The gentle pressure of Swedish massage makes it a popular method for treating pain and stress. Read our guide—rather than Norse sagas—to learn what to expect.
Most Europeans refer to Swedish massage as classic massage, possibly because the technique did not originate in Sweden. In fact, the individual elements of the style can be traced to all parts of the world, but it was a Dutch practitioner who established the system that combines four distinct motions—whose names, as it happens, are mostly French: effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement. Together, the motions help relieve muscle tension and stimulate blood flow, thereby energizing the body and soothing the mind during a single relaxing session.
The four phases are easy to distinguish. Effleurage refers to the smooth, gliding strokes that help relax soft tissues at the beginning of the treatment, followed by the squeezing, rolling, or kneading gestures of petrissage. Deep, circular motions make up the friction phase, in which layers of tissue rub against one another to boost circulation. Therapists conclude the massage with tapotement, a rapid cadence of percussive taps performed with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand.
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