The popularity of Massage Therapy has shot up in recent years as researchers have revealed new evidence demonstrating the healing powers of human touch.  Canadian stress levels are higher than ever, and so a trip to the massage parlor is a welcome relief, as an almost universal truth.
For some people, massage therapy is an occasional luxury they get treated to, typically at the day-spa around a holiday, for their birthday or while on vacation. Other types of clients may receive a therapeutic massage weekly for chronic health conditions such as back spasms or migraines. Massage is even used in palliative care for relief from cancer treatment side-effects.
Among the many different styles of massage spanning the globe, there emerge two main categories that can be found almost everywhere: Relaxation massage and Therapeutic massage.  Each carry their own benefits and each can be effective, though they serve very different purposes.

So what are the differences?

A massage can be a very relaxing treat but some therapists work very clinically by offering therapeutic massage for diagnosed complaints and injuries.  So while relaxation massages act to pamper the body, a therapeutic massage is aimed at relieving chronic disorders and muscular pains.


A relaxation massage is a rather simple endeavour using classic Swedish techniques. The RMT will use light to moderate pressure, depending on the client’s instruction, and the goal of the session will be to achieve a sense of relaxation.  Relaxation massages help the skin glow and the body rejuvenate.  This type of massage is usually performed in a day-spa or resort. Spa complementary treatments include airbrush tanning, exfoliation, sea-salt body scrubs, or herbal, chocolate, seaweed, cream or mud applications to the whole body. Relaxation massage might be scheduled as part of a half-day package and the client might also plan to receive pampering treatments such as a facial, manicure, pedicure or hairstyling during the same visit.
One can look forward to melting away during a very enjoyable and meditative experience, but the benefits are not intended to be long-term or healing.   In other words, the professionals performing this type of massage are either not trained or simply not expected to address more profound medical concerns or objectives.


Administered by Registered Massage Therapists (RMTs), this type of service is most often seen in a clinic, hospital, or specialized practitioner’s residence. These environments are completely different from a salon.
This type of application may maintain a significant relaxation component to it, but more advanced techniques should be used to relieve pain and recurring health issues.  A therapeutic or clinical massage practitioner will create a schedule to see their client more frequently over the first few weeks or months. This could include 30 minute massages up to three times a week, or weekly hour-long massages for at least a couple of months.  Advanced techniques such as deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy are often used in this type of more clinical setting.
To pursue sustainable long term benefits, therapeutic massage is the way to go.  This is evidenced by the prescription of this type of treatment by doctors and other health practitioners.  It is often administered as part of a rehabilitation program (to relieve chronic or injury-induced pain), or after rigorous physical activity.  These are the kinds of issues which may also necessitate the care of a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist, who typically combine their methods with those of the RMT.
Among the conditions and ailments that therapeutic massage is employed for, we find:

  • Sports-related injuries
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tendonitis
  • Back Pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis & Osteoarthritis
  • Respiratory problems
  • Lymphedema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pregnancy-related discomforts
  • Migraines & Headaches

Less well-known than these would be people suffering from postural challenges, weight issues, dental conditions, some forms of Cancer, Down’s Syndrome, and even Autism.  Patients battling chronic depression also benefit from such treatments.  Neuromuscular therapy, trigger therapy and myofascial release are some of the techniques used in such massages.

The Role of RMT and what to expect

There is an initial “getting to know you” period the first time one visits an RMT, with several forms to fill out specifying one’s medical history and details of ailments they wish to treat.  Sessions are conducted in private, and the Therapist will also set up a schedule for future appointments, to effectively treat the problems identified.  There may even be a regimen of exercises one continues at home.
Communication between Client and Therapist is therefore very important to ensure best results. Where and how intense the discomfort is, and how much pressure to apply, for one.  Questions and answers should be exchanged before, during, and after treatment.

Choosing a Massage Therapist

Picking a professional based on health needs is a smart idea. New clients to a therapeutic massage should interview several massage therapists over the phone prior to making an appointment.  Make sure that this individual has solid experience and has followed a certified training course. Also ask your practitioner about the number of cases s/he has handled with a particular condition or ailment.

How to choose between massages?

Have an objective in mind. Is the purpose to relax and look good, or is the need for a massage that offers long-term medical benefits?  Another topic to discuss with the RMT in advance.  They should be able to guide you among the many different styles of massage. The most popular is Swedish massage, which is a whole-body therapeutic approach designed to relax the muscles and joints. Other common types include reflexology, Thai, shiatsu, deep tissue, and hot stone massage. You may want to choose a specialty, like sports or pregnancy massage, if that suits your needs.  Once those decisions are made, then the comfort of choosing the right place and practitioner should be much more clear.

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