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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stacey M. Davis, D.C.

Medical Massage vs. Other Massage

Updated: Jan 2

When deciding what type of massage is right for you, it can be a bit confusing. Depending on what outcome you want from your massage, there are many things to take into consideration. You need to consider that there are different types of people when it comes to massage therapy. We have the deep tissue massage lovers. The deeper the pressure the better. When the massage therapist asks, “How’s the pressure?” Their answer will always be, “I can take a little more.” A perfect example is the desk jockey that works at a computer in a hunched over position all day or any other reason they have seemingly permanent knots. Then, we have the Swedish massage lovers. They’re only here to relax. They want to melt into the table for 60 – 90 minutes and forget the world outside exists. They want it calm, quiet, and dark in the massage room.

What is Medical Massage Therapy?

Medical Massage is a science based, result driven approach to the clinical application of massage therapy. While regular massage therapy has preventative aspects, medical massage is used for the patient who has developed issues such as: carpal tunnel and/or thoracic outlet syndromes, neck pain from overuse and injury, tension and cluster headaches, postural compensations, strains and sprains from motor vehicle accidents or sports injuries.

Whether you’re a fan of deep tissue, relaxation massage, or somewhere in between, you may benefit from medical massage. Medical massage is a result driven massage therapy that focuses on a specific area of the body that has been diagnosed or prescribed as needing treatment by a physician. Unlike other types of massage, medical massage should only be administered after a thorough assessment by your medical massage therapist.

How is Medical Massage Therapy Different from Other Types of Massage Therapy?

To fully understand how medical massage differs from other types of massage, let’s quickly run through some of the most popular types of massage and their respective treatment descriptions.

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Swedish Massage

You’re probably most familiar with this one. It’s the most relaxing type of massage and the one that you see in the movies or on TV anytime someone says, “spa day”. This is a therapy that uses light-to-firm pressure and typically incorporates five techniques including: gliding, kneading, rubbing, tapping and vibration. rubbing, tapping and vibration.

Sports Massage

As you may have guessed, sports massage is ideally used for athletes. It focuses on range of motion and flexibility protocols, as well as strength training principles with the goal of improving athletic performance. Different techniques can be used in sports massage such as: Swedish massage, stroking, kneading, compression, friction, vibration, gliding, stretching, percussion, and trigger points.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu translates to “finger pressure” in Japanese. However, a Shiatsu massage therapist may use other pointy parts of their body to apply the same type of pressure, such as their knuckles, elbows, feet, or knees. The traditional practice of Shiatsu massage is believed to balance one’s Qi (pronounced “chee”). In western medicine, the practice is more commonly referred to as acupressure and works to reduce muscle tension and fatigue, while improving blood circulation in the body as well as improving function of the lymphatic system.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage is a non-specific description of an approach toward massage that is based on the patient's perception of "deep" pressure. This type of massage is exactly as its name suggests, slow, firm, and deliberate strokes delivered by the massage therapist. The pressure is applied on muscles, tendons, and tissue with the goal of relieving chronic pain or muscle injuries. The therapist’s approach may use substantial force upon the patient's body therefore may leave a feeling of soreness afterwards. Sometimes soreness lasts several hours to days before the muscles feel looser and more relaxed. Deep tissue may not be the type of massage for you if you’re looking for a relaxing spa day. However, if you’re looking to work out some muscle tension and enjoy firm pressure on your body, this may be a good choice.

Other Types of Massage Therapy

There are many other types of massage therapy (press link to learn more about different types of massage therapy) that one may choose depending on their specific needs. From pregnancy massage therapy (which we offer at ICAMM!) to chair massage, there’s not a single type of massage therapy that isn't beneficial to the appropriate recipient when applied by a well-trained licensed therapist.

Now that we have a solid foundation of some types of massage therapy and their different benefits and uses, let’s talk about the star of the show.... Medical Massage.

Although medical massage may use some of the same techniques as other types of massage, the main difference between medical massage and other massage types is that medical massage has a focused approach to specifically address a physician-diagnosed issue. It follows scientifically designed steps to provide faster, more sustainable results.

Depending on the needs of the patient, a medical massage may also vary in length. Typically, massages are scheduled in blocks of 60 or 90 minutes. However, at times, a shorter time of 15-30 minutes would be sufficient. Your therapist may utilize different techniques including : Neuromuscular therapy (trigger point therapy), myofascial release, stretching, kneading, percussion, and acupressure to name few.

Benefits of Medical Massage

The physical benefits of medical massage are many. When prescribed correctly and administered by an experienced massage therapist, medical massage has been found to have a profound and lasting result.

Medical massage can increase range of motion and flexibility. It can improve one’s posture and coordination. It can also help with chronic pain or injuries by decreasing inflammation, releasing tight muscles, and relieving nerve compression.

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Medical massage may also aide in digestion, improve circulation, and calm the nervous system. An additional benefit is its the ability to relieve stress both physically and mentally. Physi0logically speaking, massage encourages the release of endorphin, serotonin and dopamine hormones. Mentally, those feel good hormones, combined with physical pain relief, makes choosing medical massage for stress and pain relief an easy choice.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Medical Massage?

Now that medical massage is more often a reimbursable service through insurance and more hospitals, medical clinics, and physicians are prescribing it as a treatment, more people are able to access and benefit from this modality. Medical massage can be great for those suffering from chronic conditions such as: fibromyalgia, neuropathy, cancer, or high blood pressure. It’s also a viable option for sports injuries, pre/post-surgery, or car accident victims. Dr. Davis works with each of these types of patients.

Medical massage can be beneficial for different types of patients and for numerous kinds of conditions. If you think you may benefit from medical massage and have questions of whether or not it's a fit for you and your health goals, reach out to Dr. Davis for a 15 min complimentary consultation today!

Dr. Stacey Davis medical massage therapist Scottsdale
Dr. Stacey M. Davis, DC - Medical Massage Therapist

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