What makes a Massage Remedial rather than just Relaxation?

 What makes a Massage Remedial rather than just Relaxation?

What makes a Massage Remedial rather than just Relaxation?

This is a question that everyone wants an answer to … maybe because a massage needs to be ‘Remedial’ before you can claim for it on your Private Health Insurance, but hopefully because the community want to understand our industry and recognise us as a respected sector of the Professional Health Care Industry. The question remains though – where do you start to define ‘Remedial’?

A dictionary will likely describe ‘Remedial’ as “giving or intended as a remedy or cure” … Some of us in the older generations might also reflect on the old ‘Remedial Classes’ at school, for children with learning difficulties … but at the end of the day, it is fair to say that a Remedial Massage is a massage given with the intention of treating a problem or assisting the recovery process.

But aren’t we taught that any form of massage (or Human Touch) can be soothing & comforting, which is the essence of ‘assisting the recovery process’? I remember when I first studied my Diploma of Remedial Massage there was a big focus on the huge benefit in something as simple as the Human Touch … the connection between someone needing care & someone providing care … So, in view of that thought – isn’t a Relaxation Massage also a Remedial Massage?

Once upon a time the world was a simpler place and people had faith in almost anything that helped them be healthier and feel better. In ancient times we called the providers of remedies Druids – some tribal communities called them Witch Doctors or Shaman, but whatever they were called we believed them enough to follow their direction and take their remedies … Then the world discovered science – Medicine was established as the Science of Health, and suddenly everything needed to be justified by identifiable evidence … It’s the application of that thought to the massage industry where we find the answer that we all want to know – What is the difference between Remedial and Relaxation massage.


Are we all following? …

I’ll say it again a different way for absolute clarity … So many people think that for a massage to be Remedial certain specific techniques need to be used, but that is NOT the case. If you want to break massage down to the absolute basics, there are only 5 techniques – Effleurage, Petrissage, Tapotement, Friction & Vibration – and all massage is based on them … Relaxation & Remedial alike. The thing that makes a massage Remedial is the intention behind the techniques, and the assessment protocol used to measure the effectiveness of the massage.


What is an Assessment Protocol?

When you study a Diploma of Remedial Massage Therapy, you are taught to assess your client before and after every treatment so that you can gauge the benefit of your treatment for their complaint. An assessment protocol can include, but is not limited to:

  • Orthopaedic tests (these are very similar to what a physiotherapist might do);
  • Observation of how your body moves;
  • Discussion (Q&A) about your presenting condition, injury, or pain presentation;
  • Palpation of how your muscles feel (tight, toned, relaxed, etc.).


Please always remember these 3 things:

  1. People are people, and everyone is unique and different to the next … this applies whether we are talking about Clients or Therapists.
  2. People will adopt processes that are comfortable to them individually, based on their training and experience – that is human nature.
  3. Different assessment protocols will identify different aspects of an injury or condition – Some protocols are more appropriate than others, depending on how a client presents and what they complain of at that time.

The important thing when it comes to giving or receiving a Remedial Massage is that some form of Assessment Protocol needs to be applied – both before and after the massage, so that the effectiveness of the treatment can be identified and recorded. Some therapists will want to use Orthopaedic & Range of Motion (ROM) tests to identify specific structures for treatment … Others will assess your condition by observing how you move, asking how you feel, and then feeling the texture of your muscles … Neither approach to assessment is necessarily better than the other, provided an assessment is completed.


What about the ‘Intention’ behind the techniques?

‘Intention’ refers to why your therapist chooses to use specific techniques and/or depth of pressure. Different techniques achieve different changes in muscle tissue, and different depths of pressure affect different layers of muscle tissue. Selecting how to work a muscle or body region reflects the intention of resolving a problem appropriately and satisfactorily. A Remedial Massage could include a variety of techniques including Deep Tissue, Trigger Point Release, Myofascial Release, Remedial Cupping and Assisted Stretching, but how and when your therapist applies them is driven by their intention – which should be to resolve your complaint as effectively and painlessly as possible.


Do you need to be in pain or injured to need a Remedial Massage?

The short answer to this is a resounding NO! As we have already identified – people are people, and people are individual. We all react differently to the stresses of life … you don’t need to be formally injured to feel pain … you don’t even need to be in pain to feel your mobility is restricted.

Coming in for regular Remedial Massage without formal injury is call ‘Maintenance’ … The intention behind Maintenance Remedial Massage is to keep your body functioning comfortably, so you can ‘be & do’ all that you need to live … the assessment protocol in this scenario would be focused on identifying techniques that resolve general muscular tensions and mental stresses … and there we tick the ‘Remedial’ boxes – Treatment with clear intention, supported by an assessment protocol 😊