Therapist alleviates stress and tension with gentle, flowing strokes and kneads
About This Deal
Effleurage: The Foundation of Relaxation
Swedish massage relies largely on a technique known as effleurage. Learn how it zaps stress with our peek at this basic stroke.
Effleurage is the glue that holds a Swedish massage together. Its smooth, gliding strokes may not deliver much pressure—the word itself is taken from a French verb that means “to touch lightly”—but the technique simultaneously soothes the nerves, boosts circulation, and allows the massage therapist to identify problem zones that need extra attention. Because effleurage doubles as an assessment tool, many therapists begin each massage with it, usually by gliding their open palms lightly across the body to feel for tense spots and potholes while acclimating the client to their touch. This form of effleurage is known as “superficial,” and it serves a soothing prelude, epilogue, and transitional movement between deeper, more focused kneading.
A slightly more forceful style of effleurage is known as “deep effleurage.” This form still uses gliding strokes, only with more pressure, as the therapist aims to stretch out the muscle tissue and the web of connective tissue that covers it. Therapists will generally direct the first part of their deep-effleurage stroke towards the heart, finishing with a lighter return stroke away from it. Not only does this warm up tissues for deeper muscle work, but it can also speed up the movement of blood and lymph fluid. This boost in circulation can help drain fluid from injured areas, reducing painful pressure while also releasing endorphins that further relax the entire body.