Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue: Comparison

Massages are excellent for relieving pain and stress in the body, but there are different types. For example, when one is interested in getting a massage, one might have to choose between a Swedish and deep tissue massage.

What is the difference between these two types of massages?

A Swedish massage uses light-pressured techniques compared to a deep tissue massage.

Swedish massages focus more on relaxation and stress relief, whereas deep tissue massages focus more on injuries.

A deep tissue massage requires the massage therapist to use much of their body to apply pressure.

This article will discuss whether Swedish and deep tissue massages are similar. It will also discuss what each massage is best for and which is more popular. 

Also, see Why Don’t Swedes Feed Their Guests? to learn more.

What does a Swedish massage entail? See below

Are Swedish Massages and Deep Tissue Massages the Same?

Swedish and deep tissue massages are not the same, but they may use similar techniques. Basic techniques like effleurage are standard in both types of massages.

However, a deep tissue massage focuses more on deep, slow movements to heal and improve the symptoms of injuries.

The various techniques of each massage must be understood before deciding which one to get. The sections below discuss what a Swedish and deep tissue massage entails. 

What a Swedish Massage Entails

Effleurage Techniques

Effleurage is a good starting movement for a Swedish massage, so people should expect it if they decide to go with this massage type.

The point of the effleurage movement is to warm and prepare the skin by getting the blood flowing and relaxing the client. It also distributes the oil around the back to ensure it’s evenly applied and aids lymphatic drainage. [1]

While it’s a starting technique, effleurage is also used as a linking movement between other massage techniques because it only requires light pressure.

It’s an up-down movement that may also be used at the end of the Swedish massage.

Petrissage Techniques

Another technique people should expect during a Swedish massage is petrissage. In this instance, the massage therapist will likely use their knuckles or palms

The technique involves circular motions up the back with gentle pressure, but there should be slightly more pressure than there is with effleurage.

Ringing and Rolling

A Swedish massage therapist may use a ringing and rolling technique on their client, which entails using the hands to lightly squeeze and release the skin.

Though this may seem uncomfortable or slightly painful, it shouldn’t be if done correctly. 

The pressure of this movement is still on the lighter side and can aid with relaxation and the release of muscle tension.

Thumb and Knuckle Movements

A Swedish massage can also entail thumb and knuckle movements, which apply more pressure to the body.

Still, they shouldn’t be uncomfortable if appropriately done, and the massage client should feel relaxed and satisfied as the therapist goes over their back with this technique.

Rolling Movements and Kneading

With rolling movements, the Swedish massage therapist will gently push and pull the skin but with a good amount of pressure.

Like many other Swedish massage techniques, rolling movements should relieve muscle tension.

Kneading is also a movement a Swedish massage therapist can use, and it applies medium pressure to the back.

Also, see Why Do Scandinavians Have Blue Eyes? to learn more.

Swedish homes
What’s involved in a deep tissue massage? See below

What a Deep Tissue Massage Entails


Like Swedish massages, deep tissue massages entail effleurage at the beginning and possibly the end of the session, as it’s an excellent way to get the client relaxed and prepared for the massage.

The effleurage technique should be the same as the one used in the Swedish massage.


While kneading is also a technique used in Swedish massages, the method used in deep tissue massages is different. Rather than the therapist using their hands, they can use their forearms to apply plenty of pressure.

The movement requires the therapist to use much of their body weight.

Digging Into the Muscles

Another technique one won’t see in a Swedish massage but will undoubtedly see in a deep tissue massage is digging into the muscles.

It’s usually a slow movement, and the therapist may hold their hands in place for a few seconds. 

Going slow and holding the position for a few seconds allows for greater focus on the muscle, aiding the healing. 

Short and Long Deep Movements

A therapist may use short or long deep movements during a deep tissue massage.

The quick movements are generally more intense and focused on a specific area, while the more prolonged movements focus on a more general area and are slightly less intense.

No matter what technique they use, there will be plenty of pressure on the muscles.

Also, see Why Do Some People Think Scandinavians Are Weird? to learn more.

What Is a Swedish Massage Best For?

A Swedish massage is best for gently relaxing the muscles and releasing tension. It’s also a good choice for someone who’s never had a massage before, as it’s not too intense and won’t cause any discomfort or pain.

A Swedish massage isn’t the best if someone is looking for pain relief.

Not only is a Swedish massage relaxing, but it may also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. [2]

What Is a Deep Tissue Massage Best For?

A deep tissue massage is best for people with injuries or back pain who are looking for relief and relaxation at the same time.

While a client should feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a Swedish massage, they may feel slightly sore and less relaxed after a deep tissue massage. [3]

Here are some of the cases where a deep tissue massage is the better option:

  • Sports injuries
  • Back injury
  • Neck pain/injury
Which massage is more popular? See below

Which Is More Popular: Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage?

A Swedish massage is more popular because it appeals to most people, especially those who have never had a massage before.

It is the perfect massage for people who want a typical, relaxing spa experience. A deep tissue massage is also popular but not to the same level as a Swedish massage.

Pros and Cons of a Swedish Massage

Here are the pros of a Swedish massage:

  • It is an excellent all-around massage, suitable for almost anyone. 
  • Clients are unlikely to feel any discomfort afterward. 
  • It is perfect for relaxation and helping with negative feelings (like anxiety). 

Here are the cons of a Swedish massage:

  • It is unlikely to fix injuries because it isn’t intense enough. 
  • It can cause fatigue or tiredness, which can be dangerous if the client has to drive after. 

Pros and Cons of a Deep Tissue Massage

Here are the pros of a deep tissue massage:

  • It can help with the healing of sore muscles/injuries. 
  • It may relieve stress and other negative feelings. 

Here are the cons of a deep tissue massage:

  • It can cause pain/discomfort, especially the day after. 
  • It is generally unsuitable for those with blood clots, as they may cause the clot to become dislodged. [4]

Also, see Is It Always Dark in Sweden? to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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