In Sweden, "Swedish massage" is simply known as "classic massage". And that is exactly what it is -- a classic treatment which represents the western standard for massage. The five main techniques used in Swedish massage -- stroking and gliding; kneading; rubbing; tapping or pounding; vibration -- are probably what spring to mind when you think about a "typical" massage.
The various Swedish massage techniques are designed to improve your circulation, soothe your muscles and make you feel more relaxed.
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.
Besides the calming benefits, Swedish massage is thought to be good for:
easing muscular strain by flushing out toxins
improving circulation by increasing oxygen flow in the blood
helping to keep ligaments and tendons supple
reducing emotional and physical stress.
Before you go, check with the spa about what you should wear: the spa may provide disposable underwear. If the thought of removing all your clothes makes you blush, don't worry: your therapist will be an artist of professional draping techniques. The oils and lotions used in massage can stain fabrics, so it's a good idea to opt for something old if you're wearing your own clothes.
As with all treatments, inform your therapist of any medical conditions you may have and tell them if you are -- or just think you might be -- pregnant.
It's best to avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the hours leading up to your massage.
What to expect from a Swedish massage
Your massage will probably last around 60 or 90 minutes. Your therapist will give you time to undress privately and lie down on the massage table, which is usually padded for extra comfort, where you may cover yourself with towels. You don't have to be completely exposed at any point; your therapist will uncover one little bit of you at a time depending on the area she is focusing on. If you're worried about anything, don't hesitate to say so.
Your therapist might assess your complexion at the start of your treatment and choose essential oils or lotions to suit your skin type. She will massage these into your body with a series of strokes and techniques specific to the part of your body and what you want to achieve; for example, this might be long, gliding strokes across your back to help you relax, or kneading or rubbing your shoulders to unwind any knots. The treatment takes into account the delicate or tender areas of your body, so it should be comfortable and soothing.
Some therapists like to play music during massage, as it can help you to unwind. Don't be afraid to say if you'd prefer not to have it - or indeed if you're unhappy with anything else in the treatment room. Being content in your surroundings is important for relaxation and will help you sink happily into your massage.
The same goes for talking. Most therapists are very sensitive to how much their client wants to communicate and will limit or encourage conversation accordingly. Some people like to chat a bit; others don't. It doesn't matter as long as you're comfortable, relaxed and receptive.
Afterwards, you'll probably feel quite relaxed and maybe even sleepy, so give yourself plenty of time to unwind. Savour the feeling of having every muscle in your body gently stretched and smoothed out.
Different kinds of Swedish massage
Because Swedish massage is one of the classic forms of massage, its strokes and techniques form the basis for many other treatments. Do check to see what your chosen spa offers, but here are some therapies which may include Swedish massage:
Dual massage for couples
Hot stone therapy
Seated chair massage.
All massage can leave you feeling thirsty and needing to go to the toilet more than usual - this is because the massage has got your lymph circulation going and your body is flushing out toxins. Drink plenty of water afterwards as you slowly drift back to planet Earth.