Swedish Massage Bodywork Therapy

Swedish Massage, or Western classic massage, is the most requested modality in the USA, for general relaxation by releasing muscle tension using manual techniques of effleurage (stroking), and petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic chopping) and compressions with oil on skin. One hour is typical, but can vary, especially if an area of particular concern is requested, such as a tight neck. Deep tissue massage is a more forceful or which may include techniques used in Swedish applied more forcefully, plus other optional techniques, trigger point, cross fiber, myofascial and passive stretching or PNF may be included. For ultimate Deep Tissue, Barefoot Deep tissue is recommended.

Receiving a Swedish Massage

Swedish Massage on a table with sheets the client is typically unclothed or partially clothed under a sheet on a table, and oil or cream is applied on the skin Any areas, such as face, scalp, feet, can be avoided per client request, and pressure is adjusted as desired. Hands, fingers, thumbs, knuckles, forearms, elbows and sometimes tools or vibration are used.

Therapeutic Effects of Swedish Massage

According to Healthline.com, if you’re looking for short-term pain relief and temporary relaxation, you could benefit from a Swedish massage. Long-term effects on pain and anxiety may possibly be achieved with regular sessions.
Benefits include:

Typical Sessions

Swedish Massage Swedish is the most popular style in the US. Clients undress to their comfort level and lie between sheets on a massage table with face cradle. Sessions may last 30 minutes concentrating on a specific problem area, or an hour or more for a general full-body treatment using hands, forearms, elbows. When desired, stretching, PNF, vibration and other modalities can be incorporated. Paul trained in Swedish Massage under Michael Gibian, John Harris, and Katie Mickey at the Body Therapy Institute, and with Mary Lee Martin and Dianna Windwood at the University of California.

A jog around the block promotes blood circulation, however a good swedish/ deep tissue massage will press out stagnant blood, lymph and interstitial fluid from tight muscles, replacing it with fresh blood, and help "reset" the tissues neurologically and chemically. Trisoma believes that significant benefits come from manual therapy and decreased breathing due to parasympathetic response:

  Oxygenation of tissue increase
  Muscle metabolism improvement
  Pain reduction
  Anxiety reduction
  Healing and rehabilitation increase
  Digestion increases
  Cardiovascular system relaxation

More research is being released suggesting that massage relaxation effects are more therapeutic than once thought. For example, Swedish massage can release various hormones, histamines and endogenous cannabinoids, resulting in the groggy or "stoned" feeling one may experience, and thus one should wait a while before driving after a massage.

Endogenous cannabinoids, rather than endorphins, are now theorized to cause "Runner's High" and contribute to sedation, reduced anxiety, enhanced sensory perception and feelings of wellbeing, and refinement of movements needed for coordinated locomotion.[8] Endocannabinoid receptor-related processes, discovered since the early 1990´s, are involved in anti-inflammatory effects[6], cognition, memory, anxiety, appetite, pain, asthma, hypertension, glaucoma, neuroprotection, antiphlogistics, emesis, spasticity and other “movement disorders“, epilepsy, eating disorders, alcohol withdrawal, hepatic fibrosis, bone growth, atherosclerosis, motor behavior, sensory, autonomic and neuroendocrine responses, immune responses, cytoprotection, selective apoptosis, insulin sensitivity and inflammatory effects.[5] This in turn affects cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is used for intracellular signal transduction, such as activation of protein kinases, regulating the effects of adrenaline and glucagon, to regulate the passage of Ca2+ through ion channels, haematopoietic processes, and glycogen, sugar, and lipid metabolism, and even DNA/ genetic expression. The American Association for Cancer Research released research suggesting that improper cAMP function is associated with some cancers and Prefrontal Cortex Brain Disorders affecting ADHD and aging. In 2003, "The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services" was granted United States Patent #6,630,507 for "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" and cardioprotectants.[7] This suggests that relaxing massage may positively affect many body functions, including those of pain, metabolism, and many diseases.

One possible undesireable side effect of swedish massage, is when a trigger point is manipulated enough to activate it, but not enough to deactivate it. This is the main reason why people occasionally have a headache after massage.

For more information, visit these links: New research continues to be reported in the U.S. Library of Medicine supporting the benefits of massage: try bodywork instead of a pill
  • In February 2008, The Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reported on spa therapies' effectiveness in reducing pain and clinical status in osteoarthritic patients. [1]
  • The Psycho-oncology journal reported that, in patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy, a significant reduction in cortisol could be safely achieved through 20-minute massage sessions, with associated improvement in psychological well-being. [2]
  • Research by the Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA, concluded that healing touch seems promising, and research should focus on methodologically strong RCTs to determine potential efficacy of CAM interventions. [3]
  • The Journal of the American Dental Association reported results that suggested that acupuncture, biofeedback and relaxation massage were comparable to conservative treatment (for example, an intraoral appliance) for chronic facial pain, and warranted further study. [4]
  • For Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients, massage can soothe muscle spasms, improve motor function and improve psychological well-being.



For those clients whose demands are far beyond the limits of 'skin polishing' and 'moisturizing', and desire true Deep Work, there is...
Barefoot Deep Tissue DVD by John Harris
Link to YouTube video clip of barefoot deep tissue from Fix Pain DVD
Our YouTube channel has been demonetized by Google, so we are moving to another provider soon.


1: Vaht M, Birkenfeldt R, Ubner M. An evaluation of the effect of differing lengths of spa therapy upon patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2008 Feb;14(1):60-4. Epub 2007 Nov 13. (Return to Reference 1 in text)

2: Stringer J, Swindell R, Dennis M. Haematology and Transplant Unit, Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK. Massage in patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy reduces serum cortisol and prolactin. Psycho-oncology. 2008 Feb 26. (Return to Reference 2 in text)

3: Bardia A, Barton DL, Prokop LJ, Bauer BA, Moynihan TJ. Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN, USA. Efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine therapies in relieving cancer pain: a systematic review. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006 Dec 1;24(34):5457-64. (Return to Reference 3 in text)

4: Myers CD, White BA, Heft MW. A review of complementary and alternative medicine use for treating chronic facial pain. Journal of the American Dental Association 2002 Sep;133(9):1189-96; quiz 1259-60. (Return to Reference 4 in text)

5: Svíženská, I.; Dubový, P.; Šulcová, A. (2008), "Cannabinoid receptor 1 and 2 ( CB1 and CB2), their distribution, ligands and functional involvement in nervous system structures – A short review", Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 90: 501 – 511, doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2008.05.010, Volume 90, Issue 4, October 2008, Pages 501-511, ISSN: 0091-3057 ELSEVIER Commenced publication 1973. (authors from Department of Anatomy, Division of Neuroanatomy, and Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Kamenice 3, CZ-625 00 Brno, Czech Republic.) (Return to Reference 5 in text)

6: Meliha Karsak, Evelyn Gaffal, Rahul Date, Lihua Wang-Eckhardt, Jennifer Rehnelt, Stefania Petrosino, Katarzyna Starowicz, Regina Steuder, Eberhard Schlicker, Benjamin Cravatt, Raphael Mechoulam, Reinhard Buettner, Sabine Werner, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Thomas Tüting, Andreas Zimmer1 (2007), "Attenuation of Allergic Contact Dermatitis Through the Endocannabinoid System" Science 8 June 2007: 1494-1497 DOI: 10.1126/science.1142265 (Return to Reference 6 in text)

7: The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. United States Patent #6,630,507 for "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" and cardioprotectants. (Filed 1999, Granted 2003) "THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is another of the cannabinoids that has been shown to be neuroprotective in cell cultures, but this protection was believed to be mediated by interaction at the cannabinoid receptor, and so would be accompanied by undesired psychotropic side effects." (Return to Reference 7 in text)

8: A. Dietrich and W. F. McDaniel, Endocannabinoids and Exercise, Br J Sports Med 2004; 38: 536-541. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2004.011718 (Return to Reference 8 in text)


1: ©2004 Paul Svacina
2: Courtesy of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
3: Courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk/

1. Fred Kenyon & John Harris, Fix Pain: Bodywork Protocols for Myofascial Pain Syndromes © 2002, Press4Health Press (Return to Reference 1 in text)
2. If a bodyworker claims that barefoot massage on a mat is "uncomfortable, rigorous and rough", then they are not a good barefoot massage therapist. If a bodyworker claims to use centrifugal or centripetal forces, ask him or her what will be spinning during your session (besides rhetoric). However Watsu and acro-yoga can employ these forces. (Return to Reference 2 in text)
3. John Harris. (Return to Reference 3 in text)
4. Lauriann Greene, Robert A. Greene. Save Your Hands! Injury Prevention for Massage Therapists Gilded Age Press; 1st edition (April 11, 2000), ISBN-10: 0967954908, ISBN-13: 978-0967954905 (Return to Reference 4 in text)
5. 2008 AMTA Industry Survey. 2009 Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet. Viewed 2009-03-09 from http://www.amtamassage.org/news/MTIndustryFactSheet.html (Return to Reference 5 in text)


1. Photo of Massage Table Outside in Montecito, CA.
Paul Svacina, 2004. Photo photo of barefoot therapy on upper trapezius © Fix Pain, used with permission (Return to Image 1 in text)

2. Photo of Typical Swedish Massage.
Courtesy of ABMP used with permission (Return to Image 2 in text)

3. Photo by Rebecca of Paul at pro bono barefoot deep tissue massage at iMadonnari public event in 2007 (Return to Image 3 in text)

4. Screenshot of YouTube video by Trisoma (Return to Image 4 in text)

Info about next Class

ABMP Certified
Bodywork Therapist