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Swedish Massage vs Deep Tissue Massage: Which Should I Choose?

Written by: Andrew Grover

There are many different types of massage and alternative healthcare modalities which can often become confusing for consumers.

What are the differences and which is right for you? The most common confusion revolves around Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage. So let’s break it down!


Swedish Massage is the “original” western style massage and is the foundation for other western massage techniques. Swedish style massage uses long strokes, kneading and friction with the primary purpose of increasing circulation and promoting relaxation. Pressure can be light to firm, but is not as detailed as Deep Tissue Massage. It’s important to remember, that deeper isn’t always better. Sometimes what the body needs is to simply relax and de-stress so it can heal itself. The health benefits of regular full-body Swedish massage are plentiful. Benefits include increased circulation, lowered blood pressure, improved immune function and reversal of the effects of stress. People who receive regular Swedish massage find that they feel healthier, more energetic, less stressed and are less susceptible to illness.

The Swedish Massage Basics:

-Is the foundation of massage

-Longer strokes mixed with kneading and friction techniques

-Can be light to firm pressure

-Increases circulation and promotes relaxation

-Lengthens and relaxes superficial muscle tissue

-Relieves stress


While many believe that Deep Tissue Massage simply means heavy pressure, this is a misconception. Deep Tissue Massage includes many of the same techniques from its foundation in Swedish massage, but takes it in a different direction with a different purpose. Often times the pressure is deeper, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, deeper isn’t always better. Deep Tissue Massage should be looked at as technique with a purpose, to provide structural and functional outcomes.

Deep Tissue Massage focuses on stretching fascia- a three-dimensional web of connective tissue that surrounds, supports and penetrates all of the muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Deep tissue massage works layer by layer through connective tissue and muscles down to the deepest accessible layers to change posture and create freedom of movement by releasing facial adhesions and chronic muscle contracture. Adhesions and scar tissue form in muscles because of injury, chronic poor posture, chronic or acute inflammation and repetitive motions.

Deep Tissue Massage also has incredible health benefits. The release of habitually tight muscles relieves chronic pain and speeds the healing of injuries. Balanced posture improves organ function and athletic performance. Overall, it relieves the stress and energy drain of chronically tight muscles improving general health and well-being for long term wellness.

The Deep Tissue Massage Basics:

-Detailed specific work with structural and functional outcomes

-Works through the connective tissue and to the deeper layers of muscle tissue

-Breaks up adhesions, “knots”, and scar tissue

-Relieves chronic pain and assists in recovery from injuries

-Can be deep in pressure, but doesn’t HAVE to be deep to be effective


Get a Swedish Massage if:

– You are stressed about work or home life. Swedish massage is intended for relaxation and comfort, and will help to relieve stressors that affect you on a daily basis.

-You’re looking for general relaxation

-You are sensitive to deep pressure

-You need increased circulation, relief of pain, improved mood, better sleep, and sharper thinking

Get a Deep Tissue Massage if:

– You experience chronic pain in a particular muscle group.

– You are consistently involved in heavy physical activity. Deep Tissue massage is designed to relieve tension and aches in muscles that might be overworked or strained.

– You have sustained prior injuries that are still bothering you. Deep Tissue massage will help to promote the mending of those muscles and to work out any kinks or knots that have formed as a result of that injury.

-You want to work on a long term plan of care with specific functional outcomes.

-You want to target specific tight muscles and relieve tension in the deeper muscle layers.

In deciding what kind of massage to ask for, consider your goals in receiving massage. Do you have a specific complaint or painful area to address? Or do you want a full-body wellness massage?

As always, your massage therapist is there to assist you in your goals and help answer questions you might have about your treatment and what modality might be the most effective at any given time. Let your massage therapist know your needs to ensure you get the kind of work you want. And, enjoy your massage!

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