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Swedish massage is the Western-world standard for a reason: it’s gentle, it’s relaxing, and it can be tailored to anyone on the receiving end. Although it’s known as a Swedish massage in the United States, it’s called “classic massage” throughout most of Europe for mildly controversial reasons addressed below. Whatever it’s called, it’s inarguably the most popular form of massage that exists today. What it is:Swedish massage is rooted in Western practices of anatomy and physiology. To perform this type of massage, licensed therapists apply an arsenal of pressure styles that include stroking, kneading, striking, rubbing, and vibrations. Using therapeutic oil to help their strokes glide, they focus that pressure along the muscles that run the length of the body. Treatment lengths vary, though therapists commonly offer 30-minute, 50-minute, 60-minute, and 90-minute versions. Most therapists will customize the pressure of their strokes to suit your requests. According to Shannon Merten, a licensed massage therapist we interviewed about massage etiquette, communication is key. “I would rather my clients leave happy and satisfied than not, so if [the therapist] is doing something that is not enjoyable, a good ‘that’s a little too much pressure’ or ‘that area is too sensitive to be worked on’ should get you satisfying results,” she said.What it does:The pressure from Swedish massage is ideal for relieving muscle tension, like the kind that builds up from hunching over a computer all day. This tension can sometimes result in knots: trigger points of extremely tense muscle fibers that form tiny nodules. Massage therapists are trained to feel for these knots, and Swedish-massage techniques are ideal for gently coaxing them away. The whole Swedish experience is also a potential stress reliever, and stress relief is a benefit unto itself.Where it's from:There is some disagreement in academic circles about the origins of Swedish massage. The name obviously suggests Sweden, and many sources trace the connection to Swedish physiologist Pehr Henrik Ling. Ling pioneered a series of gymnastic stretches known as the Swedish Movement System. Beyond that, the history gets murky. According to Robert Noah Calvert, author of The History of Massage, what we now call Swedish massage was never part of Ling’s movement system. Swedish massage, as Calvert asserts, is defined by its system of stroking, kneading, and other bodily manipulations. These he credits to a Dutch practitioner, Johann Georg Mezger, who lived and worked in the late 19th century. If you’d like to read more about the history, you can do so in an April 2014 article from Massage Magazine.Read More