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Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage?


Are you feeling a lot of tension after a long day at work and are carrying it all in your shoulders? Do you just want to relax? Or are you an athlete and feel so many knots on your body that you have lost count? Here are some guidelines on what type of massage you want and which type will be most beneficial.

 

Outline:


We will be discussing the following key differences between Swedish and deep tissue massage:

  • Pressure

  • Technique

  • Application

 

Pressure:


Your pressure preference of a massage can actually take some trial and error. This is not only because everyone has a different pain tolerance but it is also because people tend to feel more pain when they are under a lot of stress compared to when they are not. Before going further into the differences between massage types, let’s establish 3 variations of pressure. Light pressure, moderate pressure and deep pressure.


Swedish: Swedish massage is a combination of a variety of techniques but usually will stay within the light to moderate pressure range. First the therapist will likely start with lighter pressure to prepare you and your muscles for deeper techniques then once you are ready, they will progress into deeper techniques but these are not considered “deep tissue techniques”. You will find that it may be more painful in certain areas compared to others but this is usually because they need treatment the most.

 

Deep Tissue: Deep tissue massage uses moderate to deep pressure. Your muscles should already be prepared so be ready for deeper pressure. Focus on your breaths going in and out of your lungs as it distracts you from the pain and make sure you are not holding your breath as your muscles need oxygen in order to release. As the pressure increases, it is natural for your body to tense up in order to protect itself from pain, but try your best to relax your muscles. That being said, if you cannot relax your muscles at all, or if there is unbearable pain, then the pressure may be exceeding your pain tolerance and you should ask the therapist to lighten the pressure.

 

Technique:


The techniques between the 2 styles vary quite a bit as one is more for targeting general areas of the body and the other is for targeting specific areas. Just like someone's preference in pressure, some people get more relief from Swedish techniques and others get more relief from deep tissue techniques, so it depends on the person. Before explaining the different techniques, let’s group them as general techniques and specific techniques.


Swedish: Swedish massage includes very general techniques with some more specific than others but on the whole, they are broad. These are used to target muscles as a group rather than individual muscles. For example, your lower back muscles or your neck muscles. Sometimes these techniques are used to prepare your muscles for deeper techniques and also to discover certain areas that are tighter and more painful. Some of these techniques include circular motions and kneading type movement.


Deep Tissue: These are used to target specific muscles and the “knots” within. For example, your bicep or your triceps. One of these techniques uses a linear motion following the fibers of your muscle, moving through the tight spots in order to release them. Another technique uses stationary pressure on specific spots in order to release them. If you can handle the pain/pressure, these techniques will usually have more benefit for people with a lot of tension as they are more effective at releasing specific muscles.

 

Application


Along with finding your preference in pressure and technique, you should determine why you are getting a massage. Before exploring the different applications, first ask yourself, “are you getting a massage for relaxation or for recovery/maintenance?”


Swedish: This approach is beneficial for things like stress relief and minor-moderate muscle tension. Usually it is used for people who have tension from long days of work or normal daily activities. Stress and repetitive motion contributes to muscle tension and as long as you haven’t left it for too long, Swedish massage should be enough to help.


Deep Tissue: This approach is more common for athletes, people with injuries or people with denser muscle tissue. These people will likely have more problems deeper within the muscle and will need more pressure in order to target these areas. With athletes, they will have stronger and more durable muscles than the average person and this usually means their muscles are more dense meaning they will need more pressure.

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