Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage: Which One Do You Need?

January 7, 2021
Man During Massage at milk + honey spa

When clients schedule a massage, perhaps the most common questions asked of our massage therapists are “what’s the difference between a Swedish Massage and a Deep Tissue Massage?” or “which one would you recommend?” To begin with, most clients know that they are looking for something to loosen tight muscles, target pressure points, and relax, but they still don’t quite know what to ask for. In the end, they tend to choose the option that seems less invasive and more comfortable. For that reason, Swedish — or, our Signature — massages are often the most requested massages. And while massage therapists can do their best to make recommendations, you might have a more successful outcome if you understand the basic differences between the two and decide for yourself what you really need. 

Ahead, we’ll examine a Swedish (Signature) Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage and walk you through the similarities and differences, so you can find the treatment that works best for you. 

Swedish Massage vs. Deep Tissue Massage

While a Swedish massage and a Deep Tissue Massage have some similarities, there are some key differences and choosing one over the other depends on what you’re looking for. Generally speaking, these procedures differ in the amount of pressure applied, the area it’s applied to, and the technique. 

Swedish Massage (we call it our “Signature Massage”)

A Swedish massage is gentler than a deep tissue massage, and it’s ideal for those looking for stress relief and relaxation. During a Swedish massage, your therapist will apply light to firm pressure to loosen tight muscles, stimulate your circulation, and provide relaxation. Swedish massage is beneficial for relieving tension in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. So, if your muscles are sore from hunching over your computer all day, this type of massage might be a good fit. 

Moreover, Swedish massage is often used to stimulate blood flow and increase flexibility. Not to mention, most folks appreciate how the long gliding strokes of a Swedish massage just seem to ease away tension and reduce feelings of emotional and physical stress. 

Swedish massage uses five basic strokes, all of which you can expect during your treatment. These include:

  1. Effleurage – long gliding strokes that help the therapist identify problem areas
  2. Petrissage – kneading of muscles to release tension 
  3. Friction – circular rubbing that creates heat and promotes circulation 
  4. Tapotement – fast tapping that relaxes tense muscles 
  5. Vibration – rapid shaking of muscles using the fingertips or palms 

Swedish massages are great for first-timers and perfect for those simply looking to relax and unwind. Generally, they use a lighter touch than deep tissue massage, and the pressure is customizable to your liking; just be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your therapist. 

Deep Tissue Massage

As its name implies, deep tissue massages target deeper muscle structures and fascia (also known as connective tissue) to release tension deep within the tissue.  As you might suspect, deep tissue massage is not quite as relaxing as a Swedish massage. Let’s just say it’s more results-oriented. Because it works by releasing muscle tension layer-by-layer, deep tissue massage is best suited for those with chronic pain or for treating sports and small muscle injuries. 

During a deep tissue massage, your therapist will use their fingers, fists, and even elbows to penetrate deep into the muscle and connective tissue to release tension and deep knots. While deep tissue massage uses long strokes and kneading techniques that are similar to a Swedish massage, the therapist will apply more pressure and force to trouble spots. 

It may be worth noting that while it may seem more forceful and invasive, a deep tissue massage should not hurt. If you feel pain, be sure to let your therapist know. Also, you may feel some soreness two to three days after your treatment. This is simply a result of your deep tissue and deep muscle work. 

Should You Get a Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage?

While Swedish massage and deep tissue massage share a few similarities, they differ in the amount of pressure the massage therapist uses. If you’re not sure what type of massage to get, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re just looking to ease some tension and loosen tight muscles, you may want to consider a Swedish massage; if you need deeper work on your muscle for an injury or chronic condition, opt for a deep tissue massage instead. Moreover, your choice may all depend on the amount of pain and discomfort you’re willing to take. In both cases, it’s always best to speak to your therapist about your particular concerns and trouble spots so they can target those effectively. 

If you’re interested in getting a Swedish or Deep Tissues massage, book an appointment at milk + honey spa. Each appointment includes a thorough consultation with our licensed massage therapists so we can tailor your visit to address specific needs. If you’d like to give a massage as a gift to someone else, you can also purchase a gift certificate that can be redeemed at any of our locations.


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  • Reply Ritu Jain May 4, 2022 at 4:03 am

    Fantastic article. I am very pleased to say that your article is fascinating to read. I always find myself wanting to comment on it. You’re doing an excellent job. Keep your writing up.

  • Reply Aliya Hayat September 7, 2022 at 4:19 am

    Unique article and astounding advantages of massage You have extraordinary knowledge for massage treatment. Much thanks to you for sharing us.

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