Cosmetology

What is the Difference Between a Swedish Massage and a Regular Massage?

Did you know that you can become a massage therapist in as little as 12 months, attending full-time? Interested in learning the difference between Swedish massage and regular massages? There are many different types of massage that you will learn during a massage therapy program at a vocational school, from Swedish massage to Himalayan hot stone and everything in between. Many massages derive their technique from Swedish massage, but each has a different technique and use. No one type of massage is better than another, but their goals vary. As a massage therapist, you should choose the type of massage that best suits the clients’ unique needs. Whether it is deep tissue massage that offers more pressure or chair massage that uses Swedish massage on the upper body, it is important to learn about the different types of massage so you can create a unique massage plan for your clients.

Swedish Massage History

Swedish massage was invented by Pehr Henrik Ling, in the 19th century. Injured himself, Pehr created a unique massage technique based on an early form of massage using percussion strokes. The massage technique originated in Sweden was brought back to the US in the mid-19th century. The traditional version of Swedish massage included five massage strokes: vibration, petrissage, friction, effleurage and tapotement.

Vibration – as a massage therapist, you will use the palm of your hand to massage in a back-and-forth motion to loosen muscles with vigorous vibration.

Petrissage – a deeper stroke to knead muscles. Using the knuckles and thumbs, you dig deep to prepare the muscles for further massage.

Friction – you use a rubbing action with your hands to produce heat and then place the heat on the muscles to warm them.

Effleurage – use of long gliding strokes to reduce tension in the muscles.

Tapotement – a fast tapping or patting of the muscles with a hand, soft fist and fingertips.

What are the Different Types of Massage Therapy?

During your massage therapy program, you will learn about Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, chair massage, prenatal massage, and Himalayan hot stone. It is important to learn many different types of massage in order to tailor a unique plan for each individual client. They will have unique ailments and pain thresholds that will require different types of massage. The main massage type and one that many massage techniques derive from is Swedish massage.

Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage, also known Western Massage is the basis of most massage therapy performed in America today. It is the most common form of massage found in spas, health clubs, and private practices. Swedish massage techniques aid in the circulation of blood and lymph, relaxing muscles, improving joint mobility, and inducing general relaxation. Some Swedish techniques include; effleurage: sliding or gliding over the skin with a smooth continues motion, Petrissage: lifting wringing or squeezing soft tissues in a kneading motion, Friction: rubbing one surface over another repeatedly to create heat and stimulate the skin, Tapotement: a series of brisk rhythmic percussive movements that have a stimulating effect, Vibration: oscillating, quivering, or trembling motion used to stimulate digestion or bring greater circulation to a muscle to help it relax. Each massage technique produces a different effect that aids in the decrease of muscle tension and increase relaxation. 

Deep Tissue Massage

The massage techniques used in deep tissue massage mirror that of Swedish massage. However, deep tissue massage also involves the use of deeper pressure and trigger point therapy. Trigger point therapy involves the identification and deactivation of painful fibrous nodules in muscles and connective tissue called trigger points. Trigger points can be felt as taut bands of tissue that elicit pain if pressed and that refer pain to other areas of the body. The deactivation of trigger points allows muscle tension to decrease and allows more blood flow to the muscle. Deep tissue therapy, although more intense than Swedish massage, can be extremely beneficial to a person’s overall health and well-being.

Sports Massage

Sports massage is the application of massage and related techniques to maintain the health of an athlete to enhance athletic performance. Sports massage is based on traditional western massage techniques. Most of the principals of sports massage are applicable to anyone engaged in physical fitness activities. Sports massage helps care for the wear and tear and minor injuries sustained in the performance of any strenuous physical activity. Some techniques are used more than others, depending on the situation and desired results. Techniques are applied very specifically to certain muscles and tendons; therefore, sports massage specialists have well developed palpation skills and knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy.  

Chair Massage

Derived from Swedish massage, chair massage focuses on the upper part of the body. The client sits in a chair designed for massage. As a massage therapist, you massage the head, neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands to relieve stress and tension. Many offices will bring in a massage therapist to perform chair massage on employees that sit for extended periods of the day and need relief from stiffness and repetitive motions. Chair massages are also common in malls, casinos, and other open environments for clients that are on their feet or sitting for extended periods of time.

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is a form of Swedish massage that is performed on mothers-to-be when they are pregnant and feeling the effects of carrying around a baby for up to nine months. The main purpose of prenatal massage is to relieve back and neck pain. While a client may lie face down during a Swedish massage, a prenatal massage has the client lay with special cushioning to help them lie down properly without putting pression on blood vessels that can disrupt blood flow to the baby. It is important for you to have your client get permission from their doctor before engaging in prenatal massage as the doctor will know about the contraindicators of massage for that specific client. Prenatal massage has been considered safe after the first trimester and also can be used for post-partum depression after the baby is born.

Prenatal massage is used to improve overall health, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension, according to the American Pregnancy Organization. Prenatal massage can also be used to decrease the symptoms of depression, improve labor outcomes as well as improve newborn health.

Himalayan Hot Stone

A hot stone massage uses hot or cold stones to induce relaxation and relieve pain. The most common type of stone used today is basalt, smooth, flat volcanic rocks that retain heat and are thought to channel healing energies. Himalayan hot stone massage uses hot stones with minerals to exfoliate the skin, softening the client’s skin. Himalayan hot stones give off negative ions to balance out the positive ions that cause inflammation in the body. Himalayan hot stone massage helps reduce stress, offering a calm and warm atmosphere.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do Day-to-Day?

A massage therapist’s job is to relieve the stress and tension of a client’s body by manipulating muscles and soft tissue with different types of massage therapy techniques. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a massage therapist will communicate with clients to understand their symptoms, medical histories and massage goals. They will evaluate the client’s body to better understand which massage technique will help relieved muscle pain and restore range of motion. The massage therapist will help educate clients in between appointments to stretch, strengthen and relax their bodies and improve posture. They will also document the client’s condition and record the progress of the massage therapy treatment.

A massage therapist may work in a spa or resort, open up their own business location or travel to client’s residence and commercial buildings to offer massage to their clients. After graduating from an accredited vocational school that offers a massage therapy program, the massage therapist will work to pass the licensing exam. Once the massage therapist is licensed, they may start seeing clients for massage therapy sessions.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the difference between Swedish massage and regular massage, are you interested in learning more about massage therapy? Becoming a massage therapist is a rewarding career and allows you to help others that are experiencing acute or chronic pain. You work with all types of clients, from office workers to pregnant mothers-to-be. If you are interested in starting a satisfying career, then becoming a massage therapist may be the right career path for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for massage therapist is expected to grow 21 percent in the coming decade. In the face of technology and outsourcing, a massage therapist will continue to be in demand for many years to come.

Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in the healing powers of massage, you can begin your career in massage therapy at Minnesota School of Cosmetology. Our short-term massage therapy training program is designed to be completed in as little as 12 months. Our massage therapy training program is designed as a holistic program that will prepare students to focus on body mechanics of their clients as well as develop positive habits for the therapist. Together, those two areas will provide a foundation that can lead to longevity in the career field.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist and starting a rewarding career in the massage industry.


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