Deep Tissue Massage vs. Swedish Massage: Which to Book

Are you booking the right massage?

Yes, booking any massage type will benefit you, but not all massages are the same. 

Some people head into a massage with the “hurts so good” and “no-pain-no-gain” mindset. Others want to drift off in a blissful relaxation with every stroke of the masseuse’s hand. 

Ensuring you’re getting the correct type of massage starts with booking the proper treatment! 

The two popular massage types at hand? Deep tissue massages and Swedish massages. Massage newbies can be confused about the differences between these typical massages. 

They may seem interchangeable, but the experiences and benefits are significantly distinct. 

Want to discover which type of massage is right for your weary muscles? Here is a breakdown of a deep tissue massage vs. a Swedish massage. 

What is a Swedish Massage

Anyone searching for a moment of zen should consider booking an uber-relaxing Swedish massage. 

Swedish massage is a widely-used therapeutic massage that uses various techniques, including stroking, kneading, friction and percussion, to help relax and energize the body. 

The massage therapist typically uses long, slow strokes, circular movements, and deep kneading to relax muscles and other body soft tissues. Swedish massage may also involve pressure points, stretching, and other techniques to help relieve tension and improve overall circulation.

Swedish massage specialists will ensure the amount of pressure they are using keeps you comfortable and relaxed while encouraging the benefits of giving your muscles some TLC. 

Swedish Massage Benefits

Swedish massages are more than just a moment of relaxation! Here are a few of the benefits you can experience with regular Swedish massages:

  • The relaxing routine and physical contact can help reduce stress and anxiety. 
  • Relieving tension in muscles can improve flexibility and range of motion
  • The gentle pressure can help alleviate muscle pain. 
  • This massage style can increase blood flow across your body.

What is a Deep Tissue Massage

Where Swedish massage is relaxing and relatively gentle, deep tissue massage can be more intense and rewarding after the treatment.

Deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue in the body through slow, firm pressure and deep strokes. This high-pressure contact works through the shallow layers of muscle to reach deeper tissues. 

The massage therapist may use their fingers, knuckles, elbows, and forearms to apply this deeper pressure. These strategies can be intense and may cause discomfort during the session, so it is essential to communicate with the massage therapist about any pain and to drink plenty of water after the massage to help flush out toxins.

Yes, mild discomfort is expected while the masseuse works on tense or tough muscles, but you can usually enjoy a muscle release that lasts for days.

Deep Tissue Massage Benefits

Deep tissue massage strategies can be intense but will always pack a punch of benefits. Here are a few of the advantages you can experience with regular deep tissue massages:

  • Deep tissue massage can be particularly beneficial for people with chronic muscle tension, 
  • Loosening these tight muscles can help with postural problems 
  • This intense pressure point therapy can expedite injury recovery.
  • This intense pressure can help break up scar tissue to increase flexibility and relieve pain and stiffness in the affected areas. 

Key Differences Between Deep Tissue and Swedish Massage

So, in short, what are the major differences that will help you select the correct type of massage for you? Here are the key points to look at when comparing Swedish massage to deep tissue massage:


A Swedish massage typically uses light to medium pressure to offer a relaxing and comfortable treatment from start to finish. On the other hand, deep tissue massage uses more force to penetrate deeper tissues and offers more effective muscle relief.

Areas of Focus 

Swedish massage generally targets the surface muscles to promote relaxation and improves circulation. Deep tissue massage targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue and focuses on breaking up scar tissue, relieving chronic muscle tension, and alleviating pain and stiffness.

Deep tissue massage may also focus more on problem areas over an equal, full-body experience. For example, if your masseuse notices that you have a lot of stress in your neck and upper back, they may spend most of their time focusing on this area and related areas. 

Treatment Comfort

Swedish massage is generally considered a gentle and relaxing massage, while deep tissue massage can be more intense and may cause some discomfort during the session.

Overall, Swedish massage is an excellent option for those looking for a spa-like treatment that offers “walking on a cloud” relaxation. Deep tissue massage is a good choice for those with chronic pain or muscle tension who want to target deeper muscle and connective tissue layers.

Ready for a rubdown? Check out all of your area’s Swedish and deep tissue massage options on ClassPass!

Amanda Rouse is a freelance writer and content strategist living in San Clemente, California. When she’s not actively dodging writer’s block, she’s probably trail running, doing a crossword puzzle, or falling off of waves (She soon hopes to call this “surfing.”). Follow her and send her funny reels on Instagram.
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