What is Swedish Massage?

Massage therapists use special techniques during this popular massage

If you are in massage therapy school, or if you have ever been to a massage therapy spa, you probably have heard of a Swedish massage. But what is this kind of massage? What makes it so popular?

The different strokes of a Swedish massage
The Swedish massage, also known as the “classic massage” in most European countries, is made up of five specific types of massage strokes. Learning about these strokes will help you understand how and why a Swedish massage is so effective. A word to the wise Don’t be intimidated by their French names. Just know that they all add up to a terrific massage!

1. Effleurage (stroking). This stroke is long and gliding, and is used as the beginning of the massage. The massage therapist can use an open palm and/or a fist to deliver these sweeping strokes. At the same time, the therapist can apply massage oils, and get a sense for how much muscle tension you have. The effleurage typically starts out light, and then the pressure increases as your muscles stretch.

2. Petrissage (kneading). The next step is a kneading motion that is used to relax muscles that are knotted or tight. Your therapist will use his or her knuckles and thumbs to knead and squeeze the areas of your muscles that are tense. This process also relaxes soft tissue, and is thought to stimulate your nerve endings and improve your circulation.

3. Friction. You know how you rub your hands together to help get them warmer in the wintertime? This same principle holds true for the Friction step in a Swedish massage. The massage therapist uses this warming stroke to warm up your muscles and relax them further, to allow for deeper penetration into the muscle. The therapist may use circular movements or a back-and-forth motion along the length of the muscle.

4. Tapotement (tapping). Tapping is another stroke that characterizes the Swedish massage. Using a cupped hand or a gentle fist or the sides of the hands, the therapist uses a rhythmic tapping motion to stimulate your circulation and loosen your muscles. It is often used in between the different types of strokes.

5. Vibration. The final stroke is called vibration. The therapist may use the heels of his or her hand or fingertips to deliver this stroke. The stroke is meant to send a vibration or reverberation to the muscles and tissues in order to loosen them up and release tension.

Popular massages

Swedish massage has become one of the most common types of massage requested at spas. People find that it increases their sense of well-being at the same time as improving their physical symptoms.

Other types of massage are gaining popularity too. People enjoy aromatherapy, hot stone massage, deep tissue massage, Shiatsu, Thai massage, and reflexology, among others. What all of these massage techniques share in common is a desire to promote the client’s journey toward health and wellness.


This article was provided by the Branford Hall Career Institute. We offer career training programs for adults in programs such as Massage Therapy, Culinary Arts, Graphic Design, and Professional Fitness Trainer. With locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, we are proud to serve the New England region. Request more information today.