In this guide, we look at the Swedish massage, which is a great treatment for spa newbies and anyone who would like to experience a classic massage technique. Get ready to relax with this popular and soothing massage!

What is a Swedish massage? 

Similar to the aromatherapy massage, this is one of the most popular treatments on a spa menu and commonly found as part of spa day and spa break packages.

Carrier oils (such as almond or jojoba) are applied to the body using long, even strokes to ease away superficial muscle tension. Many people find this light massage style more soothing, relaxing and superficial than a deeper style of massage. If you’ve never had a massage before, this is a good one to start with. 

An aromatherapy massage includes essential oils extracted from flowers and plants to the basic carrier oil to further enhance your wellbeing. Pure essential oils have a variety of benefits, whether you want to feel energised (lemon), uplifted (neroli, lemon balm), stimulated (eucalyptus, rosemary), feel soothed and relaxed (lavender, sandalwood), or want to help rebalance your hormones (geranium).

Sometimes spas use blended combinations of these essential oils in their massage oils and your spa therapist may ask you to choose by smelling which aroma you’d like to be used in your massage.

What does a Swedish massage involve? 

Your therapist may use a variety of techniques, such as rolling and kneading the skin with a subtle sweeping action that could make you nod off on the massage couch. Go with it! Catching 40-winks during a treatment can really enhance the benefits of your treatment. 

In a full-body Swedish massage, your therapist will usually start by massaging your back and neck, then the legs, arms, hands and sometimes the feet.

This massage sometimes includes a relaxing head massage (also known as a scalp massage, Indian head massage or Champissage). There is also a shorter back neck and shoulders version.

Does a Swedish massage hurt? 

There is a common misconception that the Swedish massage is similar to the deep tissue massage. However, these focus on different muscle layers. While deep tissue massage works into the deeper layers, Swedish massage works more superficially.

Deep tissue massage technique utilises a firmer pressure that results in a robust experience, which can be uncomfortable and leave you feeling a bit tender. Swedish massage is gentler and should feel good without any discomfort.

It is important you communicate with your spa therapist to make sure the pressure is right for you. If the massage is too strong, don’t suffer in silence, let your therapist know. It is also vital to let the spa know if you have any medical or physiological issues of which the massage therapist should be aware.

Expected benefits of a Swedish massage

A Swedish massage can have a range of therapeutic benefits, including reduced stress, enhanced detoxification and improved blood flow. You might also reap the benefits in terms of increased flexibility and it can help you recover from muscle strain. If you suffer from stress, need help relaxing, or want to ease away tensions, a Swedish massage could be just what you need.

Best for: 

Light stress and tension relief.

Muscular knots that are too tender for anything other than lightly soothing massage pressure.

Nourishing the skin, due to the application of carrier oils and/or aromatherapy oils.

Improved circulation, muscle tone, boosting lymph and blood circulation to aid detoxification.

Think twice…

…if you like stronger pressure that works more deeply into your knotted muscles. If that’s the case, you may find these Swedish massage techniques too superficial and gentle.

Did you know? 

Many of us feel embarrassed when we awake with a start mid-massage; yet one of the biggest compliments you can pay a therapist is to nod off during a treatment, because it shows you feel deeply relaxed. Read our handy massage tips to find out the proven benefits of sleeping during a spa treatment. 

Top tip: 

It’s a good idea to arrive around 30 minutes early for your treatment, so you can take advantage of the spa’s ‘wet’ facilities. We explain here why you’ll get more out of your massage if you do.


What should I wear to a Swedish massage?

You can wear what you would like to the spa (loose, comfortable clothing is recommended). On arrival, you will be directed to the changing room to put on a robe. You can wear swimwear or underwear underneath. When you reach the treatment room, you will be asked to disrobe.

If you are uncomfortable being naked, let the therapist know. The practice of ‘draping’ is often used during full body massages, where parts of your body are uncovered in turn to allow the therapist access without exposing your whole body. Learn more in our guide, What should I wear to a spa?.

Does a Swedish massage include the feet?

The full-body version includes the legs, and often the feet.

Does a Swedish massage use oil?

Yes. Oils are used during the massage. If you suffer with any allergies, such as to nuts, be sure to let the spa know.

How long is a Swedish massage?

The treatment usually lasts between 40 and 90 minutes, depending on whether you choose the back neck and shoulders massage or a full-body massage. Check the details of the treatment when you book your spa package to make sure you know what to expect. If you’re late for your massage, you will lose treatment time.

How often can or should I get a Swedish massage?

There are no strict rules about frequency. You may like to enjoy a massage as a weekly treat or just go now and again when you feel a build-up of stress. Many people find monthly is a good frequency.

If you are pregnant, undergoing cancer treatment, have had recent surgery, or suffer with any medical issues, it is advised to seek advice from a doctor and to let the spa know about your condition before booking any treatments.

Know of a friend or loved one who might benefit from a Swedish massage? Check out our spa vouchers page where monetary gift vouchers can be redeemed against treatments at over 500 spas across the UK.

If you like this, you might also like: Back Neck and Shoulders massage, Lymphatic Drainage massage, Head massage

Other articles you may like…

Alexander House spa massage
Lea Marston Poultice
The Greenway Hotel and Spa Back Massage