The expression 'Swedish massage' denotes an assortment of procedures that are particularly intended to unwind the muscles by means of affecting pressure on them against the muscles that are deeper inside and bones as well as stroking in the direction in which the blood is flowing to return to the heart. This particular method of massaging was developed by a Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling way back in the 1700's. The primary objective of Swedish massages is to enhance the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream and, simultaneously, discharge the toxic substances from the muscles.
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Key massage areas
Swedish massage involves five basic techniques - long stroking, friction (applying circular pressures using the palms of hands, thumbs and/ or fingers), kneading, percussion (rapid striking or patting) and vibration (vacillating movements that vibrate the body). All these methods ought to be followed in the right sequence and at times, it is necessary to consider the objectives in general as well as the areas where the massage has to be carried out. In effect, there are basically three such regions - superficial level, intermediate level and the deepest level, which are discussed briefly below.
The superficial level: This level comprises of the epidermis as well as the superficial dermis including their tactile corpuscles, rich peripheral/ secondary blood supply and nerve endings. Light and continuous stroking, friction as well as vibration all get into this level.
The intermediate level: This level includes the middle and deep dermis as well as the subcutaneous cellular tissues. In effect, the intermediate level comprises the typical tissue location, including the cells, in an environment of flexible as well as collagen fibers. A good massage has the potential to have a significant influence on the density and texture of the area. Two techniques, friction and kneading have access to this level.
The deepest level: The particular level comprises a variety of muscular groups, veins, certain organs having hormonal functions that may be affected by reflex reactions and the nerve plexus (a complex arrangement of overlapping nerves). In addition to deep friction, percussion and static pressure, tough kneading, comprising kneading as well as squeezing actions, are appropriate for this area.
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Body parts to be let alone
Although the main objective of the Swedish massage is to relax the muscles and help to get rid of the toxic substances from the muscles, this particular massage technology does not permit practitioner's to work on certain body parts, as these areas are alive with big superficial nerves. Performing a massage on these specific areas may result in irritation, occasionally with severe outcomes. The areas that need to be avoided while performing a Swedish massage include the armpit, the inner thigh, the back of the knee, the groin (femoral triangle) and the front of the elbow.
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Stroking or effleurage is a massage technique of applying gliding strokes using the thumbs, palms and/ or finger tips. This is an easy and spontaneous method and something all of us do instinctively when any part of our body has been affected by trauma. The primary objective of stroking is to generate a common feeling of well-being.
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- Impact of stroking on the skin
- Stroking has numerous benefits. For instance, this method assists in getting rid of the old cells, speeds up the process of replacing cells and also removes wax, which makes the skin softer and more supple/ elastic. There are a number of ways which may help to stimulate cutaneous microcirculation. It may be achieved by a mechanical method, i.e., by means of stroking the skin as well as nipping the capillaries, or, alternately, by means of reflex - by stimulating the vegetative nervous system, also known as the autonomic nervous system. Constriction of the blood vessels owing to the exploits of a nerve (vasoconstriction) takes place when the stroking method is performed tenderly. On the other hand, dilation of the blood vessels owing to the action of a nerve (vasodilatation) takes place when the stroking is performed strongly. In both instances, the process of renewing the tissues is triggered in the massaged areas of the body.
- Modus operandi
- Stoking is performed using open and loosened hand resting softly on the part of the patient's body where the practitioner requires working upon. Contact between the practitioner's hand and patient's body ought to be absolute. In fact, the entire hand of the practitioner needs to touch the patient's body all the time, adjust to all the contours of the body. It is important to note that while stroking minimum pressure must be applied and the contact of the practitioner's hand on the patient's epidermis should always be gentle. The tempo ought to be slow and unvarying, while the movements or actions of the hand need to be wide, circular as well as enfolding.
Speaking from the technical view-point, friction is an action that is quite akin to stroking. However, friction significantly differs from stroking in its power as well as in the consequences produced by the action. Precisely speaking, friction in Swedish massage involves applying circular pressures using the palms of hands, thumbs and/ or the fingers.
- Impact of friction on the connective tissue, the skin
- Friction results in a forceful vasodilatation (widening of the blood vessels) locally on the skin and, at the same time, triggers of the draining of waste products from the tissues, while allowing beneficial nutrients to enter the tissues. Friction has a positive affect on the connective tissues and activates them and lessens bonds caused by long periods of inactivity or after a surgery. Friction directly works on the skin owing to the contact between the patient's skin and the practitioner's hands. Consequently, this generates heat and blood begins to flow to the surface of the area massaged or treated. Through reflex or impulse, a sequence of responses is set in motion in the vegetative nervous system that results in the relaxation of the muscles as well as the organs connected to the dermatome (the area of the skin which is supplied by nerve fibers from a solitary posterior spinal root).
- Modus operandi
- Generally, the friction technique of Swedish massage is performed on wider surfaces of the body, for instance, the back, using the palms of the hand and especially with the fleshy areas of the palm (tenar and hypotenar prominences). While performing friction on relatively less wide surfaces, the side of the hands or fingertips is employed. The pressure applied while carrying out friction is somewhat more compared to what is applied during stroking. The primary reason behind this is that the deepest points, for instance, the connective levels are required to be roused without engaging the tissues of the muscles. In this case, the pace is relatively slow and the direction is towards the center, semi-circular or transverse. In some instances, friction should be performed faster and continued. Thus, such actions help to raise the temperature as well as stimulate blood circulation locally having favourable consequences on the oxygenation of the muscles.
In Swedish massage, kneading, also called petrissage, is considered to be the most complicated method and it works on the muscular masses, the connective tissues as well as the inner most dermis.
- Impact of kneading on muscles, connective tissues
- Gentle kneading or petrissage using the palms of the hands, thumbs and/ or fingertips supports draining out of the liquid build up between the tissues (interstitial liquid) and helps to empty the glands present on the skin. In addition, kneading also works on the connective tissue resulting in bindings. In addition, its separating as well as squeezing actions on the muscles facilitates the process of liquid renewal. In this manner, kneading helps to enhance the elasticity and tone of the muscles and the skin. Other benefits of kneading include enhanced blood circulation and profound vasodilatation.
- Modus operandi
- The kneading technique, in Swedish massage, is performed using the thumb. The 'pliers' formed in this manner, clutches the muscles and using both the hands, the practitioner keeps squeezing by turns, proceeding the longitudinal axis of the muscle toward the central course. In case the muscular accumulation is sufficiently big, the 'pliers' are created by all the fingers as against the thumb and the tenar prominence. In effect, the action is something akin to that of molding bread and the pace needs to be stable. It may be noted here that the process of kneading may be performed in different dissimilar ways, every one of them employed to achieve specific results. Two of the different kneading procedures are discussed in brief below.
Fluffing: This method is performed by clutching the folds of the skin and allowing them to fall again. This results in the disconnection of the tissues underneath the skin from the primary tissues.
Fanning: This is another method practiced in kneading of Swedish massage. Fanning is performed using both the thumbs of the practitioner holding them close to one another and moving the skin forward toward the central direction, lifting it whilst the other fingers continue 'walking' on the skin and facilitating in raising it in the way of the thumbs. The process of fanning results in the parting of the connective tissues on a large surface, such as the back, and, simultaneously, resulting in relaxation (a favourable vegetative response) along with hyperemia (too much blood in an organ or part of the body owing to vasodilatation).
In Swedish massage, the vibration technique involves a movement on the skin that is passed on from one part of the primary muscular and plump body to another. This technique involves undulating actions that tremble or vibrate the body. In effect, vibration is a very exhausting procedure and one which is extremely difficult to implement or execute.
- Impact of vibration on nerve endings
- The vibration technique acts on the nerve terminations in the skin, subcutaneous as well as the muscular levels. It is interesting to note that the vibration method produces a tranquilizing action, but, simultaneously works upon the key substance of the connective tissue transforming it to be more compliant when floccules or clotting (including healing procedures, scars and adhesions) take place.
- Modus operandi
- In Swedish massage, vibration is caused when the hand of the practitioner is lounged flat on the body surface of the patient that requires treatment. The hands of the practitioner apply precise, alternating and vibrating pressures. The actions or pressure applied by the practitioner is something akin to a ripple or surge that is passed on to the depth and even has an influence on the nerve endings. Vibration may also be carried out using the fingertips and the rate as well as strength may differ in several manners.