioners use their hands, knees, legs and feet to apply deep muscle compression and stretch the body. It’s often performed on a mat on the floor instead of on a massage table. Like most forms of massage, Thai massage is used to relieve stress, improve range of motion and enhance flexibility. Some people also use Thai massage to address a range of health issues, including:
- Relieving tension headaches
- Decreasing back pain
- Reducing joint stiffness and pain
- Stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Boosting energy
Because a traditional Thai massage session covers all of the muscles in your body, it typically lasts 90 minutes to 120 minutes.
A deep tissue full body massage is a form of healing bodywork. At your first massage, your massage therapist will do a brief intake. They will ask you questions about the type of pressure you’d like to receive during your deep tissue massage, any previous massage experience you’ve had, and any injuries or sensitivities you have. You can remain clothed, or the massage therapist will provide draping so that even if you’re not wearing clothes you are always fully covered. Deep tissue massage may be a good option for people with chronic pain or muscle tension. The systematic deep tissue strokes will work to break down any scar tissue or stiff tissues and create ease in your body again. Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, fists and knuckles to knead and stroke your muscles and loosen adhesions. Although deep tissue massage work is intense, it should not be painful, so communicate clearly with your massage therapist so they know if you’re having any discomfort. The national average cost of a deep tissue massage is between $70 and $90.
There are five main techniques in Swedish massage: effleurage, friction, petrissage, tapotement and vibration. Within each category there are various movements, all intended to ease muscle tension and pain. Each movement has a specific purpose for loosening, warming, soothing or stimulating your muscles during your massage. Here is a breakdown of each of the five Swedish massage techniques:
- Effleurage: Sweeping, gliding, smooth long strokes done with the hands or forearms. These strokes can loosen and warm the body and are said to help stimulate blood flow.
- Friction: These circular or transverse rubbing strokes are also warming and can get deeper into the muscle tissue. They should be avoided on injured or inflamed areas or areas.
- Petrissage: Lifting, kneading, skin rolling, muscle rolling and wringing. These movements help with circulation, which stimulates cell regeneration, and aid in loosening tense muscles.
- Tapotement: Tapping, plucking, cupping and pounding. Tapotement movements can help improve blood circulation and cell rejuvenation, and also relax and release tight muscles.
- Vibration: Rocking, shaking and trembling movements. These motions can help muscles release.
Traditional Thai massage is a different experience if you’ve only ever had a Swedish or deep tissue massage. In Thai massage, you wear loose-fitting clothing (often provided by the massage therapist) and start by lying on a mat. Throughout the massage, the therapist moves your body into various seated and prone positions, which stretch and release your muscles and soft tissue. Although your body is moving, the therapist is doing all the work, making it feel similar to supported yoga. The massage therapist will bend, stretch, and compress and lengthen your body using their hands, forearms, elbows and even feet. Don’t be alarmed by the feet! Many studios have overhead supports that allow the practitioners to safely walk on your back, releasing tight adhesions and promoting ease. Thai massage can be both invigorating and relaxing. It is an excellent option for keeping your muscles in good health if you regularly work out, or if you want to overcome a lack of flexibility. Studies show that Thai massage can increase blood circulation, improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension and enhance mental well-being.
If you’re ready for relaxation and relief from pregnancy pains, prenatal massage may be a great healing option. Once your prenatal care provider has approved you for pregnancy massage, look for a licensed massage therapist who also has training and certification in prenatal massage techniques.
The safety of hot stone massage during pregnancy depends on several factors including the stage of your pregnancy and where on the body the hot stones are applied. The massage therapist should avoid raising your core temperature or using hot stones on the abdomen. When in doubt, talk to your prenatal care provider.
Everyone loves Swedish massage. It’s soothing and relaxing and, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, is proven to relieve pain. Swedish massage can also relieve symptoms associated with chronic illness, arthritis, depression and other ailments. The term Swedish massage is actually a massive mixup, according to Massage Magazine. The technique would be more aptly named classical massage, which it is often called. What we in the United States refer to as Swedish massage was actually invented by a Dutch physician named Johan Georg Mezger. Mezger systematized and gave French names to the five massage techniques used today in Swedish (or classic) massage: effleurage, friction, petrissage, tapotement and vibration. The confusion began when the techniques systematized by Mezger were attributed to Per Henrik Ling, the founder of the Swedish Movement System who had practiced his similar techniques in his gymnasium. In many parts of the world, Swedish massage is called classic massage, and most massage therapists will understand either term.
Thai massage not only feels good, it has proven health benefits. In general, massage can reduce stress, relieve pain, decrease negative symptoms from chronic illness, and promote wellness. But Thai massage, in addition to all these health benefits, is especially wonderful for improving flexibility and can also be highly beneficial to athletes or anyone who has regular strain on their muscles. During a Thai massage, the massage therapist will move your body through a variety of yoga-like poses and postures, all with the intention of loosening your muscles, improving your circulation and promoting bodily wellness. A study by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science showed the benefits of Thai massage during and after athletic performance:
- Improved physical fitness and flexibility, attributed to reduced muscle tension and increased blood ﬂow to muscles.
- Increased muscle blood supply, which may allow the muscles to get more oxygen and nutrients from the blood, giving them more endurance and strength.
- Enhanced positive mood states and psychological well-being, both of which promote physical recovery.
Not only can you have a massage while pregnant, multiple scientific studies published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services demonstrate that pregnancy massages provide physical and mental benefits to pregnant women and women in labor. Always ask your OB-GYN about receiving massages before starting any massage therapy to make sure it is safe for your own pregnancy. Pregnancy massage can alleviate pain, improve mental health and feel great. According to the DHHS, the benefits can include:
- Decreased depression.
- Decreased anxiety.
- Decreased leg and back pain.
- Lower cortisol levels, which in turn lowers prematurity rates.
- Lessened labor pain (for women who received massage during labor).
- Labor time that is three hours shorter, on average, for women who receive massage during labor.