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Swedish vs. Deep-Tissue Massage: Finding the Right Way to Relax

Swedish and deep-tissue massage are two bodywork approaches that render very different benefits. Read our guide to choose the best option for you.

The relationship between deep-tissue and Swedish massage is much like that between DayQuil and NyQuil. Both are designed to help you feel better, but the one that makes the most sense depends on your individual needs. Here's what to expect from each of the two modalities:

Swedish massage combines four distinct motions?effleurage, petrissage, friction, and tapotement?to help relieve muscle tension and stimulate blood flow, thereby energizing the body and soothing the mind during a single relaxing session. The four phases are easy enough to distinguish. Effleurage refers to the smooth, gliding strokes that help relax soft tissues at the beginning of the treatment, followed by the squeezing, rolling, or kneading gestures of petrissage. Deep, circular motions make up the friction phase, in which layers of tissue rub against one another to boost circulation. Therapists conclude the massage with tapotement, a rapid cadence of percussive taps performed with cupped hands, fingers, or the edge of the hand.

Whereas Swedish massage focuses on relieving mental and physical tension, deep-tissue massage has more specific concerns. Due to stress and other factors, the layer of connective tissue that covers and interpenetrates the body's muscles and bones?the fascia?often tenses up, resulting in muscle knots and a painful buildup of lactic acid. Deep-tissue massage aims to warm up the fascia and release the accumulated toxins. To achieve this, the therapist?s fingers, thumbs, and elbows move along the body in slow, deliberate strokes, applying pressure to penetrate beyond superficial muscle layers. Although the intensity can produce some discomfort, deep-tissue massage should still be relaxing; the goal, after all, is to relieve the tension between muscles and their weird roommate, the skeleton.

135 Riverside Parkway Southwest
Austell,
GA
US

After beginning her massage therapy career in Grenada, Tinasha Gray decided to a bring a piece of that calming, tropical oasis environment to Douglasville by founding Source of Wellness Massage. She and her fellow massage therapists provide their clients brief escapes from everyday life, helping them discover a sense of holistic balance in their lives. Drawing from a wide array of specialized modalities?including everything from Swedish strokes and aromatherapy to reflexology and trigger-point therapy?the team alleviates the chronic aches and discomfort that can be caused by pent-up stress or injury. Though massage is the spa's main focus, the aestheticians also pamper visitors with indulgent cosmetic services, such as personalized facials, back facials, and waxing treatments that leave skin as smooth and hair-free as a freshly shaved manta ray.

1851 Market St.
Douglasville,
GA
US

Relinquish Spa tackles maladies of all stripes with a team made up of an energy healer, a licensed massage therapist, and a reiki master. The cadre of helping hands employs a variety of massage styles that range from deep-tissue massage, heated-stone work, and crystal healing that aims to bring harmony to bodies more effectively than transplanting the vocal chords from an entire barbershop quartet. During chakra-balancing bodywork, the staff guides clients through meditation and breath work paired with more concrete massage. For more modern treatments, the licensed estheticians trot out infrared body wraps and lipo-cavitation to reduce cellulite and eradicate excess pounds.

2531 Briarcliff Rd. NE
Atlanta,
GA
US

Certified massage therapists slather skin in organic products made with fruits and vegetables, working the botanical elements into the skin with gentle hand movements or massage tools. The staff also possesses mastery with Bongers? therapeutic instruments that mimic the impact of a child's fist. Aside from paddling taut muscles or snare drums, therapists arrange heated stones on sore muscles, apply a gentle touch to expectant mothers, and knead overused tissues on athletes. Each massage is tailored to the client's specific needs, and will restore bodies to a state of relaxed joyousness unlike any they?ve experienced since they got their braces removed.

1778 Ellsworth Industrial Drive Northwest
Atlanta,
GA
US

At World Therapy Center, owner and massage therapist Tonya Jones uses her 14 years of experience to exile aches and pains. Most of her services are forms of massage therapy, but she also offers facials and the body polish. In addition, her full staff of four licensed massage therapists and aestheticians each have over six years of experience in the spa industry. Clients opting for a medical massage have the opportunity to pay with insurance, while those choosing the hot stone massage have the opportunity to write a thank you note to the fire-breathing dragon who heated the rocks before their appointment. World Therapy Center is also a boutique where salts, polishes, robes, and soaps bring the pampering experience home.

1705 Mount Vernon Rd
Atlanta,
GA
US

For 25 years, the chiropractors and licensed acupuncturists at Sun Wellness Center have sought the root cause of clients’ health complaints for more effective treatment. Whether realigning vertebrae or rerouting the body’s blocked energy pathways, the practitioners adhere to a timeless holistic code that derives its healing from methods older than today’s synthetic medicines or shamans who only communicate through text messages. After treating existing sore spots, they can also put bodies on the path to better overall health with customized nutritional counseling.

1529 Piedmont Avenue Northeast
Atlanta,
GA
US