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Remedial Massage vs Relaxation Massage: know the difference

You know the feeling, stressed at work, tight muscles, back is starting to stiffen up or maybe the headaches are coming on again or you’ve pulled your hammy taking up football on weekend or the jaw is starting to ache. A work colleague says "You should get a massage! Go and see my guy!" And if you are a Seinfeld fan you know everyone has their “guy”. He hands you a business card and the card is from a clinic called Remedial Massage Sydney. On the back it has a list of services:

"What does it all mean???" you think to yourself. "What do I need?" Well this blog hopes to get to the bottom of some of that.

Remedial Massage vs Relaxation Massage

The terms 'massage' and 'remedial massage' often get tossed around. But what exactly sets them apart?

Remedial massage is a targeted manual therapy that focuses on assessing, diagnosing, and treating specific muscular, fascia, nerve, joint, and other soft tissue injuries. Using techniques such as deep tissue massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, It is commonly used by athletes, office workers, and yoga instructors to address specific issues. Remedial massage is not generally considered relaxing as the techniques used usually focus on painful areas of the body however some people may find the only way they can relax is with strong pressure to the soft tissues.

Relaxation massage, commonly just called massage, is aimed at promoting overall well-being and relaxation. It is a holistic approach that treats both the body and mind, helping individuals unwind and rejuvenate.

In this article, we'll delve into the differences between these two therapies. We'll explore their unique benefits and applications, helping you choose the right treatment for your needs.

Understanding Massage: The Basics

Massage therapy is a time-honored practice, with roots in various cultures worldwide. It's a holistic approach that focuses on the body and mind, aiming to promote relaxation and well-being. Basically humans have been rubbing each other since the beginning of time.

The techniques used in general massage are versatile. They can range from gentle strokes to kneading, depending on the individual's needs and preferences. The goal is to relieve tension, increase blood flow, increase lymph flow (immune system), manage stress and enhance overall mental health.

Countries that are big on massage include China, India, Japan, Thailand and many European countries. We can't forget Swedish massage from Sweden right?

Chinese massage: this is based in the ancient philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine that is trying to restore balance in the energy systems of the body. Massage is a key component to a Traditional Chinese medicine treatment. The treatment may not just be for something muscular though, it may be to boost the immune system or increase energy.

Thai Massage: Thai massage is a traditional healing technique that originated in Thailand. It involves a combination of acupressure, energy work, and assisted yoga postures. Thai massage aims to balance the body's energy flow, release tension, and improve flexibility. It is often performed on a mat on the floor, and the recipient remains fully clothed during the session.

Japanese Massage / Shiatsu: Japanese massage, also known as Shiatsu, is a traditional hands-on therapy originating from Japan. Shiatsu means "finger pressure" in Japanese. This massage technique involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to promote energy flow and balance. Shiatsu aims to improve overall health and well-being by stimulating the body's natural healing abilities. It is often performed on a mat on the floor or a futon and the recipient remains fully clothed during the session. The practitioner uses their whole body to apply pressure including their feet, knees, elbows and forearms as well as hands and fingers obviously.

Swedish Massage: Swedish massage is a popular type of massage therapy that involves long, flowing strokes, kneading, and circular movements on the superficial layers of muscles. It aims to promote relaxation, improve circulation, and relieve muscle tension. Swedish massage is known for its gentle and soothing techniques, making it a common choice for those seeking general relaxation and stress relief.

There are many more countries that use massage traditionally but unfortunately we can’t name all of them due to the limited size of this blog. Sorry if we left you out...

Remedial massage takes a targeted approach. It's designed to diagnose and treat specific muscular issues, from sports injuries to postural problems. This therapy is often used by athletes and individuals with chronic pain.

The treatment plan in remedial massage is personalised. It's based on a thorough assessment of the individual's condition, ensuring the therapy addresses the root cause of the problem.

As the treatment will be targeted it won’t be like a full body massage people who have only had relaxing massages will be used to. So if the issue is the shoulder it is likely most of the work will be carried out on the shoulder or close by to it. Some myofascial techniques will have the practitioner working in areas further away but still connected.

Key Techniques in Remedial Massage

In remedial massage, various techniques are employed. These are chosen based on the individual's needs and the therapist's expertise.

Some key techniques include:

  • Deep tissue massage: This targets the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues.

  • Trigger point therapy: This focuses on specific points in the muscles that cause pain and can also refer pain to other areas such as neck and shoulder muscles refer pain to the head causing headaches.

  • Myofascial release: This technique aims to relieve tension in the fascia, the connective tissue surrounding muscles using slow and deep stretching techniques to allow the fascia time to stretch.

  • Cross fibre frictions: this technique use repetitive back and forth rubbing of either scar tissue or adhesions to irritate the area and encourage the body to send more nutrients to the area to help with healing.

A few extras you may get from a remedial massage:

  • Dry Needling: this uses acupuncture needles to release trigger points in muscles as well as getting more blood flow into damaged soft tissues.

  • Cupping: uses vacuum plastic cups or Glass fire cups that are placed on the skin and the vacuum that is created “sucks” the skin and other tissues up into the cup creating a strong stretch on the tissues. This also helps with increasing blood flow, stretching the myofascia and stimulating the body’s own healing process.

  • Kinesiotaping / Sports taping: Kinesiotaping is a flexible tape that applies a specific stretch to the skin which therefore can influence our nervous system to either relax muscles or to contract or tighten muscles. Like sports or rigid taping it can be used to stabilise a joint or a soft tissue after a tear or rupture. Rigid tape is just that… Rigid and doesn’t allow the movement that kinesiotaping does.

What is remedial massage good for?

  • Muscle Pain

  • Muscle tightness or stiffness

  • Sore muscles

  • Postural issues

  • Headaches / migraines

  • Jaw pain

  • Muscle tears

  • Joint pain

  • Flexibility / mobility issues

  • Injury management or prevention

  • Repetitive strain injury

  • Sports injuries

  • Postural issues

  • Chronic pain

  • Stress-related conditions

Relaxation Massage: For Relaxation and Well-being

General Relaxation massage, on the other hand, is all about relaxation. It's designed to promote overall well-being and stress relief. This type of massage is ideal for those looking to unwind and rejuvenate.

It's also a great option for office workers. Long hours of sitting and poor posture can lead to chronic back and neck pain. A general massage can help alleviate these issues, providing much-needed relief.

Benefits of Relaxation Massage

General massage offers a host of benefits. It's not just about relaxation, but also about improving your overall health.

Here are some key benefits:

  • Stress relief: Massage can help reduce stress levels, promoting mental well-being.

  • Improved circulation: It can enhance blood flow, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

  • Better sleep: Regular massage can improve sleep quality, which is crucial for overall health.

  • Improved immune function: helps to move the lymphatic fluid around the body which helps the immune system to not be sluggish.

  • Can help prevent sports injuries or office based / stationary injuries: Regular relaxation massage can also help to prevent soft tissue injuries by releasing tight muscles, speeding up the healing of micro injuries and also helping with the inflammatory process.

What is the education and training difference?

This is the biggest factor here between Remedial and relaxation massage. To be a remedial massage therapist you have to have completed a diploma of remedial massage. This can take around 1.5-2 years full time to complete depending on where it is undertaken. This course is focussed in musculoskeletal injuries, anatomy and physiology, massage techniques, orthopaedic assessment, treatment planning, stretching and exercise advise, red flags/differential diagnosis, how to run a business and more. To qualify you have to also do around 200 hours of student clinic where you assess and treat paying clients who come for discounted treatment with you.

When someone just says they are a massage therapist and not remedial specifically they are likely formally unqualified. Don’t get me wrong. They may still give a great massage and likely better than a lot of remedial practitioners but their knowledge of injuries, anatomy and physiology, assessment etc.

With the diploma you can also claim health funds so clients can claim some of the treatment back. To do this you must be diploma qualified and part of a recognised association. To be a member of an association you must under take a certain amount continuing education per year 20hours as well as having up to date first aid and CPR.

Having said that Remedial massage will likely be more expensive too. But you get what you pay for. You may get lucky at the Thai massage place but if you see someone who is experienced, passionate and has put a lot of time and money into becoming the best practitioner they can then youve found the right one.

Choosing Between Remedial and Relaxation Massage

Choosing between remedial and general massage depends on your specific needs. Both have their unique benefits and applications. It's all about understanding what your body needs and what your goals are.

For instance, if you're dealing with a specific muscular issue or injury say you pulled you calf muscle for example, remedial massage is the way to go. On the other hand, if you're simply looking to relax and de-stress after a busy week, a relaxation massage could be just what you need. Obviously giving the runner the relaxing all over body massage when he really needed work done on his injured calf. And if the person who went for the relaxing massage went to the remedial massage clinic and was giving deep tissue massage and dry needling for an hour they would likely be shell shocked and in a lot of pain after wards.

Again it comes down to personal preference as well. Some people prefer remedial massage for just a general loosen up. Where as others love a gentle massage for injuries.

Conclusion: Your Path to Better Health

Whether it's remedial or general massage, the right choice can lead you on a path to better health and well-being.

Note that if you have a serious injury to always go to your GP first to have it assessed to see it isn’t a more serious injury. If its is muscle strain or injury the remedial massage will be one of the best things you can do for it as well as strengthening work and preventative strategies.

At Muscle Therapy Australia we use Remedial Massage techniques as some of our primary techniques. As Muscle Therapists (remedial massage with Dry Needling and Cupping) and Myotherapists ( a higher level of training) we also use more assessment tools and specific techniques to help fix injuries quickly. We also use rehab exercise strategies to help our clients prevent the injury coming back).

All of our practitioners use Remedial Massage including our Myotherapists.



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