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  • Writer's pictureChloe Hart

Spa or clinic...what's the difference?

What’s the Difference Between Spa Massage and Clinical Massage?

There are many kinds of massage. But they can be loosely divided into two big categories – spa massage and clinical massage.

As a massage therapist, I’ve often heard spa massage referred to, by other (clinical) therapists, with a bit of a dismissive tone. They don’t give it the credit it deserves.

I often feel when I tell people that I am a massage therapist, that they automatically picture me in a spa uniform, hair pulled back, soft lights and light massage. When in fact I work from my own holistic clinic, wear sports clothes and practice a variety of massages.

Both spa massage and clinical massage have their benefits. A massage given in soft lighting with plush sheets and towels, music, gentle massage strokes and scented oil still has many therapeutic benefits. It’s relaxing, eases the mind as well as the body, provides the client with a little ‘holiday’ from their daily life and will often promote better sleep, relaxation, muscle tension and ease anxiety.

It may be easier to understand the benefits of a more clinical massage – like sports massage – which uses deeper techniques, more specific movements in a less ‘pampered’ environment.

I think the difference between these two categories really comes down to intent. What is the expected outcome of the massage by the client and how is the therapist choosing to treat whatever pathology or symptoms that the client presents at the time of the appointment.

After all a sports massage could be given with soft lighting and plush towels and a Swedish massage could be given using couch roll and no ‘atmosphere’.

I have often had clients come for a relaxing massage but during the course of the treatment it becomes clear that more pressure and specific techniques are needed to release tension. Or a client books a sports massage but when they come it’s clear they have had a tense week and really just need to relax. With the client’s permission, I’ve adjusted the massage to suit their needs at the time.

The best massage therapists will be able to provide whatever the client needs at the time of the appointment. Little changes to lighting, pressure or technique can easily be made so the client leaves feeling better, relaxed and happy with their treatment.

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