Shiatsu vs Swedish Massage

Massage involves manipulating the layers of muscles and tissues of the body. It also involves various techniques to improve the body muscles, help in healing of muscles, and thereby promoting relaxation and overall well being. Pressure is applied on the body manually or with the help of mechanical aids. Massage can be applied with hands, knees, forearm, feet and elbow. Shiatsu and Swedish massages are one of the two various types of massages available. Each massage variant has its own advantages and benefits. So what are the differentiating points between these two types of massages?

Let us first understand what the different and unique features of these massages are. Both Shiatsu and Swedish massages differ in premise, in performance and also in function.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu works on the principle of applying pressure on the specific energy points on the body. It is also a variation of acupuncture but in massage form. Shiatsu is more like a therapy, applying medical styles addressing a particular muscle or joints. It is based on some of the ancient Japanese holistic practices.

Swedish massage

A Swedish massage is more of a relaxation type of massage involving basic massage strokes. The ultimate purpose of this form of massage is to provide much needed relaxation. It helps in reducing pain in the joints, and also improving blood circulation. It is also referred to as a classic massage.

Some major difference in these forms of massages

Function and Implementation

Swedish massages use mostly five massage patterns performed on major muscles of the body. The masseur applies these patterns in the form of vibrations, tapping of the body which is rhythmic in nature and also by applying friction. Pressure is applied by the therapist according to your preferences. The main idea of Swedish massage is to relax the muscle tension and bring an increase in blood circulation. Shiatsu is more of a medical style massage therapy targeting joint pains and specific muscles. It corrects all the imbalances in the body by applying pressure on certain energy points on the body. In shiatsu a therapist uses fingers, elbows and feet on the acupuncture points where as in Swedish massage the therapist massages the muscles layers with hands only.


Shiatsu massage follows the Japanese traditional healing methods and beliefs which were followed decades ago involving mind and body connections. Swedish massage follows more of a scientific and western approach. They apply light pressure on the muscle layers of your body making you relax instantly, while the pressure is slightly more intense, making you slightly uncomfortable in a Shiatsu massage.


A Swedish massage requires you to remove all your clothes, where in the therapist will cover you with towels to keep you warm. In the Shiatsu form you may not be required to remove your clothes.

Leisure and Hydration

Shiatsu massage will make you more relaxed and energetic after a massage, unlike a Swedish massage which is very mild, and will make you feel like taking a nice little nap. Both the massage types will require you to drink water due to the release of toxins after the massage. Drinking excess water after a massage will release these wastes from your body quickly.


Shiatsu massage helps is treating several diseases like stress, anxiety, headaches, arthritis, back and neck pain, and bowel problems. Swedish massage is more for relaxation of the muscles and is also useful for easing joint pains caused due to osteoarthritis.

Both these forms of massages can be combined together and depends on the preference of the user.