What Is The Difference Between Therapeutic, Relaxation, And Deep Tissue Massage?

(An Excerpt From our FAQ page)

There are two basic types of massage when you strip out all the fancy names and special techniques. Many of the techniques utilized in each style can be the same, yet many are exclusive to a style. It is the intent, strategy, and the application of a technique that changes its purpose. It is important to clarify your goals for a massage with the therapist so that there is a clear understanding of the overall outcome desired.

Relaxation massage is mostly used for reducing stress.

The goal is to feel good right now, or “in the moment”, and to detach the mind from the worries of daily life for a while. Finding a bit of “peace” is the goal, and it is helpful to have a reminder of what that feels like in our fast paced lives. This does not mean it cannot be therapeutic however. For those with psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, or for those in addiction recovery, it can be very therapeutic. The techniques utilized are generally flowing and rhythmic, and of a lighter pressure. Also, techniques requiring client participation, such as stretching and active release techniques, are usually avoided.

Therapeutic massage is used primarily for addressing physical problems and pain.

The techniques used can be uncomfortable, or even painful, depending upon the severity of the problem. The payoff however, is that one will possibly be feeling better for days, weeks, or until the next injury. This is not to say that treatment oriented work will be painful, but that it can be. Some treatment techniques are actually very gentle, but may require more time, such as myofascial release. Many times a client may need some therapeutic work before relaxation work can have any lasting impact. It is hard to relax if the shoulder is painful, thus there is a close relationship between the two. Therapeutic techniques can vary wildly from deep focused work, stretching and range of motion, or extremely gentle and slow myofascial release. Much attention is payed to the patterns of dysfunction within the structure, and many times the source of the problem is not the area that hurts.

Deep tissue massage is a widely used, but very subjective term, and its meaning can vary among therapists and clients.

Some therapists think of deep tissue as just a heavy handed relaxation massage. In other words they do the same thing as a relaxation massage, but they use a lot more pressure without focusing on problem areas. Other therapists view deep tissue as treatment/therapeutic work, and will focus solely on the problems a client describes. Again, be sure to clarify your ultimate goal for any session so that there is no confusion, and to ensure that you and the therapist are on the same page.

We kept Deep Tissue Massage on our menu simply because many people know the term regardless of their personal definition. When new clients request this, we simply seek more clarification of their goals and proceed from there.

The reality is that many clients want something somewhere in between relaxation and therapeutic. Using a description of what you want such as “effective, but not painful” can be helpful for the therapist to dial into just what you want.