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Howard Northrup, LMT

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What is the Difference Between Relaxation Massage
 and Deep Tissue/Therapeutic Massage?

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I've been asked what the difference is between Relaxation Massage and Deep Tissue/Therapeutic Massage many times by people who 1) have either never had a massage or 2) have only had a few, but weren't sure exactly what type of massage they had. So I wrote this article to define these two types of massage as much as possible for you and explain the differences.

What exactly is a Relaxation Massage?

Relaxation Massage may also be called Swedish Massage or Swedish Relaxation Massage. This is the type of massage that's most popular in movies, TV shows, and printed advertisements. When people think of a massage, they think of the pampering, lighter touch massage that's given at spas, health clubs, resorts, and on cruise ships and Relaxation Massage fits perfectly into those settings. It's commonly the type of massage that someone will have as their first massage.

Relaxation Massage is beneficial for relieving everyday stress, loosening any general tension in the muscles, and giving an overall feeling of well-being. To be considered relaxing, this type of massage is not intended to work on many conditions that people have, such as chronic neck pain, back pain, wrist pain from keyboard overuse, old injuries from sports or automobile accidents, limited range of motion in the neck, arms, or legs, etc. These conditions are typically caused by tension that is buried deep within the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia). 

Depending upon the condition that you have, a Relaxation Massage may not give you the long-term relief that you're looking for. If the tension that's causing the problem is deeper into your tissue or it requires therapeutic techniques and a more firm pressure to release that tension, you would most likely need a Deep Tissue/Therapeutic Massage.

What exactly is a Deep Tissue/Therapeutic Massage?

Deep Tissue Massage is also known as Therapeutic Massage. This type of massage uses special techniques that are not used in a Relaxation Massage session. In order to release the tightness in the soft tissue, the massage therapist needs to work deeper into the tissue and will use whichever therapeutic technique is most effective for the condition. In working deeper into the tissues, it requires a more firm pressure and an expected level of discomfort.

Throughout a Therapeutic Massage session, the massage therapist must "check in" with the patient on the amount of pressure being used so that only as much pressure as is needed in each area is used. Therapeutic Massage does not need to cause intolerable or excruciating pain to get results.

If you do experience soreness after a Therapeutic Massage, there is a natural homeopathic gel by Hyland that you can rub onto the sore area to get impressive relief. It has ingredients such as arnica for soreness and hypericum for nerve pain:

Click here to read reviews and purchase a tube of Hyland's Muscle Therapy Gel for yourself.

For more information on some of the conditions that may be improved with Therapeutic Massage, go to Benefits of Therapeutic Massage.

What else should I know about the differences?

Which massage is best for my first massage?

If you've never had a massage (or have only had one in a massage chair), it's best to get a Relaxation Massage first. During your first massage, you'll find out what type of pressure you like and which areas of the body you like worked more and which areas you'll like worked less. Also, many people find that their first massage "stirred up" waste products or toxins that were trapped in their tissue, so it's best to not go too deep into the tissue during the first massage or it may possibly bring on unnecessary soreness or even nausea over the next day or two.

How often can I get massage?

It is perfectly fine to get a Relaxation Massage every day, if you can. In fact, when Bob Hope's daughter was asked what helped him live to the age of 100, she said that her father always credited his daily massage as part of that! Unfortunately, a daily massage is not affordable for most of us, so we have to find a plan that fits both our budget and our schedule. Most people find that a once-a-month Relaxation Massage is ideal to keep stress and tension under control and at the same time, fit into just about any budget.

As for Therapeutic Massage, it is
not a good idea to get this type of massage every day. Since it involves working deeper into the soft tissue, that tissue will need a day or two of rest and recovery. A typical Therapeutic Massage schedule is for two to three sessions a week for a week or more to get the most progress and the best results.

Can I massage my own tight muscles?

Some people like to work on their own tight muscles at home the same way that a Therapeutic Massage does. But they've told me that they just can't press deep enough into their muscles to get the same results. So if you're someone who prefers to treat your own tight muscles, there is an excellent tool that you can purchase called the Backnobber:

 Click here to read reviews on the Backnobber and purchase one.

Is there such thing as a combination of Relaxation Massage and Therapeutic Massage?

Many people can't imagine a full sixty-minute session of deeper, therapeutic techniques, since there is an expected level of discomfort involved. In this case, it's best to set a limit on the amount of time that you want deeper, therapeutic work done, then have the remainder of the session done with a more relaxing pressure. 

n reality, a Therapeutic Massage is not always a full session of deeper, therapeutic techniques. Typically, it will start with a more relaxing pressure to warm up the tissues, then get gradually deeper with therapeutic techniques, then end with relaxing pressure to "flush" the tissue. This type of session is still considered a Therapeutic Massage, so it will typically be priced at a higher rate than a full session of Relaxation Massage.







Howard Northrup, LMT
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