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What is the “Swedish” vs “deep tissue” conversation really?

People regularly call “Swedish massage” a “relaxation massage.” And “deep tissue actually does things…” and most massage therapists remain vague about this. This is a folley of the massage therapy industry. Firstly, relaxation is subjective. Every once in a while when I ask the client what they’re looking forward to in massage therapy i only get “oh just a nice relaxing deep tissue massage.”

Swedish massage is a “circulatory massage,” circulatory referring to blood circulation. It’s methods influence blood circulation through muscles and across the body more than any other modality. I like to call it a fluid approach to massage to influence the fluid aspect of the body.

As Swedish massage is the most emphasized modality in massage school and what the massage industry shows in marketing, many therapists don’t think outside of that box of a Swedish routine covering the body in oil, including when doing “deep tissue” massage. So it then becomes common to see a hybrid of Swedish and deep methods. They may not be the most skillful or effective methods of either intention until you truly understand what in the body you’re influencing, how and why you’re influencing it. Much is being left out with neuromuscular and myofascial work when you don’t leave the Swedish routine. There are health benefits to Swedish massage that lots of people need but we struggle with getting pigeonholed as a profession with this image and it holds back therapists in methodology and holds back the clients from realizing more ways that they probably need to benefit from massage.

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