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difference between swedish and deep tissue massage

What is the Difference Between Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage ?

Are you confused regarding the difference between Swedish and deep tissue massage? If yes, then you’ve landed on the right page! Once you understand how does massage work in the both the cases, you’ll know what to go for.

After a long and tiring week, when you finally get that one day to go to a spa, you might be confused as to what type of massage to opt for. After all, both deep tissue and Swedish massage are excellent for stress relief.

So, let’s briefly understand the two first.

massage»» What is a Swedish massage ?

It is a relaxing massage that is meant to release stress, improve blood flow and give pain relief. It involves long strokes, kneading and friction using mild, medium or firm pressure on your soft tissues and muscles.

»» What is a deep tissue massage ?

A much more intense form of massage, this involves going into the deeper layers of your muscles and connecting tissues to break down adhesion, muscle knots and scar tissues. This too involves stroking and kneading, but with much deeper pressure.

Now that you have a basic idea, let’s dive deeper.

swedish and deep tissue massage

»» The Main Difference Between Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage


After knowing the definitions, you can at least make out that the key difference in both the massages lies in the pressure and intensity involved.

A deep tissue massage is actually stronger than a Swedish massage. The movements involved in it are slower and deeper. It has more capability to heal severe pain and tension in your muscles.

Let’s see what each one of these offers and how they work.

»» About Swedish Massage:


This technique is known to be the foundation of massage.  Found in the 19th century by a Swedish physiologist, this was meant to improve blood circulation, boost oxygen levels, release pain & tension, improve mood, reduce stress and promote sleep.

It is mostly everybody’s favorite massage for deep relaxation, including mine. If you’ve never got a massage done, you’ll love your first experience if it’s a Swedish massage. Not only is the feel soothing, the oil used for the purpose has a very refreshing smell.

They mix a few drops of aromatherapy oils with massage oil which enhances the experience of releasing stress and improving your mood. Don’t be surprised if you end up falling asleep!

Don’t be surprised if you end up falling asleep!

»» What Happens During a Swedish Massage ?


The steps followed during a Swedish massage in a spa are as follows:

  • Before Starting:

    You’re asked to undress and then lie down on your stomach or back. You’re covered with a sheet which is removed only when work is done.

  • Effleurage:

    The masseuse glides along the muscles in long strokes with the help of oil to sense your muscle tone and lubricate your skin. It enhances blood circulation, boosting the flow of nutrients and oxygen as well as triggering the process of detoxification.

  • Petrissage:

    Now the strokes become more kneading. This process lifts and squeezes the tissues, removing wastes from the area. It also removes adhesion and heals light injuries on the upper layers of the muscles.

  • Friction:

    Now, the movements will get faster and shorter to generate heat, improve blood flow and loosen the ligaments. This further helps in healing muscle pain, calming of the nerves and reducing stress.

  • Tapotement:

    Just like you chop in Karate, the masseuse will give a light blow to relax your muscles. It is meant to enhance the process of relaxation in the body.

  • Vibration:

    Now the strokes given will generate vibrations in your body for deep relaxation. Your mind too will be relieved of tension and feel happier on completion of the process.

If you opt-in for self-massage, there are many tools and devices that might not follow the same order but will effectively give you the same feeling. You can choose from hand-held massage devices, massage cushions, massage seats and massage chairs.

What Happens During a Swedish Massage

»» About Deep Tissue Massage:


Derived from the Swedish massage, this technique may seem similar but is way more intense. The movements are slower and more focused towards the problem areas.

Not only does this release stress and pain, it also cures severe problems like arthritis, tennis elbow, stiffness, chronic pain, injuries, scars, sciatica, bad posture and many more.

This is more of a therapy based treatment than being just a relaxation technique. Since it involves treatment, there are certain dos and don’ts on how to prepare for a deep tissue massage.

You get the most out of it when you warm up a bit and hydrate yourself before the session. Avoiding heavy meals and alcohol will help prevent the various side effects of deep tissue massage. You can also tackle them if you know what to do after a deep tissue massage.

»» What Happens During a Deep Tissue Massage ?


A deep tissue massage does a lot of work on your body. When you go to a spa, your experience will be somewhat like this:

  • You’ll be asked to undress so that some oil or lotion can be applied to your skin.
  • The therapist begins the process by gliding in strokes along your muscles, sensing where the problem areas are.
  • Slowly, the movements become slower and stronger, focusing upon the knots and adhesion on your muscles.
  • You’ll feel the masseuse using his/her thumb, knuckles, fist and even elbows for kneading, generating friction and vibrating which breaks your knots open.
  • As the knots break, the muscles stretch and loosen up, toxins trapped within are released in the body and blood rushes through the area.
  • The increased flow of oxygenated blood relieves pain and strengthens the muscles.
  • The release of toxins might cause discomfort, such as sickness which goes by simply flushing them out by drinking lots of water.
  • As the muscles feel flexible and relaxed, the level of Oxycontin goes up and the level of cortisol goes down, making you happier and stress-free.

If you face severe problems such as arthritis, sciatica or any other similar problem, one session at the spa might not give you the complete benefit as mentioned above. You’ll need multiple sessions to heal yourself from the root.

Since going to the spa all the time isn’t feasible, technology has gifted us with several types of deep tissue massage machines and tools. There are handheld massagers, massage cushions, massage chairs and various non-electrical massage tools. I find the Kim Carrey 3D Deep Tissue Electrical Massage Pillow very convenient to use.

»» What is the Best Type of Massage to Get ?


It is hard to choose between intense relaxation and a complete pain relief. Let me put it this way for you:

Would you prefer getting a massage that can relax you but not give a complete pain relief ?


Would you prefer getting an intense massage, feel sorer than being relaxed but eventually get relief?

Both Swedish and deep tissue massage have got their own pros and cons.

Let’s start comparing the two:

<strong>Swedish Massage</strong>
  • It massages the superficial layers of muscles.
  • It is meant for intense relaxation and stress release, also curing muscle pain.
  • It does not have side effects.
  • It isn’t effective enough for severe problems rooted in the deeper layers.
  • The pressure applied is mild, medium or firm.
  • It is commonly preferred by people having stressful desk jobs and not having very serious muscle problems.
<strong>Deep Tissue Massage</strong>
  • It massages the deeper layers of muscles.
  • It is meant for chronic pain, arthritis, tennis elbow, sciatica and other serious problems.
  • It has side effects.
  • It isn’t recommended if you can’t take the intensity or don’t have any problems.
  • The pressure applied is strong and the intensity keeps increasing.
  • It is commonly preferred by sportsmen, bodybuilders and workers with heavy physical activity.

So, that hopefully explains how the two techniques differ. A massage with too many benefits comes with side effects whereas an easy going one might not be too effective.

Both the techniques are equally good in their own ways, but it depends on what your body is able to take that makes one of them the best for you.

»» Swedish Massage VS Deep Tissue Massage: Which Should I Choose ?


So, once you’re convinced to get a massage, you got to choose which one in the end. After explaining all that a Swedish massage does and what a deep tissue massage does, I am now simply going to state what you should choose.


Choose Swedish massage under the following circumstances:

  • If you’re going through a lot of stress and tension.
  • If your days are really tiring.
  • If you’re getting frequent headaches.
  • If you’re facing occasional back pain, NOT frequent.
  • If you’ve had a hectic and busy week.
  • If you need an overall detox and relaxation.

Choose deep tissue massage under the following circumstances:

  • If you’re going through severe lower back or upper back pain.
  • If you have neck pain or frozen shoulders.
  • If you have arthritis, tennis elbow, sciatica or any other serious problem.
  • If you’ve had an injury and need to heal the deeper layers of muscles and tissues.
  • If you are facing stiffness or lack of mobility.
  • If you need to correct your postures.
  • If you are going through stress and pain.

You also need to consider your profession and daily activities. There are special benefits of deep tissue massage for athletes and bodybuilders. Swedish massage is easier on beginners and people with more mental stress than physical.


»» Warning:


As tempting as a massage may sound, you’ve got to understand one thing: it works scientifically, not magically.

A Swedish massage as such has no side effects but there are certain conditions under which you’re not fit to take any of the two massages:

  • If you have severe skin problems, especially rashes.
  • If you are taking medicines that might be blood thinners.
  • If you have blood clots or fresh, deep wounds.
  • If you have any other problem in your nerves or joints that deep tissue massage isn’t known to cure.

I always suggest to take the doctor’s advice when you have a health-related issue. Massage is an excellent therapy for pain and stress but needs to be done by a professional and qualified masseuse or machine.

If you buy a deep tissue massage machine, you need to go through its reviews, check for quality certifications and flexibility of features. If you are looking for a device which can flexibly give you a deep tissue or lighter massage, you can go for the Pure Wave CM-07 Massager.

Now that you know the difference between a Swedish and a deep tissue massage, you know what will suit you the best. Massage taken in regular intervals can work wonders on your physical and mental health. I find it practical enough to buy myself a self-massage device that can provide both light and intense massage, don’t you ?

Massage is an excellent therapy for pain

»» Frequently Asked Questions:


1.Do I need a deep tissue or a Swedish massage?

A. That totally depends on why you need a massage in the first place. If you just need to relax or de-stress, go for a Swedish massage. If you’ve been facing chronic or frequent pain, are involved in heavy physical activities or having serious problems in your muscles, only deep tissue massage can heal you.

Moreover, you should be able to take the pressure in a deep tissue massage; it shouldn’t be too strong for you. If you think you can’t take the pressure, start with a Swedish massage. It’s even better if you buy yourself a massage device that can provide the pressure you can take.


2.What is the difference between Swedish and Thai massage ?

A. There’s quite a difference between a Swedish and a Thai massage in terms of technique:

<strong>Swedish Massage</strong>
  • Requires you to undress.
  • Massage oil or lotion is applied on your skin.
  • It is a Western style that involves strokes, kneading, friction and vibration.
  • It is more relaxing and soothing. It doesn’t make the client do more than changing postures.
<strong>Thai Massage</strong>
  • Wearing loose clothes is enough.
  • No oil or lotion is used.
  • It is closer to the Indian Ayurvedic method involving acupuncture and yoga.
  • It does relax the client but helps release stiffness and pain by making the client get into yoga postures.


3.What is the difference between a deep tissue and a regular massage ?

A. The main difference between the 2 is that deep tissue massage is way more focused than a regular one. A regular massage is more focused on relaxing the mind & body. It will not go into the deeper layers of your muscles.

A deep tissue massage is way stronger than a regular massage. It focuses on the problem areas of the muscles and is capable of healing serious problems like arthritis or post injury scars.

4.What does a Swedish full body massage include ?

A.   A Swedish full body massage includes massage from your neck to your feet. That would ask you to undress, but you’ll still be covered with a sheet or towel most of the time. Your face isn’t really included here, but other sensitive areas of the body are.

If I list it for you, it will be easier to understand:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back
  • Lower back
  • Waist
  • Stomach
  • Area around the breasts
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Legs
  • Feet

5.What is Swedish massage good for ?

A. Swedish massage is good for relaxation, stress and occasional pain. if you have muscle pain but not so frequently, Swedish massage does help. The idea is actually to forget your worries and just calm down. If you get frequent headaches or your head feels heavy due to stress, Swedish massage is perfect for you.

6.How does Swedish massage reduce pain ?

A. Swedish massage does apply some pressure on your muscles for pain relief. It starts with gliding over the muscles in long strokes. It allows blood circulation to improve. When kneading begins, the tension in the upper layers of muscles releases, allowing oxygenated blood to rush through and release pain.

This is followed by generating heat and vibrations in the body which calm you down even further, thus giving complete relaxation and pain relief.

About Kristy

I am Kristy Miller.Blogging is my passion.My long interest and experience with body massage encouraged me to become a health blogger.I want to talk to everyone about the importance of regular massage and self massage. I love to read, write, talk and watch everything about massage, wellness and relaxation.

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