This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Here's what you can expect from a Swedish massage:
On your first visit, the massage therapist will probably begin by asking you about your medical history, although the therapist is not licensed to make a medical diagnosis. Then will come some questions about your current physical condition, your lifestyle and stress level, any pain you may be experiencing, and why you're seeking treatment. This information will help the therapist determine what techniques to use and how to structure the session.
The room in which you will receive the massage will typically be warm and softly lit. The therapist may play soothing music (if you enjoy it), and/or burn candles or incense to add a pleasant scent. Often aromatic essential oils or lotions will be used to enhance the massage experience and prevent friction when the skin is rubbed.
You will probably be asked to disrobe partially or completely (in private) and you will be given a sheet or towel to drape over the areas of your body that are not being massaged. You will then be asked to lie down on a comfortable sheet-covered table. The table may have a special face-rest, which allows you to lie face-down without turning your head or neck.
Even someone trained specifically as a Swedish massage therapist may use a wide variety of strokes and techniques. You can request a full body massage or a massage that concentrates on a particularly painful or tight area. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, or the massage itself becomes painful, you should let the therapist know at once. A typical session usually lasts from 30 to 90 minutes.
Seated massage falls outside this general procedure. Here you usually remain fully dressed and sit in a special massage chair that supports the front of your body. In this type of massage, which usually takes 5 to 30 minutes, the therapist works on one area of your body--your shoulders, for instance, or your feet. Because the chair is portable, seated massage is increasingly available in the workplace to help reduce tension on the job.
The number of visits you'll require with a massage therapist can vary widely. If you are using massage for stress relief, you may want to visit a therapist as often as once a week. For acute injuries, the number of treatments will depend on the nature of your condition. Often massage therapy is prescribed by M.D.s to complement conventional care.