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Swedish massage is the therapeutic massage standard for much of the Western world. Developed in the 1800s by Pehr Henrik Ling, it incorporates a variety of specific massage techniques to treat sore muscles, tension, stress, and poor circulation. Most Western massage modalities have their origins in Swedish massage, and the majority of massage therapists in the West are trained in Swedish massage before they learn any other massage techniques. Swedish massage is so ubiquitous that in Europe that it is known as Classic Massage.
Swedish massage uses five basic movements to increase circulation and remove toxins from the muscles. Always working towards the heart, the massage therapist incorporates these techniques into a flowing massage session that leaves the patient physically and emotionally relaxed. The trademark move of Swedish massage is Effleurage, long gliding strokes that can be firm or soft, depending on purpose and client. Many therapists start out a session with Effleurage to familiarize themselves with the patient, and then start to bring more pressure to bear for deeper work.
Swedish massage also includes Petrissage, or kneading. Petrissage is designed to release toxins from the muscles by lifting, separating, and rolling them. Gentle pressure is used to compress and relax the muscles, and enhance circulation. Another technique, Tapotement, involves tapping the muscles with a percussive stroke. The side of the hand, fingers, or palm may be used to release tension and cramping. Many therapists also incorporate vibration, a technique added to the Swedish massage repertoire later. The therapist centers his or her hands on the back of a limb and shakes them briskly for several seconds to release tension, encourage circulation, and help muscles to contract.
The deepest work in Swedish massage is accomplished with friction, where the therapist works deep into the muscles with the fingers, elbow, or base of the palm. Using circular movements, the therapist works deeply into the muscle, especially in bony areas, to release muscle adhesions which can restrict movement. Friction helps the client to be more flexible, and it also releases deep seated muscle tension.