About Swedish Body Massage

When talking about Swedish body massage (or circulatory massage), one would refer to the following six strokes. This is pretty much all you need. Everything else is a variation of what is here.

And if you get really stumped on how to do this, I recommend receiving a professional massage to see how the pros do it.

Different Massage Strokes for Different Massage Folks!

Four things to keep in mind about Swedish body massage…

1. A good rule of thumb is to stay on the fleshy areas, where the muscles are. And learn the bony spots (“landmarks” in massage industry terms) to find those fleshy areas.

2. I am going to describe different ways to move your hands (like effleurage), but not specific strokes (like Diamond Effleurage). There are specific strokes most massage schools teach, but that level of specificity is not necessary here and might limit your own creative intuition about how to use a stroke.

3. With all of these strokes, the slower you go, the better it will feel. Trust me on this one. Sometimes it takes me two minutes to strip (see below) the erector spinae muscles (along the spine) one time.

4. Please review these pages before attempting these strokes: SafetyBody mechanicsEnergetics, and Giving a Massage.


Effleurage is a gentle stroke that spreads the oil.

If you perfected this one stroke, it would be enough to give an awesome massage. This is always a good stroke to start with. Very relaxing.

The way I effleurage the back is to place both hands flat against the back, on both sides of the spine, near the shoulders, and then slowly move my hands down toward the waist of my client. When they get to the waist, the hands move apart (away from the spine) to the sides of the client’s body, and then I bring them back towards me, around the shoulders and finishing on the neck.


The finger pads of one hand are pulling against the side of the limb or torso, while the palm of the other hand is pushes against the opposite side of the leg or torso. Slowly, the hands switch positions so that the hand that was pulling is now in position to push, and vice versa.

The technique is similar to “wringing” out a wet wash cloth… the hands move in opposite directions. Except with the massage, you’re not gripping like you would with the wash cloth.

*** I just want to mention that this page is one that I wrote in 2006 (or earlier) and I didn’t have photos on the site because many people were still dialup ? and it would have slowed down the page. I hope to get some video or pictures up later, but I just wanted to get the old pages reposted for now. ***


If you’ve ever baked bread you already know how to do this massage stroke.

You push directly into the muscle with the pinky side of your palm/wrist (also called the pisiform). Then push in with the other palm in the same way, alternating in a steady rhythm.

It is important to keep your wrists straight. If there are any creases in the skin on the top of your wrists, you are bending them too much, which can cause injury.

Also, be sure you are moving your hips with this stroke. It will feel better to both you and the Receiver.


With this stroke, your hands flat on the body and fingers are together, you move one hand forward a little bit on or along a muscle, and then you move the other one forward afterward on the same spot and a little farther. Slowly work your way down the muscle, alternating hands.

(By the way, when your hand is in the position of fingers together, it is called a chisel.)


With your fingers together again (in a “chisel”), you place one hand on top of the other. Use the top hand for pressure and to guide the other one along the length of the muscle.

Keeping the bottom hand relaxed will allow the hand to sink deeper into the muscle, will feel better to the client, and will help the muscle to relax faster.

Percussion / Taponment

The Karate-chop stroke that people are familiar with belongs in this catagory (the official term is Hacking. Percussion strokes are done more to stimulate than to relax. I like to do them at the end of the massage to wake up my clients a bit. You don’t have to use too much force with these strokes. It’s more about the speed with which they are performed.

For hacking, face palms toward each other and bounce your hands (pinky side) on the client’s body rapidly, one after the other. Be sure to keep your wrists and fingers loose.