Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the western world. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of the massage. In Swedish massage, the client lies on a massage table and is draped with a towel or sheet. It is offered as a full-body massage treatment or part treatment such as back and neck. Aromatic or unscented oil or lotion is used to help the fluidity and smoothness of the massage movements. Each session usually lasts 30-60 minutes.

This specific massage was developed in the nineteenth century by Professor Ling of Sweden. He made a detailed study of massage, laying down the foundation of what is now taught and practised as body massage. It is rumoured that when Professor Ling was injured in the elbows, he reportedly cured himself using tapping (percussion) strokes around the affected area which sparked his interest and study.

Swedish body massage involves soft, long, kneading strokes, as well as light, rhythmic, tapping strokes, on topmost layers of muscles. Swedish massage uses softer strokes on the bonier and more delicate parts of the body, and stronger strokes where there is thicker muscle coverage. This adjustment of pressure makes it an ideal massage for relaxation. The various Swedish massage techniques are designed to improve your circulation, soothe your muscles and make you feel more relaxed.

Swedish massage is a very diversifiable therapy that is often combined with many other techniques or disciplines such aromatherapy, trigger point work or acupressure. Many therapists choose to start their studies with this discipline as it is such a good basis for many other CPD courses including hot stones and sports massage and is popular among clients.


Beck M. Milady’s theory and practice of therapeutic massage. Miladys Publishing Company, USA, 1994.

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