What is the difference between Swedish and  Deep Tissue Massage?

Emily J. Wood ● CMT

In the world of massage and bodywork, techniques are categorized by modality. Modalities are different approaches and styles of bodywork that are based on physical and emotional healing. In this article I will only be focusing on two major modalities within the massage world: Deep Tissue massage and Swedish massage. Our therapists here at BR are certified in both. But what are differences?

Swedish Massage is the modality that comes to mind when most people think about massage. Typically this is a full body, relaxation-based flow that involves the use of oil or lotion. It includes long and slow moves to allow superficial tissues to release as well as motivate the circulatory system to enrich cells throughout the body with fresh oxygen and nutrients. Swedish massage also supports the lymph system, a network that closely follows veins and arteries to help filter out cellular waste and provide the body’s first line of defense against infection and disease. Overall, Swedish massage is used mainly for relaxation by lowering levels of cortisol and ACTH (stress hormones).

Deep Tissue Massage involves specific work on muscle tissues and the fascia surrounding them; the pressure is much more focused through static or friction based movements. The purpose of this is to alleviate hypertonicity and adhesions in individual muscles and specific muscle groups. Deep Tissue Massage has all the benefits of a Swedish Massage but is also used to increase range of motion, kinesthetic awareness, and reduce the time frame of post-workout recovery.

  • Why is increasing range of motion important? The healthier the muscles are that surround your joints, the more capable your body will be throughout general movements. When you have full range of motion within your joints, your body becomes more comfortable while moving. Therefore, your body performs without limitation and/or pain.
  • What is kinesthetic awareness? This is the connection between your muscles and your nervous system. It is the awareness you have of where your body is in space and how you move it through space. As your kinesthetic awareness improves, the more control you will have over your body and the more agile you will become.

Overall, Deep Tissue and Swedish massage promote healing by:

  • Alleviating muscle tension
  • Increasing kinesthetic awareness
  • Increasing range of motion
  • Energizing the lymph system for efficient removal of waste in cells
  • Stimulating the circulatory system to efficiently increase oxygen/nutrient levels in cells

At Body Resolution, our purpose is to provide each person with the optimal massage techniques to address their ongoing needs to improve well-being. Therefore, each session doesn’t always have to be only one type of massage but can be a combination of any of the modalities the practitioner knows. The Therapists at BR love to individualize each session in order to see the most positive results in their client’s tissues and overall health.


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