Pressure of the strokes during a Swedish massage may vary. One person may require more pressure to get to the alpha state of relaxation while another person prefers lighter pressure. Communicate your preference to the massage therapist as all professional massage therapists are able to vary pressure as needed. The goal of Swedish massage is to bring relaxation to the individual on the table. The pressure of strokes should not be so light you feel like oil is just being spread around the skin, nor so deep it keeps you from relaxing. Swedish massage can be relatively deep, without hurting and still bring relaxation. Communication with the massage therapist is key.
Swedish massage is the most common type of massage. Swedish massage, also referred to as circulatory or relaxation massage has a main focus of relaxation and stress relief. This is achieved by the massage therapist using a mixture of effleurage (long fluid), petrissage (kneading), friction and tapotement (percussion) strokes to sedate the nervous system and find the place of deep relaxation. The massage therapist uses different tools to vary what muscle receptors are feeling which enhances relaxation.
A massage therapists tools include hands, forearms, fingers, fists and elbows which provide a mixture of feelings to sensory receptors to sedate the nervous system and bring the body to the alpha state of sleep, which is that place just before falling asleep. You may have experienced a sudden involuntary jerk or start (myoclonic jerk) during a massage or while resting, this happens in the alpha state. The goal of Swedish massage is for one stroke to flow into the next without starting/stopping, breaking contact with the body or using jolting/abrupt movements over the entire body, which when done successfully is like a dance. A full body Swedish massage includes back, glutes, legs, feet, arms, hands, neck, scalp, face and sometimes abdomin.
Our daily life tends to over-stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and Swedish massage is used as a way to counteract that by enhancing the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls homeostasis and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function. The body has an innate power to heal itself, though sometimes needing a little help. Swedish massage promotes relaxation which in turn provides the space where the body comes back to homeostasis or balance. Homeostasis is where healing takes place.
Swedish massage increases blood circulation and the flow of lymph. The massage strokes mentioned above are used in specific patterns to enhance both arterial (blood flow from the heart) and venous (blood flow back to the heart) blood flow. Most commonly the body needs enhanced venous return so massage strokes are directed toward the heart. Often these strokes are combined with active and passive movements like stretching or range of motion if a joint capsule feels restricted and to aide in circulation. Lymphatic fluid is different from blood and thus is transported differently through the body. Lymphatic fluid is transported through lymph vessels including lymph nodes and is eventually emptied into the heart.
Touch research proves the importance of human touch. Skin on skin contact is vital for humans to thrive physically and mental/emotionally. Swedish massage is a safe, healthy form of touch with great health benefits occurring due to relaxation and stress relief.
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