The Difference Between Therapeutic and Relaxation Massage

Therapeutic-MassageI’m often asked by patients to give them a “relaxation” massage. When I review their health history form, I see that among their complaints are tension/stress, muscle pain, joint pain, and headaches just to name a few.

I then ask them if they want me to relieve some of their tension or perhaps work out some of the “knots” in their back that are giving them pain? Their answer is always a resounding and emphatic “Yes!”.

I then ask them if they want me to use a little pressure to relieve those issues also. The response is usually something like this one, “Yes, I want some pressure but I don’t want you to ‘dig in’ because I’ve had a deep tissue before and I didn’t like it.” Or, “The last massage I had didn’t really do anything to help my pain.” I must then inform them that what they are asking for is a Therapeutic massage NOT a relaxation massage.

I explain to them that a relaxation massage, or Swedish massage which it is also known as, uses very light pressure and would be comparable to them applying suntan lotion to themselves.

What they also aren’t aware of is that in the state of Ohio, anybody (Yes, you read that right) Anybody can give a relaxation massage without any training of the anatomy and physiology of the human body nor do they need to learn proper massage techniques.

There are some places which require only 8 hours of training to do relaxation massage such as hair salons and spas which are authorized by the cosmetology board. In order to do a therapeutic massage, (in a nutshell) one must attend an accredited massage school for at least a minimum of 1 year and a minimum of 600 hours of practical and theoretical instruction.

They must also practice giving massages to licensed massage therapists. Then they must take a state medical board exam and pass a written anatomy and physiology exam, along with a massage theory and massage practical exam. They can then use the letters “LMT” (licensed massage therapist) after their name.

How do you know if the person giving you that massage is licensed or not? Ask them! No one can give you a Therapeutic massage UNLESS they are licensed by the Ohio State Medical Board in Massage Therapy. And of course, no two massage therapists are alike. You may need to try a few different therapists to find the one who best suits your needs or as I like to say, who “rubs you the right way!”

A professional therapist always listens to your needs, as well as communicates with you during the massage if required. Don’t be afraid to speak up either during your massage. We aren’t mind readers and we like to know if we are causing you undo pain. We are here to help you heal yourself!

Marie Pietras, LMT
December 2015