Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Therapeutic Massage vs. Spa Massage

Having been a certified massage therapist for almost 20 years, I've learned that the word massage is as nebulous and subjective as the words love or God. Most folks have an immediate personal definition of massage, and the nature of those definitions ranges from medical care to prostitution.

In my opinion, when provided by a sincere practitioner, massage is always therapeutic. One of the many beauties of this profession is that it caters to mind, body and soul. I know that sounds like trendy, bumper sticker marketing, but it's true. I've had clients who hired me strictly to remedy their physical pain yet reported their primary benefit as mental ease. And those who sought massage to reduce emotional stress and were extremely surprised at how much better their bodies felt. Etc. You get the idea.

My primary skill set is deep tissue massage. I have a bit of a "search and destroy" mentality. I seek out the problems and work to eliminate or alleviate them. That's why you pay me the big bucks, right? My client list includes massage therapists, musicians, computer geeks, food servers and bartenders, tattoo artists--all people who use their upper bodies and arms to excess. I also specialize in injury and acute pain remediation, from post-surgical discomfort to road bike crashes to "oops, I slept wrong". I have been honored to massage many pregnant women (and their empathetic partners), and I'm experienced in both foot reflexology and lymphatic/detox massage. 

Okay, so back to the title of this post.

Spa massage is an exceptionally slippery term, as you never quite know what you're going to get:

Desk clerk: Mary will be your masseuse today. Would you like to put that $135 on a credit card now? You can add a tip to your payment or give cash to Mary in person. Here's your lavender-scented towlette.

You: Okay. 

I have had some of my best and worst massages at spas. Again, this is all subjective. Most commonly, spa massage is associated with relaxation and luxury, whereas therapeutic massage elicits "ouch" and "wow". And an occasional <expletive deleted>.

At the end of the day, I recommend trying a variety of bodywork practitioners. You will certainly find someone that makes you feel comfortable and meets your needs. Just as there is an endless array of individual bodies, there is an endless resource of individual body workers. Please go find yours, and be well!