What is Swedish Massage?
Swedish massage is the most commonly offered and best known type of massage. It was developed by a Swedish physiologist, Henri Peter Ling at the University of Stockholm in 1812. It uses a firm but gentle pressue to improve the circulation, ease muscle aches and tension, improve flexibility and create relaxation.
Swedish massage employs five different movements:
* long, gliding strokes
* kneading of individual muscles
* hacking or tapping
The therapist generally uses massage oil to facilitate making long, smooth strokes over the body. Swedish massage is done with the person covered by a sheet, a technique called "draping". One part of the body uncovered, massaged, and then covered up before moving on to another part of the body.
Swedish massage is the foundation for other types of Western massage, including sports, deep tissue and aromatherapy
Benifits of Massage
Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state anxiety. Theories behind what massage might do include blocking nociception (gate control theory), activating the parasympathetic nervous system which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep but such effects are yet to be supported by well designed clinical studies.
Massage is hindered from reaching the gold standard of scientific research which includes placebo-controlled and double blind clinical trials. Developing a "sham" manual therapy for massage would be difficult since even light touch massage could not be assumed to be completely devoid of effects on the subject.It would also be difficult to find a subject that would not notice that they were getting less of a massage and it would be impossible to blind the therapist. Massage can employ randomized controlled trials which are published in peer reviewed medical journals. This type of study could increase the credibility of the profession because it displays that purported therapeutic effects are reproducible.
Single dose effects
* Pain relief: Relief from pain due to musculoskeletal injuries and other causes is cited as a major benefit of massage. In one study, cancer patients self-reported symptomatic relief of pain.This study, however, did not include a placebo control group so these effects may be due to the placebo effect or regression towards the mean. Acupressure or pressure point massage may be more beneficial than classic Swedish massage in relieving back pain.However, a meta-study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign failed to find a statistically significant reduction in pain immediately following treatment.
* State anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce state anxiety, a transient measure of anxiety in a given situation.
* Blood pressure and heart rate: Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate as temporary effects.
* Attention: After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations, with the effects perhaps being mediated by decreased stress hormones.
* Other: Massage also stimulates the immune system by increasing peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs). However, this immune system effect is only observed in aromatherapy massage, which includes sweet almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil, and sweet marjoram oil. It is unclear whether this effect persists over the long term.
Multiple dose effects
* Pain relief: When combined with education and exercises, massage might help sub-acute, chronic, non-specific low back pain. Furthermore, massage has been shown to reduce pain experienced in the days or weeks after treatment.
* Trait anxiety: Massage has been shown to reduce trait anxiety; a person's general susceptibility to anxiety.
* Depression: Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression.
* Diseases: Massage, involving stretching, has been shown to help with spastic diplegia resulting from Cerebral palsy in a small pilot study. The researchers warn that these results should "be viewed with caution until a double-blind controlled trial can be conducted". Massage has been used in an effort to improve symptoms, disease progression, and quality of life in HIV patients, however, this treatment is not scientifically supported.