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Swedish massage can get a bad wrap, yet it is a massively diverse application of massage therapy, and I love it!
Swedish Massage: List
The practice of Swedish massage is the most commonly taught and used in the UK. Its the kind that is most used in spars as well as private practice in general. I have had clients say they don't like it because they had one at a spa that left them cold - but I know that is more likely due to the therapist, than the therapy.
Swedish massage uses a mixture of different techniques that can relax, energize, invigorate, support detox, improve healing, ease tension and create connection.
Soothing long strokes (effleurage), mixed with more intensive working movements (petrissage, kneading, friction), energizing percussion (hacking, beating, pounding, cupping, tapotement), and vibration in combination or pick and mix to create the desired effect.
I am of the school more is less with soft tissue therapies, let me tell you why.
Muscles are a bit like children. If they are hurt, they let you know. You can either be hard on them, tell them to man up and deal with it and show them what real pain is, or you can soothe and support them and teach them how to ease themselves. Children who are nurtured and guided tend to turn into more relaxed, more productive and happier adults. Children who are beaten and who's expressed feelings are denied, tend to grow up into dysfunctional adults!
While there is a place for increased pressure at times in soft tissue therapy and bodywork, its very rare that a more gentle approach wont work better and last longer.
If you set up a pain response, in effect you just turn the muscles innate communication system off, so that it can no longer inform the mindbody that there is something wrong. It, in my experience, results in very short term worsening of pain (the 3 days following an overly intense session), followed by a period of relief (the week or so after the painful session, which could be argued is only relief because its less painful than the session and the following few days), and a guaranteed return of tension and pain within a week or 2.
When you work with respect for the innate need for inter cellular and inter organ communication (pain = something is wrong), and work to find the root cause of the tension, restriction and pain, you get to the point where the body no longer needs treatment as such, but just benefits from maintenance.
So I have a simply guiding rule, to work where possible within comfort. I encourage experiencing and exploring where discomfort is, but moving beyond that into pain is simply not the way I choose to work as it is rarely necessary. We can work well to expand the area of comfort and push back the boundaries of discomfort without eliciting the pain response that automatically causes muscle restriction, guarding, pain and other symptoms that massage is supposed to reduce.
It may take a little longer to find equilibrium and balance, but the foundations are then set and strong, and we can then more to maintenance, which is prevention, which is better than cure!
Swedish Massage: Text
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