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Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue: A Complete Guide

Debating between getting a Swedish massage vs. deep tissue massage? Contrary to popular belief, they are not the same.

To determine which of these two options is ideal for you, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What is the main goal of your massage?
  • How frequently do you get massages?
  • Do you have any underlying health conditions?
  • Have you sustained a recent or chronic injury?

Once you’ve defined your goals and taken the above factors into account, it should be a lot easier to select the type of massage you really need.

Swedish massage is a gentle and relaxing full-body massage, often thought of as a classic or traditional massage. It’s perfect for people who are new to massage or who only see a massage therapist from time to time. 

Swedish massage is a gentle and relaxing full-body massage, often thought of as a classic or traditional massage.

The primary purpose of Swedish massage is to relieve stress and physical tension. Do you find yourself sitting in front of a computer all day? If you experience tightness in your neck, shoulders, shoulder blades, and lower back, then a Swedish massage might be what you need. 

When getting a Swedish massage, you’ll be asked to remove your clothing (with the exception of your underwear). You’ll lie face down on the massage table with a sheet or towel over you. Your therapist will only uncover the parts of your body currently being worked on. A Swedish massage is performed using oil and a combination of techniques including: 

  • Effleurage (i.e., long or circular strokes to warm up your muscles)
  • Petrissage (i.e., kneading of your muscles)
  • Vibrating and tapping 
  • Passive joint movements 

Swedish massage should never cause pain or discomfort, so if something doesn’t feel right, be sure to let your therapist know. Also remember to inform them prior to your session if there’s a particular area you’d like them to focus on. The duration of the Swedish massage ranges anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes — it’s totally up to you.

Swedish massage goes far beyond simple relaxation, promoting your overall physical and psychological well-being. It’s known to: 

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Aid lymphatic drainage
  • Increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Improve posture 
  • Relieve pain, especially in your upper and lower back

Deep tissue massage involves a series of techniques designed to reach the deep, inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. It relies on slow movements, strong pressure, and concentration on key problem areas. 

Deep tissue massage involves a series of techniques designed to reach the deep, inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues.

The ultimate goal of deep tissue massage differs greatly from that of Swedish massage. It isn’t meant to be a soothing or relaxing activity, rather it’s a method for treatment and prevention of injury and chronic pain. 

Deep tissue massage is done on a regular basis, usually once a week, to properly address whatever issues you’re experiencing. Before your session begins, discuss problem areas with your massage therapist, and determine whether they should focus on one region or your entire body.

At first, a deep tissue massage will feature the use of long, gentle strokes to warm up your muscles for the work that lies ahead. Your massage therapist may then apply their thumbs, knuckles, forearms, or elbows to dig deep into your problem areas.

Before your session begins, discuss problem areas with your massage therapist, and determine whether they should focus on one region or your entire body.

Note that you might feel pain or discomfort as they try to tackle scar tissue, lesions, trigger points, or contracted muscles. But don’t be afraid to speak up if it becomes more than you can handle. 

Deep tissue massage addresses chronic pain, deep tension, and sports injuries by zeroing in on the source of the problem. It involves manually working through muscle knots, scar tissue, or trigger points. Deep tissue massage tends to be popular among athletes because it’s an effective pain management tool, and it helps prevent future injuries while boosting overall health. It’s generally used to treat: 

  • Sports injury
  • Repetitive strain injury (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Lower back pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Menstrual pain (e.g., cramps, pelvic pain)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Postural problems
  • Tennis elbow
  • High blood pressure 

If you’re seeking a soothing experience to gently melt away the tensions of everyday life, choose a Swedish massage. You’re welcome to ask your massage therapist for lighter or stronger pressure, depending on your personal preference.

If you’re seeking a soothing experience to gently melt away the tensions of everyday life, choose a Swedish massage. Deep tissue is for those struggling with an injury or chronic pain.

Deep tissue massage, however, is for those struggling with injury or chronic pain, and for healthy, active individuals looking to prevent injury and boost overall health. Once-weekly sessions usually deliver the best results. Keep in mind that this type of massage might not feel especially relaxing. 

When the stresses of everyday life have got you down, a massage is a great way to rejuvenate and refresh yourself. But what are the benefits of a Swedish massage vs. deep tissue massage?

Although both types of massage improve your mental, physical, and emotional health, they’re used to achieve very different end goals. Ask yourself the questions outlined above to determine whether Swedish or deep tissue massage is what you need to live a happier, healthier, more active lifestyle.

https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/28659510

https://www.bmj.com/content/319/7219/1254.full

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2014/287597/abs/

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1519-38292010000200012&script=sci_arttext

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2007.0665

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