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Deep tissue massage vs Swedish massage – which is best?

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing treatment or a soothing saviour to target some painful knots, you might be wondering which massage therapy is best. The first two that might come to mind are the popular deep tissue and traditional Swedish massage, but what are the differences? 

While both aim to provide relaxation and relief, they target different parts of the body and use distinct techniques. This blog will run through each massage’s characteristics to help you decide which to book for your next me-time treat.


What is a Swedish massage?

A Swedish massage is a whole-body treatment that uses light to medium pressure, promoting relaxation to  soothe the mind and the body. The techniques used can be personalised to suit your needs, either focusing on relaxation or muscle tension relief.Swedish massage is named after Swedish physician and exercise expert Per Henrik Ling, who started developing these techniques back in the 19th century. He wanted to find ways to keep people healthy and mobile, which is how the Swedish Movement System, which includes Swedish massage, started. 

Although it’s called "Swedish massage" internationally, this style of massage is actually influenced by a variety of massage traditions from different cultures, including ancient Roman and Greek techniques.

It’s the classic choice for stress reduction, focusing on the superficial muscles and promoting overall relaxation and improved circulation.

The Urban classic massage is our version of the traditional Swedish massage therapy, offering a full-body treatment that eases knots and helps manage pain while also de-stressing with gentle strokes. It uses techniques from Swedish massage to improve circulation and tension, while also making the body feel calm.


Swedish massage benefits

The main benefits of a Swedish massage can include the following:

  • Decrease in stress

  • Increase in relaxation

  • Reduced anxiety

  • Improved blood flow

  • Less tension, if certain areas are targeted

  • Improved sleep

Swedish massage is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to unwind and destress. The gentle nature of this technique makes it specifically suitable for people who are new to massage or don’t like strong pressure.

During your Urban classic Swedish massage 

Expect the use of massage oils or lotions to soften your skin followed by slow strokes, pulling and pressing to gently warm up your muscles. 

Before the massage begins, you’ll be able to speak to your therapist about any specific areas you’d like them to focus on and the type of pressure you prefer. 

You can then expect a full-body massage, starting with you lying face down. Your back, legs and arms will be massaged with long, flowing strokes, kneading, gentle tapping, and circular movements to create a soothing experience. You’ll then be asked to move on to your front, where your shoulders, legs and arms will be massaged. 

The goal is to improve circulation and lymphatic flow while creating a calming state for the body.


What is a deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage therapy targets muscle tension relief with the use of strong pressure, working deep into any knots. This technique involves working on the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissues. It’s a great choice for desk workers, those with lingering muscle pain, and people who prefer a firmer touch.

Deep tissue massage benefits 

If you’re looking for any of the following, deep tissue massage is the perfect choice for you:

  • Feeling looser and freer in movement

  • Improving motion

  • Helping with recovery from exercise

  • Lengthening tight, overworked muscles

Does deep tissue massage hurt?

No, it’s normal to feel a slight discomfort during your treatment but it should never feel painful. If you feel pain during your treatment, let your massage therapist know. Because of the strength of the treatment you might feel tired afterwards.

What to expect during a deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage therapy is all about addressing underlying muscle tension and knots. Your massage therapist will use slow strokes with firm, deep pressure to get into the layers of muscle and connective tissues. They’ll often use their elbows, forearms and heel of hand to be able to get deeper.

Deep tissue massage pressure demonstrated by male therapist using elbows

The differences between deep tissue massage and Swedish massage

Pressure is the key difference. Deep tissue treatments use strong pressure to work out knots and tension, while an Urban classic or Swedish massage uses less pressure, making it a more relaxing treatment for people who like their massages with a slightly lighter touch.

Which massage is right for me?

Still not sure which to choose? The main difference between deep tissue and Swedish massage therapy is that one focuses on the relaxation element, whereas the other is more focused on tension relief. Think about whether you’re looking for a calming experience, or whether you need help with tight muscles and knots.

Swedish massage is the perfect choice for:

  • Dealing with stress or anxiety

  • If you’re wanting a peaceful, relaxing escape from your day-to-day

  • Those who want to improve sleep quality 

  • People looking for a gentle introduction to massage

  • If you’d like a boost in your mood

Choose deep tissue massage if you:

  • Work at a desk and you’re not very active

  • Have stiff muscles

  • Work in a physical job that causes muscle strain

  • Experience tension headaches or uncomplicated neck and shoulder discomfort

  • Enjoy firm pressure over a lighter touch

But remember, communication with your massage therapist is key. Before your session, discuss your preferences, concerns, and any health conditions you may have. Urban skilled therapists will be happy to customise the massage to suit your needs for the best results.