It can get sort of confusing to know which massage is which. Judging alone by how these massages appear and feel, the inexperienced individual will not pick up the nuances in different forms of massage. This post focuses on distinguishing between a Swedish massage and a Shiatsu massage.
We will cover factors such as origins, techniques used, benefits, and drawbacks. Let’s get right into it!
Let’s put all our focus on Swedish Massage for now.
Judging by its name alone, anyone should be able to surmise that the Swedish massage came from Sweden. The original thought of the Swedish massage is often credited to a Swede named Per Henrik Ling. After suffering an elbow injury, Ling went through a series of self-prescribed massage techniques experimentation. When he recovered, Ling decided to study his techniques more vigorously. He saw the effects of massage, physical therapy, and exercise on the human body. After Ling’s death, a Dutch physician named Johann Georg Mezger established the five essential Swedish massage techniques still in use today.
Swedish massage uses five core sets of techniques or motions. These motions are:
Effleurage involves long, stroking, slow movements along the patient’s veins and arteries. It allows the masseuse to determine the muscle tension and sensitivity of the patient. It is not painful as its purposes are muscle extension, relaxation, and stimulation. Petrissage is similar to the movement of kneading a dough of bread, except for a complicated wave-like recoil that stimulates soft tissues. Patients may feel slight pain because the movement applies pressure to reduce tension in knotted muscles. It helps induce circulation, increase flexibility, and release stress. If the patient still has tense muscles after the two initial techniques, the masseuse can use friction to loosen them up. Friction uses circular movements with moderate pressure for deep tissue stimulation. This motion is the shortest in a Swedish massage.
The masseuse can either use a machine or complicated hand movements to induce vibrations on the body. The more intense the vibrations are, the more they soothe muscle tissue, stimulate healing, and invigorate circulation. Tapotement is all about tapping. The masseuse taps the side of their hand or their fingertips against the client’s skin and muscles. The percussive technique relieves tension, awakens the nervous system, and boosts circulation.
The different techniques associated with a Swedish massage contribute to plenty of benefits. The most impactful benefits include pain relief, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and combats depression, stress, and insomnia. Many forms of massage induce pain relief, but a Swedish massage does it right out of the bat. Most massages only provide comfort after the therapy, but a Swedish massage does it during the treatment itself. Furthermore, Swedish massage is painless and does not produce inflammation like other forms of massage do.
Swedish massage is a very relaxing experience that lowers blood pressure effectively. But its soothing effects don’t affect blood pressure alone; it also contributes to better sleep. Patients report that they experience better sleep for as long as days after the massage. Relaxation, reduced pains, less stress, and better sleep combat depression. Swedish massage is just as healthy on the mind as it is on the body.
Because of its low-intensity nature, Swedish massage does not have as many drawbacks associated with it as other forms of massage. It does not induce inflammation, soreness, or discomfort. The only drawback it can have is that it is most effective when the patient bares their skin. The massage uses lotions and oils to keep the skin hydrated and slippery; these lotions and oils contribute to the relaxing effect of the massage. The masseuse may agree to work on a clothed client, but the massage won’t achieve its full potential that way.
Shiatsu massage has many differences from Swedish massage.
Shiatsu massage is rooted in Japanese traditions but can be traced to ancient China. The principles driving Shiatsu massage involve Eastern ideas such as qi (or chi, in other forms of the word). Qi is life-giving energy that everyone and everything contains. Shiatsu massage is all about helping qi flow more freely through the body’s meridians. The meridians are the pathways of qi across the human body. Shiatsu massage manipulates various points along the body’s meridians to stimulate good health, healing, and pain relief.
In English, the Japanese name “Shiatsu” translates to “finger pressure.” Shiatsu massage utilizes firm touch; the masseuse uses their fingers, thumbs, or palms to target pressure points rhythmically. The firm touch utilized in Shiatsu massage can induce mild pain and discomfort, especially for sore muscles. Also, instead of slow, gentle strokes similar to Swedish, Shiatsu massage tends to have faster-paced hand motions.
Instead of having different hand motions for its techniques, Shiatsu targets the primary meridians. The twelve primary meridians correspond to the following organs:
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
- San Jiao (Triple Burner)
Whether you believe the Eastern principles of qi or not, there is no debating the effects of stimulating these body points.
The many benefits of Shiatsu massage include relieving upset digestion, reducing pain, increasing flexibility, and improving the body’s ability to heal itself. While some of these benefits seem only anecdotal and have no scientific proof, a few benefits are proven true. The increased circulation induced by deep tissue massage is proven to help the body heal. Improved circulation helps white blood cells and lymphocytes to travel faster to injured sites of the body.
Just as Swedish massage relaxes the muscles, Shiatsu also relieves tension, just not immediately. Shiatsu indeed uses firmer methods that can cause mild pain, but soon, it will cause the muscles to feel relaxed. It is suitable for relieving pain. Other benefits of Shiatsu massage are lower blood pressure, increased flexibility, and higher energy levels.
Shiatsu is a lot more intense than Swedish; therefore, clients may feel stiff or sore after this treatment. Fortunately, these feelings of discomfort will fade within a few hours or days.
Give Both a Try
There’s no harm in trying both forms of massage – at different times, of course. They are very different, and it’s a good experience to try both of them out. Contact InBalance Yoga & Wellness to learn about our massage membership.