Deep Tissue Massage Vs Swedish Massage

By Breathe Team | Oct 24, 2019

Deep tissue massage and Swedish massage are similar methods of massage that are popular. One common question that people ask about massage is the difference between a deep tissue massage and Swedish massage. Both types of massage are similar and indeed can be confused one for another. However, there are differences that distinguish them

In this article, we try to answer this.

Overview of both types of massageDeep tissue massage: Deep tissue massage is a type of massage that specifically targets deeper muscle tissues and other connective tissues. This massage method is mostly targeted at smaller muscle injuries and other muscular issues such as postural alignment, spasm, tension, and sports injuries. Layer-by-layer, the massage relaxes the muscle tissues. It is the most common type of massage offered.

Swedish massage: Also called the “classic European massage”, Swedish massage targets the general muscles and joints. It involves the whole body; usually, a full body massage, although the beneficiary can choose a specific part of the body. Swedish massage relieves muscle tension from everyday activities like exercising or using a computer. Swedish massage is usually paired with aromatherapy because of its very relaxing and stimulating effect. Various oils, especially essential oils, and lotions are used to reduce friction as well.

Differences between both types of massage

The pressure:

Deep tissue massage is done using much pressure. The muscles are subjected to pressure from the therapist’s hands.

In Swedish massage, a firm but much lighter pressure is applied to help the person relax and get relief.

Style/technique:

Deep tissue massage uses stroking and kneading movements with much pressure. It begins as a traditional massage session in which the muscles are warmed up and then the massage proper. Deep tissue massage focuses on stretching and penetrating muscles, nerves, organs, and bones.

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The therapist uses knuckles, thumbs, fists, elbow, forearms, and fingers to apply pressure to reach deep tissues. Muscle tension and adhesion are gradually released from tissues going deeper into the most reachable layers.

The therapist uses slow, even, specific and deliberate strokes to achieve this. It is important to know that in deep tissue massage, the pressure is never forced in. No. There is a technique called “hooking in”, which the therapist uses. Hooking in refers to the slow and gradual working of the muscles and increasing the pressure as they yield.

Swedish massage consists of fluid, gliding, and specific strokes of: Effleurage strokes, which allow the therapist to spread the oil or lotion and feel the muscle tone; Petrissage stroke, which lifts and squeezes muscles to flush out metabolic wastes; Tapotement strokes, which are similar to karate chops and help the muscle relax; Vibration strokes, which are used to create movements in the body and further relax it; and Friction strokes which are used to create heat in order to increase blood flow and help the ligaments to relax.

The therapist uses these strokes to bring about relaxation in the muscles.

Areas of focus:

Deep tissue massage focuses on the inner layers of muscles, tendons and dense connective tissues (fascia). These can be at any part of the body; the massage is done on the targeted parts.

Swedish massage, although a general body massage style, is focused on the neck, shoulders, and lower back.

Benefits/effects:

Both styles of massage offer nearly the same benefits with just a little difference.

Deep tissue massage offers the following benefits:

  • Reaches deeper tissues: With deep tissue massage, therapists can reach more tissues and help the person being massaged to reduce pain. In this way, deeper muscle tensions or injuries can be relieved. Abnormal muscle tone, postural deviance, and muscular adhesion can be relieved this way. Chronic pain conditions like lower back pain and fibromyalgia can also be relieved.
  • Improves joint mobility and flexibility, as well as muscle strength and tone.
  • As it helps to clear lactic acid (thus delaying muscle soreness), it prevents early muscle fatigue as well as injuries.
  • Due to the increase of serotonin and oxytocin, as well as a decrease in the cortisol levels, deep tissue massage helps to decrease stress and improves the mood.
  • The resultant increase improvement in blood flow is good for the management of some health issues like high blood pressure.
  • Deep tissue massage is best suited for runners, athletes, people with injuries, workers who lift heavy items, and gymnasts.

Swedish massage offers the following benefits:

  • The massage offers more relaxation and also an increased circulation of blood and lymph drainage. As oxygen supply increases, this can translate to better sleep, increased supply of nutrients to muscles, increased energy. Toxins are removed faster as well as an improved removal of metabolic wastes such as lactic acid, uric acids, etc., and improved immunity.
  • Stimulation of nerve endings to increase nervous coordination and response.
  • Swedish massage also increases the flexibility and endurance of joints and muscles. Also, it gradually improves the range of motion.

Tips to enjoy a massage session

Note that Deep tissue massage may leave sore muscles. Thus, it is important for anyone seeking massage therapy to discuss with the therapist and to also allow them to know when the pressure is becoming painful to bear. The soreness can be managed with ice packs, heat, or stretching the affected parts. It may also be important to allow the therapist to know of injuries and how chronic they are.

If aromatherapy is included, let the therapist know your favorite flavor and what you’re comfortable with.

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