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  • Writer's pictureAmanda K.

Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage: What Is the Difference?

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Have you ever had that annoying neck pain that just won’t go away? Or those never-ending headaches or a constant ache in your upper arms, shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands?

If you’re nodding along, welcome to the club!

Life has a knack for tying our muscles into knots with stress, tension, or the occasional mishap.

You know what’s surprising, though? Sometimes, you don’t even realize how tense you are until a skilled Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) works magic, leaving you feeling super relaxed and recharged.

But here’s the scoop: the kind of massage you pick makes a big difference. There are two top contenders – Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage.

Now, if you are wondering, Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage: What is the difference?” stick around, and we’ll spill the beans on these popular massage styles.

So…What’s A Swedish Massage?

Swedish Massage is like when a gentle stream flows through a calm forest. The RMT uses a series of light, long strokes to ease muscle tension and boost your circulation gently.

The pressure and effects make it ideal for everyday muscle tension and stress. Some studies even suggest benefits like improved breathing in children and reduced lower-back pain.

When you book a session, you’ll typically start face up or face down and switch halfway through your massage.

Here are the keystrokes used in Swedish Massage:

  • Effleurage: These are long, gentle, rhythmic strokes that glide across your skin. They help your RMT locate and address knots.

  • Friction: Quick, short strokes create a gentle heat as your registered massage therapist’s hands or fingers rub against your body.

  • Petrissage: This technique involves lifting and squeezing your muscles to release tension.

  • Vibration: It’s like a gentle buzz, with rapid, superficial movements of the fingertips or palms.

  • Tapotement: This rhythmic technique uses strikes to relax tense muscles.

Is Swedish Massage a Good Option for You?

Swedish massage is like a gentle hug for your muscles, perfect for stress relief.

In a 2016 study, researchers explored whether Swedish Massage could help people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Some participants received Swedish Massages twice a week for six weeks, while others got a light touch.

The result? The Swedish Massage group experienced significant reductions in their anxiety scores, suggesting it might be an effective GAD treatment.

Additionally, Swedish Massage could benefit those with circulatory issues. A 2013 study found that women with hypertension saw decreased heart rate and blood pressure after receiving weekly Swedish Massages for four weeks.

This makes Swedish Massage a potential choice for stress relief and improving circulation.

And What About Deep Tissue Massage?

Think of your muscles like layers of an onion.

Swedish Massage is like gently peeling the outer layers of that onion. It works on the surface, helping you relax and unwind. It’s the kind of massage you’d choose when you want to de-stress or simply feel good.

Now, Deep Tissue Massage is your onion’s inner explorer. It goes beyond the surface and dives deeper. It’s as if you’re peeling more layers to reach the core.

With Deep Tissue Massage, the RMT aims to reach your connective tissues and tendons, which can hold onto a lot of tension. This massage isn’t just about feeling good (although that’s a bonus); it’s for serious tension relief and dealing with specific muscle issues.

In a Deep Tissue Massage, the RMT takes a deliberate approach. They use slow, firm strokes targeting stubborn knots and tensions hiding in the deeper muscle and connective tissue layers.

The big picture is about getting your muscles back in line and bidding farewell to that long-standing muscle tension caused by past injuries or ongoing issues.

Is Deep Tissue Massage a Good Option for You?

Deep Tissue Massage can help if you overexert your muscles through sports, heavy lifting, or inactivity and need to warm up cold and tense muscles.

This technique involves consistent, deep pressure with slow strokes, effectively releasing muscle tension and discomfort.

It’s highly effective for addressing various pains and conditions such as back, neck, shoulder, and leg pain, as well as sports injuries, high blood pressure, sciatica, fibromyalgia, and tennis elbow.

Final Thoughts: Swedish Massage Vs. Deep Tissue Massage

When choosing between Deep Tissue Massage and Swedish massage, the key distinction lies in the level of pressure and the specific focus on areas of tension.

If your goal is relaxation and stress relief, Swedish massage is an excellent choice. On the other hand, Deep Tissue Massage provides the intensity you need if you’re dealing with deep-seated muscular discomfort or recovering from an injury.



Focus Area

​Swedish Massage

  • Promotes relaxation.

  • Reduces muscle tension.

A gentler form of massage using light, long strokes.

  • Superficial muscle layers.

  • Focuses on body parts holding tension, including shoulders, neck, and back.

Deep Tissue Massage

  • Recovers muscle and tissue injury.

  • Manages structural abnormalities.

An intense form of massage using slow, forceful strokes.

  • Deeper muscle layers, connective tissue and tendons.

  • Sports and muscle injuries.

Are you worried about enduring a painful massage or sensitive skin?

Our Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) will always conduct a thorough consultation before your massage session begins to ensure a positive and personalized experience.

During this consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your current lifestyle, any injuries or discomfort you may be experiencing, specific areas you’d like to focus on, and your self-care goals.

Are you ready for a super relaxing adventure with a special massage?

Book your consultation and massage today by giving us a call or conveniently schedule your appointment with Body Language Massage & Wellness online.

Start your journey to relaxation, relief, and feeling amazing today!


  1. Rapaport MH, Schettler P, Larson ER, Edwards SA, Dunlop BW, Rakofsky JJ, Kinkead B. Acute Swedish Massage Monotherapy Successfully Remediates Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Proof-of-Concept, Randomized Controlled Study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2016 Jul;77(7):e883-91. doi: 10.4088/JCP.15m10151. PMID: 27464321.

  2. Supa'at I, Zakaria Z, Maskon O, Aminuddin A, Nordin NA. Effects of Swedish massage therapy on blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammatory markers in hypertensive women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:171852. doi: 10.1155/2013/171852. Epub 2013 Aug 18. PMID: 24023571; PMCID: PMC3759268.

  3. Majchrzycki M, Kocur P, Kotwicki T. Deep tissue massage and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain: a prospective randomized trial. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014 Feb 23;2014:287597. doi: 10.1155/2014/287597. PMID: 24707200; PMCID: PMC3953439.

  4. Romanowski MW, Špiritović M, Rutkowski R, Dudek A, Samborski W, Straburzyńska-Lupa A. Comparison of Deep Tissue Massage and Therapeutic Massage for Lower Back Pain, Disease Activity, and Functional Capacity of Ankylosing Spondylitis Patients: A Randomized Clinical Pilot Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:9894128. doi: 10.1155/2017/9894128. Epub 2017 Aug 6. PMID: 28845185; PMCID: PMC5563410.

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