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Medical Massages and Spa Massages: 5 Differences

A massage therapist is a medical professional who administers massage techniques.

A massage can be a relaxing way to unwind, but there is a difference between a neck or back massage you may receive recreationally at a spa and a medical massage. Massage therapy is essential to holistic healing because it provides the body with needed rest and tension release. It focuses on correcting musculoskeletal problems in the patient. A medical professional administers a medical massage for a specific purpose. While both types of massages have their purpose, knowing the difference is essential so you can prepare when requesting massage services.

What is a medical massage?

A medical massage is a massage that provides relief or assistance for a medical purpose. For example, if you have an injury or chronic pain issue, a massage can help reduce inflammation and pain or irritation. It can help build muscle resilience to help prevent injury. A medical massage therapist can also educate the client on body mechanics contributing to their pain or injury. A medical massage therapist typically administers care over several sessions, building a relationship with their client and overseeing their progress. There are a few different types of medical massages that may contribute to a medical treatment plan:

  • Swedish massage: This type of massage focuses on long strokes and friction to improve surface circulation.
  • Deep tissue massage: This technique is similar to a Swedish massage, except it uses more pressure to address circulation deep in the tissue. Therapists use these techniques to alleviate tension and stress.
  • Trigger point therapy: Trigger point therapy relies on twelve to fifteen-second pressure on specific regions until the pressure releases tension. This technique is opposed to rhythmic movements or long strokes used in other massage techniques.
  • Sports massage: Athletes and people with physically demanding jobs may require specific treatments focusing on their bodies’ needs. Sports massages are massages targeting those needs.
  • Reflexology: This massage system focuses on specific reflex points in the feet, hands, and head to release tension in other body parts.
  • Myofascial release: The myofascial release focuses on the white connective tissue that wraps around each muscle.
  • Prenatal and postnatal massage: A prenatal and postnatal massage is administered to women to prepare for and recover from labor.
  • Cupping therapy: Cupping therapy is an alternative therapy that uses suction cups to stimulate your skin and muscles.

5 differences between a medical massage and a spa massage

Back massages you receive at a spa can have elements borrowed from a traditional medical massage, but there are key differences. Learn about how a medical massage may assist you in your injury recovery or chronic pain treatment:

1. Provides medical benefit

If you are seeking a medical massage, there is a medical need that your medical massager is addressing. Medical conditions aided by medical massages could be chronic pain, inflammation, or injury. Spa massages may target various areas to provide overall relaxation. A medical massage is administered purposefully as part of a treatment plan. Your primary doctor or physical therapist may recommend that you receive medical massage therapy as a supplement to other care.

2. Uses different techniques

Medical massagers use specific techniques to address your needs. They use their education and experience to choose the most beneficial strategies for each client. The methods provide relief for the client’s specific medical condition. A spa masseuse may likely use various techniques but may not choose their techniques with the client’s needs in mind.

3. Targets your needs

A medical massager must collect a client’s general and specific health history before administering the massage. Their assessment may include testing the patient’s mobility, range of mobility and muscular imbalances. This information helps them decide what muscles to target and which techniques may be most helpful. Your medical massager can also collaborate with your healthcare team to learn your medical history and conditions. Understanding your medical condition helps them administer the proper medical massage to assist your health journey.

4. Includes a treatment plan

A treatment plan explains how often your massager recommends providing massages and what techniques they recommend. It can also detail what other treatments can help speed along your treatment. A comprehensive plan is essential for a healthcare team to understand what treatments you are receiving from different professionals. It can also lay out milestones for your recovery.

For example, suppose you have an injury and are working through a treatment plan to regain the use of your hand. In that case, a massager may contribute to a treatment plan with how many medical massages they expect to administer throughout your overall treatment while you recover.

5. Contributes to a health goal

Medical massage therapy typically has a health goal as the center of the treatment plan. For example, if you are injured, regaining the use of the injured muscle could be the overall goal. You may work with a physical therapist to build muscle and train your body to use the muscle appropriately, but healing can be stressful, and working a muscle may build tension in your muscles. A medical massage can help relieve that tension, assisting with your recovery and contributing to the overall medical goal.

At Living Well Balanced, we offer holistic healthcare from caring and experienced professionals. We offer massage therapy to assist our clients in every aspect of their health and recovery. Our massage therapists are educated and have experience with various medical massage techniques to provide the most effective care. You can make an appointment with one of our massage therapists to learn how they can benefit your treatment plan for injury recovery or prevention and chronic pain. Check out our blog for more information about alternative therapies. If you have any questions, you can always give us a call at 212-579-2858 or send an email at info@livingwb.com.

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