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Benefits of Swedish Massage

June 16, 2014

Welcome back - it’s great to see you again!


Whether you’ve been receiving massage for years or are just getting ready to experience your first massage, at some point you’ve probably stopped to wonder just what the benefits might be.  If you’ve visited Massage Associates’ Services page you’re probably aware that there are a number of different types of massage.  Each modality (type of massage) can have different benefits and we’ll talk in future posts about how each type of bodywork that our therapists practice can serve you.  For today though, let’s chat about Swedish massage since that is what most massage therapists and spas call relaxation massage.  


The Mayo Clinic has a clear, concise description of Swedish massage:  “a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.”  Yep, you read that correctly, they said energize but we’ll get to that later on.  For now, don’t panic; you won’t be leaving us feeling like you’ve just had several shots of espresso.  Please just take a nice deep breath and read on.  


Some of the potential benefits of Swedish massage are:


  • stress relief

  • decreased muscle tension

  • alleviation of pain

  • improved movement

  • increased circulation

  • reduction of blood pressure


That is not an exhaustive list of benefits nor is it a guarantee that you will experience each of these effects.  Chances are high that you will reap at least some of these incredible benefits.  Are you wondering why?


The answer lies in how Swedish massage works.  It is a modality that primarily engages the nervous and circulatory systems.  Your nervous system is in charge of your survival and, like any efficient operation, it has different corporate teams to make all that happen.  There is a division to handle situations requiring action (the sympathetic side, commonly called “fight or flight” although it doesn’t just deal with emergencies) and a division to deal with restorative measures (the parasympathetic or “rest and digest”).  As you can guess, you generally spend a lot of time more on the active side of things which means that your body may not be getting the “down time” it needs to repair itself, properly digest food for much-needed nutrients and boost the immune system.


There are a number of ways to cause the shift from a more active state to a more relaxed one.  Something as simple as getting on the massage table or even just knowing you have a session scheduled that day can start a change and that is where the benefits of massage start to happen.  The touch of the massage therapist and the strokes that they employ can deepen that shift.  As the nervous system changes its focus from action to restoration, your body is able to “recharge”, repair and protect itself.     


Now, I could go on and on about massage and the nervous system but what about Swedish massage’s impact on the circulatory system?  Well, that is a reaction to mechanical changes.  Your blood and lymph are constantly moving through your body either because of muscular movement or the pumping of your heart.  The longer strokes used in Swedish massage, strokes called effleurage, assist that movement of fluids.  Think of it like squeezing a tube of toothpaste but on a much gentler scale.


Before we wrap up today’s entry, let’s go back to that “energizing massage” concept.  What did that mean?  Basically, relaxation is not the sole purpose of Swedish massage.  In fact, a session can be quite invigorating; it all depends on the what the client requests and the different combination of strokes the massage therapist employs.  Slower, deeper movements are typically soothing to the nervous system but faster, more active strokes ncrease the attention your nervous system is paying to the massage; in effect, they wake you up.  That can be really useful for clients that have to head back to work, engage in sports, make a long drive home or similar activities that require alertness.  


Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your questions about the benefits of Swedish massage.  If you have questions we haven’t addressed, please feel free to comment below or send us an email at info@massageassociatesmd.com.  Check back with us next Monday for more on massage and come in soon to 


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