Swedish Massage: What Is It and Its Benefits

Written by: Kevin Cash



Time to read 12 min

Curious about how a Swedish massage can boost relaxation and improve your well-being? It uses gentle techniques to help you unwind and feel good.

We’ll cover why this type of massage is great for easing tension and helping with things like pain and stress. You'll learn about the special moves it uses and how they relax your mind and body.

Ever wondered how to relax and let go of stress? Swedish massage could be the solution. Join us to explore the various techniques and benefits of massage and discover how soothing and beneficial it can be.

What Is a Swedish Massage?

Relaxed woman receiving Swedish massage on upper back

Swedish massage uses techniques like sliding, squeezing, rubbing, tapping, and shaking with massage oil or lotion to relax the entire body, ease pain, and improve well-being. Its strokes are long and fluid, targeting muscles and soft tissues.

Interestingly, it was developed by a Dutch doctor named Johan Georg Mezger in the 1860s, not in Sweden as the name might suggest. Mezger codified the five core techniques of Swedish massage: effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement, and vibration.

Nearly 70% of American adults turn to massage therapy to address chronic muscle pain and anxiety and to support heart and immune system health. They frequently opt for Swedish massage for these therapeutic needs, making it the most commonly practiced type of massage in the U.S.

This classic massage is fundamental to many Western massage styles, known to help with other health issues, including depression, anxiety, back pain, and headaches.

Techniques of Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage uses different gentle techniques to reduce muscle stiffness and promote mental relaxation. Let's explore the different techniques, benefits, and what sets this massage type apart from the others.

1. Effleurage

Woman getting a back massage

Effleurage uses light to medium pressure with smooth, long strokes aimed toward the heart to improve blood flow and relax muscles.

Effleurage is important for warming up the muscles at the beginning of a Swedish massage. It prepares the muscles for deeper pressure later in the session.

The four main benefits of effleurage are:

  • Relaxation

  • Better circulation

  • Reduced muscle swelling

  • Stronger immunity

Effleurage also aids in relaxing tissues around muscles in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and easing labor pain, showcasing its versatility and usefulness.

2. Petrissage Kneading

Therapist doing Petrissage Kneading massage technique

Petrissage involves movements like kneading, wringing, rolling, and lifting, which collectively work the muscles deeply. This technique primarily focuses on stretching and softening stiff muscles.

It boosts blood circulation and speeds up muscle injury recovery by clearing out harmful substances and bringing in helpful nutrients.

The petrissage technique takes up the most time in a Swedish massage session. It is also the reason for many of the therapeutic benefits of this massage.

3. Tapotement

Therapist massaging client

Tapotement involves rhythmic tapping that feels like gentle drumming. This technique uses different hand parts to produce various effects on your muscles.

Tapotement is beneficial as it stimulates your muscles, improves blood flow, and relieves tension. It also helps improve flexibility and range of motion and promotes relaxation.

The five main tapotement strokes are:

  1. Beating - The therapist gently strikes the area with a closed fist.

  2. Hacking - Quick, light blows are delivered using the edge of the hand near the pinky finger.

  3. Tapping - Only the fingertips are used to tap the muscles.

  4. Cupping - The hand forms a cup shape to softly tap the body.

  5. Drumming - Uses rhythmic tapping with either the fingertips or cupped hands.

This technique is particularly effective on the back. It targets deep muscle knots, helps them release, and loosens tight areas. As a result, you feel great and move more comfortably.

4. Friction

Therapist doing Friction massage technique

The friction method involves applying firm pressure using fingers, knuckles, or palms. They move in circular or across-the-muscle motions to break up muscle knots and align muscle fibers.

Friction massage targets areas of intense muscle tension by softening and realigning muscle fibers. It also improves circulation of blood which facilitates healing and enhances muscle function.

Friction massage applies targeted pressure to muscles without the use of oils or lotions. This helps the therapist focus exactly on areas of pain using their thumbs.

This component of Swedish massage helps with conditions like tendinitis, tennis elbow, or golfer's elbow. It is also good for the muscles in your neck or shoulder area.

5. Vibration

Therapist performing Vibration massage technique

Vibration involves rhythmic shaking of your muscles. In this approach, your massage therapist quickly moves their hands to shake your muscles gently.

The massage also helps you recover quicker after workouts. People who get a vibration massage regain their strength faster compared to those who don't (source).

The vibration stimulates the release of endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel good. This helps relax your body deeply and reduces stress.

Unlike other Swedish massage techniques that focus primarily on the muscles, vibration provides positive effects both physically and psychologically by inducing relaxation.

12 Benefits of Swedish Massage

Swedish massage offers 12 main benefits that can help improve your health, soothe sore muscles, and serve as a health boost.

1. Relieves Pain

Swedish massage not only helps to loosen muscle knots but also stimulates the nerves to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain relievers. 88% of people in the U.S. who get massages agree that it can reduce pain effectively (source).

While the pain relief from Swedish massage isn’t permanent, regular sessions can provide ongoing relief from chronic aches. If you often deal with stiff muscles, getting a Swedish massage could offer the relief you need.

2. Tension Relief

Woman sitting down while having a massage

Swedish massage can offer essential relief if your muscles feel knotted. It addresses various types of pain, such as backaches and headaches, and is helpful for persistent discomfort.

This massage interacting with the nerves helps reduce pain, making it a common type of massage for those looking to relax and heal.

3. Improved Circulation

Swedish massage enhances blood flow. The gentle, elongated strokes encourage your blood vessels to widen. Your blood can transport oxygen and nutrients more easily throughout your body, benefiting muscles and organs.

By boosting circulation, Swedish massage induces relaxation, enhances overall health, and promotes body detoxification.

4. May Help With Headaches

Swedish massage can be a natural solution for those who suffer from headaches, especially tension headaches.

Swedish massage is effective for the muscles in your neck and shoulders, where tension often builds up and causes headaches.

This massage type can decrease the frequency of headaches you experience.

5. May Help With Anxiety

The Swedish massage serves as an effective and straightforward approach to anxiety management. It is known for its ability to induce a sense of calmness. It’s shown to be helpful for people who feel anxious, based on a 2016 study.

During the massage, your body releases endorphins to boost your mood and reduces your cortisol to lower your stress levels. Cortisol is the notorious stress hormone, so decreasing cortisol levels helps you feel less tense and more tranquil.

Overall, this treatment serves as an effective and straightforward approach to anxiety management.

6. Improves Sleep Quality

Woman peacefully sleeping on her bed

If you struggle to sleep, try a Swedish massage to help you get a good night's rest.

It calms your nervous system and lowers stress hormone levels by improving your blood circulation, making it easier for you to fall asleep.

7. May Help With PMS

Swedish massage can help ease some of the tough parts of the monthly cycle for women. That includes increased stress, lack of quality sleep, and frequent anxiety.

If you get premenstrual syndrome (PMS), consider trying a Swedish massage. Experts often recommend relaxation techniques like massage to help with PMS symptoms, including fatigue and mood swings.

8. May Help With Symptoms of Depression

The Swedish massage stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that create a feeling of happiness. That can help to reduce feelings of depression.

Swedish massage can help with short-term relief from depression, proving how important gentle touches and movements are for your body and mind.

It’s advised to still see your healthcare provider about your depression.

9. Helps With Skin Hydration

Swedish massages benefit your skin by activating your oil and sweat glands to keep your skin moisturized.

The different types of massage strokes, like rubbing and pressing, prompt a reaction from your body. These movements activate pressure receptors in your skin and muscle tissue, stimulating a range of responses.

This stimulation during a Swedish massage warms the skin and widens your blood vessels to improve circulation. This is good for your skin because it provides more nutrients and oxygen, helping to nourish and give a radiant look.

10. May Treat Fibromyalgia

Elderly woman upper back relief

Swedish massage can also be an effective treatment for fibromyalgia. It not only reduces pain but also helps with the sadness and worry that come with this condition (source).

The smooth, long strokes and deep pressure to relax muscles are what helps with the fibromyalgia pain. The benefits of Swedish massage are not just felt during the session. They also help relieve the constant pain from fibromyalgia and ease the stress of living with a long-term illness.

11. Lymph Drainage

Swedish massage also promotes your health by improving lymph drainage. This is particularly crucial during periods of reduced activity when our muscles aren't as active in expelling waste.

Swedish massage stimulates your lymphatic system, aiding in the more efficient removal of toxins from your body.

Think of your lymphatic system as a river that needs to flow to stay clean. If you're not moving much, lymph drainage during a Swedish massage keeps this river moving.

12. Improves Flexibility

By getting a Swedish massage you become more flexible and can move more easily. So, everyday tasks become simpler.

The kneading and rubbing help your muscles and joint flexibility. These movements are also effective in reducing swelling. And the stretching aspect of the massage benefits your joints, enhancing their mobility and alleviating discomfort.

How Is Swedish Massage Different from Other Types of Massage

Woman receiving upper back massage

Swedish massage is a popular choice for relaxation and healing, but how is it different from other types of massage?

Let's compare Swedish massage with other massage styles.

1. Swedish Massage vs Deep Tissue Massage

Swedish massage and deep tissue massage both aim to improve your well-being, but they do so differently.

Swedish massage uses gentle strokes and light pressure, perfect for a calm and soothing experience.

On the other hand, deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. It uses strong pressure and slow strokes to address specific muscle soreness and knots. This massage is ideal for anyone looking to relieve deep-seated tension and pain.

Here's a brief comparison of the two styles:

Type of Massage





Swedish Massage

Light to medium

Long, smooth strokes and kneading

Relaxation, better blood flow

Calming and pleasant

Deep Tissue Massage

Medium to very firm

Intense pressure, slow strokes

Treating muscle issues, chronic pain

Intense, sometimes uncomfortable, relieving

Both types work on your soft tissues, just with different approaches. If you're looking to unwind, Swedish is perfect. Need to work out a tough knot? Deep tissue is your go-to choice.

2. Swedish Massage vs Thai Massage

Swedish and Thai massages are both popular types of massage but differ in their approach. Swedish massage is gentle on your muscles and is performed on a massage table with light to medium pressure.

In contrast, a Thai massage involves more movement for your muscles. It's done on a soft mat, and you wear comfortable clothing while the therapist stretches, applies deep pressure, and mobilizes your joints. This helps to make you more flexible, release deep muscle stress, and balance your body's energy.

Here's a quick comparison of the two styles:


Swedish Massage

Thai Massage


Relaxation and tension relief

Flexibility, tension relief, and energy balancing


Massage table

Floor mat

Massage Platform

Gentle strokes, kneading, rolling, and circular motions

Stretching, deep pressure, joint mobilization

Levels Of Pressure

Light to moderate

Deep and firm

Session Feel

Soothing and gentle

Active and engaging

Typical Duration

60-90 minutes

60 - 120 minutes

Each type of massage has its benefits, so pick based on what your body needs.

Feeling stressed and want to relax? Try a Swedish massage. Exercising a lot and want to keep your muscles happy? Give Thai massage a try.

3. Swedish Massage vs Sports Massage

Swedish massage and sports massage are different, but both are helpful.

Swedish massage is soft and soothing while sports massage is more focused and intense, using deep tissue methods to address specific muscle problems and enhance performance.

Here's how they compare at a glance:


Swedish Massage

Sports Massage


Light and gentle

Deep and intense


60-90 minutes

30-60 minutes

Best for

Anytime relaxation

Pre- or post-event, preparation, recovery

4. Swedish Massage vs Trigger Point Massage

Swedish massage and trigger point massage work differently but both help with muscle tension.

Swedish massage strokes focus on improving blood flow and delivering that calming effect all over your body. Trigger point massage targets specific muscle knots with deep pressure to relieve tension and chronic pain.

Here's a simple comparative breakdown:


Swedish Massage

Trigger Point Massage


Promotes relaxation, and improves blood flow. Ideal for self-care.

Targets chronic pain and knots.


Gentle to medium, induces a calming effect.

Firmer, targets specific points.


Leaves you relaxed, possibly sleepy. Quick relief for tight muscles.

May feel uncomfortable during a session but provides lasting relief.


Basic relaxation technique.

Requires specialized knowledge.

Swedish massage is often used for relaxation, while trigger point therapy focuses on relieving pain in specific areas with firmer pressure.

Swedish Massage FAQs

1. Is Swedish Massage Safe?

Swedish massage is generally safe. However, massage therapists need to know your health issues beforehand to ensure it's suitable for you. This attention is crucial to prevent any issues and ensure you feel better post-massage.

2. Who Should Avoid Getting a Swedish Massage?

If you have open wounds, recent surgery, or certain health problems, Swedish massage might not be safe. This includes skin issues, blood clotting, bone problems, or cancer.

It's important to consult your doctor if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other medical condition. This ensures the massage is safe and helpful for you.

3. Is Swedish Massage Safe During Pregnancy?

Swedish massage is generally safe for pregnant women, including after the first three months. But always ask your doctor first.

When getting a Swedish massage during pregnancy, make sure your therapist is trained in prenatal massage. They know best on how to adjust the massage to keep you and your baby safe and comfortable.

4. Do I Need to Undress for a Swedish Massage?

Swedish massage focuses on your comfort, so you don't need to take off all your clothes. Many people leave on their undergarments. This helps the massage therapist work on your muscles better. But, it's up to you how much you undress. The main thing is for you to feel relaxed during the massage session.

5. What Should I Do After Getting a Swedish Massage?

After a Swedish massage, take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which helps your body remove toxins released during the massage.

To fully relax, avoid strenuous exercise, hot baths, and big meals for the next 1-2 hours. Instead, do light activities, rest well, and let the relaxation sink in. This will boost the benefits of the massage, keeping you calm and stress-free.

6. Does Swedish Massage Use Oil?

Yes, Swedish massage often uses oil. But not just any oil - it's selected for its special benefits. Common oils include sweet almond, grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, and sunflower. These oils are light and packed with goodness for your skin.

7. How Long Is a Swedish Massage Session?

A Swedish massage typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes. During a 60-minute session, you get a full-body Swedish massage. Choosing a 90-minute session lets your therapist focus more on specific areas or to deepen your overall relaxation.

8. How Often Can I Get a Swedish Massage?

The ideal frequency for a Swedish massage varies. It depends on what you want and how your body reacts. Generally, aim for a massage every 2-4 weeks to manage stress and stay well.

But this can change based on your health goals and how you feel. If you have a specific issue or enjoy the benefits of massage, you might go more often.

If you just want to relax, spacing out your sessions might suit you better. Listen to your body to find what keeps you feeling great.