Have you been thinkng about a massage but aren’t sure which is right for you? At Aesthetic Anti-Aging Center in Macon, GA, we’d like to make a simple recommendation: the Swedish massage. It promotes self-care and is a great way to ease muscle tension. And at the end of your session, you’ll feel relaxed from head to toe.
The Difference Between a Swedish Massage and a Regular Massage
A Swedish massage forms the foundation on which almost all other massages rest. It uses less pressure than a deep tissue massage, may incorporate aromatherapy or hot stones (if you choose), and is comprised of five techniques:
- Vibration, when certain muscles are “shaken”
- Tapotement, percussive strokes used to ease tension
- Friction, circular rubbing motions
- Petrissage, a technique to knead muscles
- Effleurage, long and gliding strokes
These movements are used interchangeably to relieve stress, ease surface-level tension, and stimulate circulation. The Swedish variety is also ideal for those who have never had a massage; it’s predictable in nature and provides all-over relaxation.
Deep Tissue Massage
This massage applies more intense pressure to address sore, overworked muscles. Your therapist will use a variety of techniques, from finger pressures and slow strokes to his or her forearms, elbows, and fists, to reach deep tissue layers (hence the name). At the end of your 60 to 90-minute session, your mind will feel calmer and your body looser and more limber.
Benefits include improved posture and greater range of motion. This massage also melts away knots and adhesions caused by everyday stress. Additional concerns that can be addressed include:
- Muscle spasms
- Sports injuries
- Back pain
- Chronic muscle pain
Is One Better Than the Other?
A deep tissue massage is not necessarily better than a Swedish one. Instead, they should both be identified as helpful for treating different issues. The former works muscles on a more profound level, while the latter promotes relaxation. In addition, your therapist will use only hands or fingertips during a Swedish massage; starting with this variety allows you to see if a subsequent deep tissue massage may be beneficial.
During a deep tissue massage, your therapist will never force pressure into a particular muscle. He or she will also ensure muscles push back when pressure is applied, signifying the release of tension. By observing how your body reacts, we ensure this massage provides the mental and physical benefits listed here.
This Swedish massage variety includes lotion or massage oil formulated with pure essential oils. As you inhale their scents, these oils provide emotional healing. Specifically, this technique is a great way to:
- Reduce symptoms of depression
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Boost your mood
Aromatherapy massage can also relieve pain and muscle tension, marking it as a multi-faceted treatment. Your therapist will select the essential oils to be used based on a particular concern you have. Lemongrass, for instance, reduces inflammation and can aid muscle tone, while wintergreen is known to relieve tension in joints. Any essential oil selected for treatment is first mixed with a carrier oil to provide easy absorption into the skin.
Hot Stone Massage
Patients choose this massage for a variety of reasons, including to ease tension and muscle pain or to simply relax. It provides many of the same benefits as its Swedish counterpart, but heated stones are used in addition to or in lieu of a therapist’s hands.
The stones are placed strategically across your body, and the combined potency of their heat and weight encourage muscles to relax. Your therapist can then apply deeper pressure to areas that need it. In addition to improving blood flow, a hot stone massage may also:
- Relieve pain
- Ease muscle tension
- Reduce stress
- Promote relaxation
A Few Notes
If you’re wondering about the stones used in this massage, they’re usually basalt river rocks. The river current wears these stones smooth, and they retain heat well. In preparation, your therapist will heat the stones until they reach between 110 and 130 degrees F. It is thought that when heated stones are placed on certain points, they can help balance your mind and body for holistic healing.
If you have a specific body part in need of healing or relief, a sports massage can be a great option. It’s not only for patients who have suffered an injury while playing sports; it’s also beneficial for those who want to increase flexibility, improve workout performance, or relieve repetitive use injuries. A sports massage can also relieve muscle tension, anxiety, and pain.
This is different from a deep tissue massage in that it often focuses only on that body part(s) in need of attention. Your therapist will use soothing strokes combined with deep pressure to relieve stress. While you can remain fully clothed for this massage, you should only wear thin, loose garments to give your therapist access to your muscles. Shorts and a sleeveless shirt make for ideal options.
A Bevy of Unexpected Benefits
Although it is the most well-known of all massages, few recognize the many benefits afforded by the Swedish technique. First and foremost, it’s a great way to manage chronic pain.
For example, if you have a condition like osteoarthritis or sciatica, a Swedish massage can ease soreness and stiffness in a very natural way. Letting the therapist know of your condition ahead of time enables him or her to prepare; you should additionally expect to feel stroking motions that reduce muscle tension and simultaneously improve circulation.
Increased Blood Flow
Speaking of circulation, we need to identify this as a particular benefit of massage. It delivers crucial nutrients to your muscles and efficiently removes toxins. This is achieved with effleurage, long, stroking motions that follow the flow of blood toward your heart. These movements open your vessels so blood can move more freely. As an added bonus, your skin will look plumper and reflect a rosy hue.
Nervous System Relaxation
In some cases, areas of pain and tension result when tight muscles apply pressure to nerves. Using massage to relax muscles also removes this pressure and allows your internal systems to relax as well. Your nervous system in particular enters a rest and digest mode, and with this comes the potential for greater hormonal balance.
The production of stress hormones like corticosteroids drops as endorphins (the feel-good hormones) rise. If you’re wondering how this happens, endorphins increase in direct response to massage. The relaxation triggered by a full-body massage can positively influence other hormones as well, including those that regulate:
- Immune cells
- Menstrual cycles
- Sleep patterns
As blood flows more powerfully through your muscles and tissues, it also drains the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are responsible for filtering possible pathogens, waste products, and dead cells. A sluggish lymphatic system contributes to fluid retention and general feelings of malaise; allowing it to drain, on the other hand, restores energy and can even improve your complexion.
Your digestive system is under attack more than you might think, including from stress. A massage can positively affect how your body processes nutrients by increasing saliva and stimulating peristalsis, muscle contractions that move food through the intestines.
What You Don’t Know
Despite its name, Swedish massage did not originate in Sweden. A Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling is often credited with developing this technique in the 19th century, but his early “massage” methods were rooted more in exercise. He treated maladies with specific movements and considered the mind and body connection crucial to overall health. What he did, then, was form the foundation of today’s modern massage.
Years later, a Dutch physician by the name of Johan Georg Mezger transformed Ling’s system into the actual massage. His techniques mirrored many of Ling’s, but he reduced the focus on exercise and instead incorporated more hand and finger movements. What we now know as a Swedish massage is the result of both men’s combined efforts.
Supported by Science
The relaxation afforded by massage is undeniable, but its health benefits deserve equal attention. A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced reduced stress levels. Specifically, these subjects underwent a significant drop in cortisol with an increase in white blood cells. These cells, as you likely know, comprise the heart of the immune system.
Based on Western Concepts
Whereas many Asian massage techniques involve energy bodywork, Swedish techniques are rooted in the western understanding of anatomy. This means they focus more on muscles and connective tissues than Asian techniques do. The results are therefore more immediately felt as well.
You Are an Active Participant
As the patient, you should feel empowered to work with your therapist in finding the right movements and techniques for your needs. You can, for instance, ask for slow and gentle or vigorous and stimulating strokes. And just because you asked for one mode two weeks ago does not mean you must stick to this same regimen today or tomorrow. Your body’s needs will shift over time, meaning you should ask your therapist to adjust his or her techniques accordingly.
Similarly, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable position during your massage, you should feel free to say so. This is true of other requests you’d like to make as well, including:
- Staying silent throughout your session if you don’t feel like talking
- Skipping a certain technique you didn’t last time enjoy
- Foregoing music so you can rest
Aftercare Is Crucial
For 24 hours following your massage, you should drink plenty of water; rehydration is key to moving toxins through the kidneys and out of the body. On the same hand, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine to help your body cleanse.
A warm bath with Epsom salts can also draw toxins out of the body. This is highly beneficial to complement the detoxifying effects of massage itself. If you don’t have Epsom salts, don’t worry. A warm bath can still be beneficial to help you further relax.
Embrace Your Emotions
After a massage, some patients feel buoyed by energy and start checking tasks off their to-do list. Others feel calm and choose to rest. The point is that any emotion you experience is completely natural. Embracing these feelings will promote your well-being and provide long-lasting benefits.
Make Time for You
In addition to the many benefits listed here, a massage is a great way to make time for yourself. You can enjoy quiet moments of indulgence and leave with a feeling of total relaxation. Schedule your appointment today by calling Aesthetic Anti-Aging Center in Macon, GA.