Swedish vs Deep Tissue: Selecting the Right Massage

swedish vs deep tissue massage therapy Physiotherapy in London

A massage can ease your pain, release tension, undo months of stress, and promote healing. But which massage should you book? This guide covers Swedish vs deep tissue massage, explaining the difference between the two and helping you understand which you should choose.

Along with soft tissue massage, sports massage, and physiotherapy, both Swedish and deep tissue massage are types we specialise in at One Body. Learn more about Deep Tissue Massage or get in touch to book a massage at one of our award-winning London clinics today.

Swedish vs Deep Tissue Massage

For a quick comparison of Swedish vs deep tissue massage, here is what you need to know:

  • Swedish: a gentle massage that uses long, slow stroking movements on your muscles and soft tissues. It relieves stress, aches, soreness and pain to promote relaxation and ease.
  • Deep Tissue: an intense massage that places hard pressure on your muscles and connective tissues to penetrate the deepest layers. It breaks down hard tissue, promotes healing, and relieves chronic pain.

Which type of massage you need depends on your aims for the massage – you may even find that your massage therapist recommends using a combination of techniques. To find out which massage style best suits your needs, let’s examine both.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is popular with those who have chronic pain. It’s also a huge part of sports massage, which is ideal for athletes (pros, amateurs, and weekend gym-goers) who want to loosen up, heal injuries, and get to their peak performance.


The ultimate goal of deep tissue massage is to help the body heal. The intense techniques promote blood flow, break down hard tissues, and stimulate the muscles. This does feel a little uncomfortable and it will leave you sore for a day or two after the session, but the long-term benefits are worth it.

Common conditions that we treat with deep tissue massage include:

  • Chronic pain including back, shoulder and neck pain,
  • Sports injuries, both acute and chronic,
  • Limited range of motion due to scar tissue,
  • Tense, strained muscles.

Deep tissue massage may be too intense if you have weak bones or are pregnant. You should talk to your doctor if you think you may be too sensitive for a deep tissue massage – or book a gentler Swedish-style massage instead!

Deep Tissue Massage Techniques

The techniques we will use during a deep tissue massage session are focused on penetrating the deeper levels of muscles and connective tissues. This includes:

  • Pressure and friction – using our hands, forearms and elbows, we apply intense pressure and friction to affected areas,
  • Stretching, twisting and lifting – manipulating the muscles breaks down tough tissues like scar tissue,
  • Trigger point therapy – applying extra attention to knots and areas of tight, strained muscles.
  • Myofascial release – releasing the tightness and pain in fascial tissues (the tissues that wrap around, connect and support the muscles).

How to Book a Session

Deep tissue massage might be recommended by your physician, either to relieve tense muscles, treat chronic pain or as part of injury rehabilitation. Alternatively, you might be seeking deep tissue massage to treat scar tissue, improve mobility, or heal muscles after an intense training schedule.

Whatever your reason for seeking deep tissue massage, you should always opt for the best clinic available. Pay attention to more than their customer reviews and the accessibility of their clinic. Look at the qualifications and experience of the individual massage therapists.

At One Body, our massage therapists are also physiotherapists, ensuring they are educated to a higher standard than enables them to assess and diagnose as well as treat. If you are looking into deep tissue massage from a sports-related injury or to boost your athletic performance, then you can also look for clinics that specialise in sports massage therapy.

Don’t forget that you can use private health insurance to pay for deep tissue massage treatments, so you can get your sessions for free at One Body. Find out how here.

performing a deep tissue massage at one of our London physio clinics Physiotherapy in London

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is a gentler type of massage therapy that’s also known as a classic massage in some parts of the world – it’s the most commonly used type of massage. While deep tissue massage could be considered closer to physiotherapy (targeted massage to heal the body or treat a condition), Swedish massage can be used for anything from back pain to fatigue.


Swedish massage is all about relaxation and gently easing away pain, discomfort, tiredness, and sore muscles. There’s no need for intense, deep massage techniques as this form of massage is used to treat:

  • General aches and pains, like back pain from sitting at your desk or achy legs from walking the dog,
  • Stiff joints,
  • Fatigue,
  • Stress and anxiety.

If you are looking to relax and unwind after a difficult week, a Swedish-style massage is just what you need. It’s also a popular alternative to deep tissue massage for those who find deep tissue techniques too harsh on muscles and joints.

Swedish Massage Techniques

Swedish massage traditionally utilises five basic strokes:

  • Effleurage – stroking and sliding across the muscles,
  • Petrissage – gentle kneading with the hands,
  • Tapotement – strategic tapping,
  • Friction – rubbing with or against muscle fibres,
  • Vibration – exactly what it sounds like!

While Swedish massage can also promote blood flow and help the body detoxify, unlike deep tissue massage, the strokes won’t reach the deepest layers of muscle and tissue. There shouldn’t be any discomfort during the massage and no soreness following it – you’ll finish the session feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to go about your day.

How to Book a Session

Even though a Swedish massage session might not be about fixing a specific injury or condition, you should still look for a highly qualified massage therapist. Look for professional clinics with qualified therapists (ideally physiotherapists or massage therapists) that clearly outline their education and experience. This will ensure that the massage you receive is safe and effective, especially if you have a medical condition or past injury that you need the therapist to be mindful of.

This also applies to therapists offering at-home services. It’s just as important to check their qualifications, experience and online reviews!

At One Body, our clinics in London are open from 8am to 8:30pm on weekdays in London Bridge and Shoreditch, so you can fit a massage around your work schedule. You’ll finish your 30-minute, 60-minute or 90-minute massage with enough time to get home, rehydrate, eat a light meal, and head to bed feeling relaxed and happy.

While you won’t feel sore and uncomfortable after a Swedish massage, it’s always advisable to follow the aftercare advice from your therapist. We have an article on Dealing with Pain After Massage that outlines some general advice for relaxing after a massage.

Professional Massage at One Body London

Whether you need a relaxing massage for your prenatal aches and pains or a deep tissue massage to work out deep-rooted kinks, we are ready to help at One Body. Our team of massage therapists are also registered and licensed physiotherapists, making them over-qualified to help you release stress and get the most from your massage.

You can choose the therapist you’d like to see for your massage, selecting a session time and clinic location (find us in Old Street, Farringdon and London Bridge) that best suits you. Our state-of-the-art clinics are the perfect setting for relaxing and recovering!

Learn more about our massage services and book your session today at One Body.


Which is better, Swedish or deep tissue massage?

Both massage styles have their strengths. Swedish style is great for relaxation, releasing tension, and feeling good. Deep tissue massage is ideal for healing tight muscles, restoring mobility and breaking down scar tissue. It feels intense but it’s highly effective for repairing your muscles.

Does Swedish massage relieve knots?

Yes, Swedish massage can relieve most knots and areas of tension in your muscles. For deep knots and hard tissues (like scar tissue) a more intense massage like deep tissue massage may be more effective.

What type of massage is most relaxing?

Swedish massage is the most relaxing, utilising long and slow strokes combined with gentle kneading to release stress and tension. In comparison, deep tissue massage is more intense and breaks down hard tissues to promote healing.

Which massage is best for back pain?

If your back pain is caused by tension and stress, sitting at your work desk all day, or generally having bad posture, then a gentle Swedish or soft tissue massage will work wonders. However, if your back pain is caused by scar tissue, chronic pain, a sports injury, or other medical conditions, a deep tissue massage can get to the root of the problem and promote long-term relief.

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Kurt Johnson



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