Swedish massage techniques are largely intended to reduce stress, relax the muscles, promote the elimination of toxins from the body, and increase oxygenation of the body's tissues. The six commonly accepted Swedish massage techniques were developed in the 18th century by Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling. The different types of muscle stimulation used in Swedish massage all generally serve the same purpose, which is to warm and relax the muscles.
Tapottement is a Swedish massage technique that involves gentle blows administered to patient's body. Effleurag describes long, smooth strokes that penetrate the patient's muscles. When the masseuse rubs his hands briskly against the patient's skin or against one another, creating heat, the technique is called friction. Other Swedish massage techniques include petrissage, which involves kneading the patient's muscles to relieve their tightness, and vibration, which involves stimulating the patient's muscles with small, brisk motions. Traction, which is generally performed as a final step in the massage process because it requires very loose muscles, involves pulling gently at the patient's limbs or head.
Tapottement, in which the masseuse gently strikes the patient with closed or opened hands, is said to help tone the muscles, while increasing blood flow to the area to relax and detoxify them. It is often used in combination with effleurage, because long, firm, smooth strokes complement other Swedish massage techniques. Effleurage may also be used in combination with petrissage, which involves squeezing the muscles with the hands to help relax them. Petrissage is said to help penetrate underlying layers of muscle tissue for a more beneficial result.
Other Swedish massage techniques used to help relax the muscles include vibration. In this technique, the masseuse presses the muscles gently with the hand and performs a back-and-forth shaking movement to help reduce tension. Traction, which involves gently pulling the head or limbs of the patient, can help stretch the muscles. This technique is usually only performed after muscles are fully relaxed. With friction, some massage therapists will rub their palms against the patient's skin. Others will rub their palms against one another briskly, and then apply the now-warmed palms to the patient's tense muscles.
The therapeutic techniques used in Swedish massage are said to help the muscles recover from the effects of both stress and overuse. They are said to help remove lactic acid and other toxins from the muscles. Swedish massage is said to help improve blood circulation, promote relaxation, and enhance the functioning of the endocrine system.