swedish massage & deep tissue massage

Deep Tissue Massage & Swedish Massage: What you should know about their differences

David Weintraub

David Weintraub, LMT at Bodyworks DW, writes about the differences you need to know between Deep Tissue Massage and Swedish Massage. Read below!

Swedish massage and deep tissue massage sound like two completely different forms of massage. Surprisingly, they have a fair amount of overlapping techniques. They also have their differences. Knowing these will help you choose the one that works best for you!

The primary goal of Swedish massage is to relax the entire body. Swedish massage uses long gliding strokes, and light to medium pressure. The best way to think of it is like a general tune up.

Deep tissue massage is best for giving attention to painful trouble spots in your body. Generally, it uses slower, more deliberate strokes with medium to deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is used most often for chronic aches & pains such as a stiff neck and upper back, lower back pain, and leg muscle tightness. 

Swedish massage techniques for general relaxation 

Swedish massage is usually a full-body massage treatment. Some exceptions apply such as in areas that are medically contraindicated. Or if the client asks the therapist to steer clear of an area. Depending on the client’s preferences, a Swedish massage session may involve several or all of the following basic techniques.


Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish Massage. It’s a free flowing and gliding movement towards the heart. Often times, effleurage is used to begin a Swedish massage. Since this stroke is used to warm up the muscles and relax the body, it’ll calm the nerves, improve blood circulation, & improve lymphatic drainage. 


This technique resembles kneading dough. It involves lifting and rolling the tissue under or between the fingers. Similarly to effleurage, petrissage is designed to release muscle tension, improve blood flow, & increase lymphatic drainage.


Friction strokes are great for removing scar tissue. The massage therapist will apply pressure by placing either the pads of thumbs, knuckles, fingers, or forearms on the affected area. The movement will be a continuous back & forth motion or an alternating circular motion.


Vibration is performed by gently shaking the body with the palm or fingertips. It will release muscle tension in small areas, such as along the spine. It’s also super relaxing!


Tapotement, or tapping and percussion, is a quick choppy rhythmic movement that has a stimulating or toning effect. You see this often in massage done on TV or in a movie as it looks very dynamic. The effects are similar to vibrational techniques but it’s a bit more vigorous.

Deep Tissue Massage Techniques for Specific Issues  

Although Deep tissue and Swedish massage use many of the same techniques, they have different intentions. The amount of pressure used in these two kinds of massage vary greatly. In addition, deep tissue massage includes more specialized techniques for treating specific issues. The most common two are below:  

Myofascial Release

What’s fascia, you ask? Well, fascia is the connective tissue that glues your muscle fibers together. It many ways, it holds you together, but it can also get stiff and tight, causing you pain. Myofascial Release is a technique involving slow, sustained pressure into muscle tissue. This slow pressure stretches and releases your fascia. In addition, this technique can effectively break up knots and release trigger points. It helps improve movement, flexibility, exercise related soreness, and muscle function. Over a series of sessions, myofascial release will also realign and improve posture!

Trigger Point Therapy

A trigger point is a tight area within muscle tissue that causes pain in other parts of the body. These points are frequently formed as a result of trauma to the muscle fibers. Trigger Point Therapy consists of pressing and holding these points for 5-20 seconds. At first, this can feel intense, but it will then release into major relief. This type of therapy can help clients that are experiencing headaches, low back pain, sciatica, sports injuries and more. You can experience a significant decrease in pain after just one treatment!

How to Choose Between Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage for Yourself

Deep tissue massage is best suited for people who engage in highly physical activities. These include activities such as running, swimming, or skateboarding. It’s also great for those who have an injury or chronic pain. Do you have a lower pain threshold? Start with a Swedish massage. Once you’re comfortable with more pressure, you can venture into deep tissue massage.

No matter which form of massage you choose, undoing chronic knots and tension is best achieved with an integrated program. That includes exercise, working on your posture, body movement, and relaxation techniques. And of course, a program of massage therapy!    

If you don’t live in NYC, find a great massage therapist by searching for “deep tissue massage near me.” Read the reviews! Any good therapist will have 20+ positive reviews from clients. 

If you’re looking for a massage therapist in NYC, we’ve got you covered! Schedule a professional deep tissue massage with one of our highly trained massage therapists. You’ll get the quality you’re looking for at Bodyworks DW Advanced Massage Therapy! 

Most of the clients who come to our studio experience chronic pain or have a sports related injury. Primarily, we use deep tissue massage techniques to combat your long or short term pain.

Looking to relax and feel better with a Swedish massage? We can do that too, just ask 🙂 

Contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our deep tissue massage Midtown or deep tissue massage Fidi studios!

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