Ahhh… the soothing sounds of a gentle soundtrack as you blissfully lay beneath a soft sheet, cocooned in relaxing smells and dim light. You find your nerves unbundling and your troubles slipping away as seasoned hands massage your back and shoulders. If you’ve ever been to a spa to enjoy the relaxing benefits of massage, you are familiar with this pattern. If you haven’t, or feel that a massage might not really benefit you, think again. Massage therapy, particularly Swedish massage, has very particular health benefits beyond the bliss you might encounter after a day of pampering at the spa.
What Is Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage is a great introductory massage for many reasons, number one being that it involves firm, yet gentle strokes. You are placed on a flat elevated massage table with a cutout for your face. Beginning on your stomach, the massage therapist will begin long, firm brush-like strokes along your back and eventually over your shoulders, arms, then down to lower back and legs. Halfway through the appointment you will be asked to turn over, finishing the second half face up for the treatment of your upper shoulders, arms and fronts of legs. Massage therapists usually use either the flat palm or heel of their hand or a grouping of fingertips to deliver pressure to tight spots and also help loosen and lengthen muscles. Unlike strictly pressure-point styles of massage like Shiatsu or stretching techniques such as Thai massage where a masseuse manipulates you while on the floor, Swedish massage is designed specifically to enhance circulation and blood flow to the large muscle groups, says Kathleen Jensen, director of operations for Massage Envy Spa in the San Diego Region.
Why It’s a Popular Form of Massage Therapy
The popularity of massage as a therapeutic or holistic health tool, beyond just a relaxing splurge, has been on the uptick. For example, in just a few short years, Massage Envy has grown from a few dozen locations to more than 1,000 nationwide. Fans of Swedish massage swear by its overall health benefits and, in fact, several studies have looked at the technique’s benefits for issues other than just stiffness or muscle aches and pains. Over the past few decades, a variety of studies have linked Swedish massage to a number of benefits, such as reduction in knee arthritis, easing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, lowering blood pressure, boosting immune system function, reducing headaches and helping to mitigate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.