“I need a massage” is a text I have sent about as many times as “I need a glass of wine” or “Am I going to die alone?” That is to say, I’ve sent that text many times… usually to my mother. The first time I got a massage, it was (and I say this non-hyperbolically) life-changing. Of course, before the appointment I was a little anxious about a stranger touching me, but once I was facedown on that table, the smell of lavender in the air, I was able to relax and get out of my (very anxious) head.
It’s no shock to anyone when I say that many of us have too much stress, not enough sleep, and spend a lot of time hunched over our computers and phones. Given this, it’s especially important to take care of our bodies and our minds with treatments such as massage. While there are many different types of massages, we are gathered here today to talk about the benefits of the super relaxing Swedish massage. Consider the Swedish massage like your entry point into massages. It’s typically gentle, and a full-body massage. While it doesn’t offer some of the more intense perks of, say, a deep tissue massage, a traditional Swedish massage does have both mental and physical benefits.
“Swedish massage is known as the most relaxing technique,” says Gara Post, co-founder and chief creative officer of The NOW. “The modality emphasizes rubbing the muscles with long strokes in the direction of blood returning to the heart. Kneading, friction, tapping, and gentle shaking motions are commonly utilized as part of this service.” Typically a Swedish massage begins with you lying on your stomach, while your therapist uses those motions to massage your back, neck, arms, and legs. Then, you may turn over where they will massage the ever-tight quads. It’s intended to be a very relaxing experience, and you can communicate to your masseuse how soft or firm you would like the pressure. Want to know more? Keep scrolling for the full-body benefits of a Swedish massage.
What are the benefits of Swedish massage?
Boosting your mood
While “massage” and “mood booster” feel like they should basically be synonyms at this point, it goes without saying that one of the biggest benefits of a Swedish massage is that it really helps to elevate your mood. “Studies show that massage can increase serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which all help to elevate your mood and general well-being,” says Post. It can also help reduce cortisol, the hormone that causes stress, which we could all use more of at this time and place.
Multiple studies have found that Swedish massage is an effective way to help relieve anxiety. One study tracked the anxiety and vital sign levels of ICU patients before and after a 30-minute Swedish massage, and found that anxiety was reduced and vital signs improved immediately post-massage. Another small study done on women found that Swedish massage therapy helped alleviate stress and anxiety.
Helping you sleep better
Because Swedish massage can help reduce stress and anxiety, it can help improve your sleep. One study found that massage therapy improved the quality of sleep in breast cancer patients. Better sleep, in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. It’s cyclical, but can go both ways. Poor sleep has been linked to increased anxiety.
Who should get Swedish massage?
Since Swedish massage is typically gentle and relaxing, it can be beneficial for most people. “If you are an athlete and training all the time, it may be a consistent part of your routine and you may ask to incorporate more techniques to target tight muscles and increase circulation,”says Post. “Everyone working in an office hunched over a computer or sitting in traffic on a daily basis can benefit from the healing elements of Swedish massage, if only to address stress, anxiety, and the pressures of our fast-paced society.” And don’t be afraid to be upfront about the style and pressure of massage you prefer. “You should consult with your massage therapist regarding any injuries or concerns you have, skin sensitivities, or areas that may need more attention,” says Post.
How can I give myself a Swedish massage?
If you’re interested in booking a Swedish massage, consult with therapists in your area to find the right one for you. But, since we’re all currently spending a lot of time indoors given the current COVID-19 pandemic, and a massage isn’t really an option still in many places around the U.S., you can try a self-Swedish massage at home.
“Our hands, neck, and feet often store lots of tension. The most basic Swedish strokes can do wonders to provide extensive relief… Try your skills with a hand and forearm massage and see for yourself,” says Malarie Ortiz, The NOW Santa Monica general manager and massage therapist. I just spent five minutes massaging my own hands and arms and, while it’s not like a professional, it did help soothe me. While it’s harder to implement these long strokes into a massage on my back, say, I’ve found the principles to be helpful in alleviating soreness in my tight, tight legs and upper extremities. And until I can make it to see a massage therapist IRL, I’ll take it.
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