Most people who want a massage are looking for stress or pain relief. Those people who want to “relax” normally visit a spa where they can be pampered and get some stress relief. Other people who have hurt themselves playing a sport or wake up with pain are normally looking for a more clinical massage.
I hear many massage therapists and consumers denigrate spa massage as lesser than clinical massage, and each time it makes me cringe; all professional massage has therapeutic value! However, I also hear an equal number of therapists misrepresent clinical massage. I would like to provide clear and reasonable distinctions to these two types of massage, and hopefully help move both industries forward in a productive way.
Spa massage: Most therapists are aimed at providing a relaxing massage that will satisfy the client and make them feel addressed and cared for. There is usually fancy water, a robe and multiple therapeutic menus available like hot stone and foot massages. They want you to come back for the stress relief and pampering portion of the treatment.
Focus is on promoting proper function, working out and finding out causes of discomfort. Client satisfaction is also a factor but the massages are geared toward healing and not pampering. This massage is aimed at restoring the body back to health and not merely relaxation.
When coming to a doctor’s office for massage, the focus is going to be on care as well as having the patient leave feeling taken care of and having their issue addressed. Remember that it is not a spa and you are paying for the expertise of the therapist along with being able to use your insurance for massage (if covered).