Swedish massage was developed using techniques utilized by the Swedish physiologist and fencing master Per Henrik Ling (1777-1839), who studied massage in China, developed the techniques and took them into the world via the Swedish Central Institute of Gymnastics. Swedish massage has remained the basis for most practices either alone or as a central part of sports massage, physiotherapy, osteotherapy, stress management and relaxation therapy.
Sports massage has developed from Swedish massage and is a type of massage which manipulates soft tissue to enable people engaged in regular physical activity to optimize their performance by reducing recovery rates thus enabling prolonged performance and diminish incidence of injury. Soft tissue is connective tissue that has not hardened into bone and cartilage, such as skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems and imbalances in soft tissue that are caused from repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma.
Massage can be a relaxing head to toe experience where the individual is immersed into a state of tranquility or a focused treatment targeting a specific injury. Swedish massage uses a variety of techniques including:
Effleurage - These are slow, superficial strokes over the skin, using the whole hand or forearm, and are used to relax the client and to help the therapist assess body condition.
Petrissage - This technique involves deeper kneading and gentle squeezing of muscles without targeting but allowing for more penetrating effects of massage.
Frictions - These can be superficial or deep strokes to warm up specific areas and can be carried out using part of the hand, fingertips or elbow.
Tapotement - This is a variety of percussion techniques that aim to energize the area of the body being treated, such as hacking or cupping, using the whole or side of the hand. Vibration shakes up the area to loosen particular muscles, mainly at the back of the neck.
Sports massage incorporates all of the above techniques but with more treatment oriented focus. Examples of sports massage techniques include:
Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) - This technique involves applying quasi-static pressure to the skin with the aim of stimulating specific parts of skeletal muscle, which are often myofascial trigger points.
Muscular Energy Technique (MET) - This is where muscles are actively used on request from a precisely controlled position, in a specific direction and against a distinctly executed, therapist led counter-force.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) - This a combination of isometric contractions and passive stretching.
Such is the flexibility of the techniques, a mixture of Swedish and Sports Massage can be incorporated into a training schedule, or part of a rehabilitation plan for athletes.
Swedish and Sports Massage offer a many benefits including:
Rebalancing the body's structure, by identifying and relieving tensions and adhesions before they become problematic.
Decrease headaches (including migraines) which become fewer, shorter and less intense, through dealing with the underlying causes via gentle easing of tight areas of muscle and tissue.
Faster injury recovery via enhancing the body's natural healing processes.
Flushing toxins from the body by stimulating the flow of blood and lymph fluid.
Minimisation of scar tissue at injury sites by aiding the realignment of fibres.
Increase muscle flexibility to improve performance and help prevent injury.
Muscle tone maintenance and endurance.
Tackle postural problems that may be painful, movement limiting, or affecting the body adversely due to wear and tear.