The Difference Between Spa and Clinical Massage
Massage Therapy is growing and changing in exciting directions. As a result, the profession is splitting into two very distinct industries: Spa and Clinical Massage. Although all therapists are trained and capable of performing a variety of modalities, in this case, it is the focus of the session that is the ultimate difference.
In Spa Massage, attention to details such as candles and music, warm towels and aromatherapy along with the ultimate relaxation of the client is the focus. Sessions are charged by the number of minutes the therapist’s hands are on the body and tips are expected. Sessions tend to be standardized especially at a spa or massage chain. The modalities most often used are Swedish and deep tissue.
When it comes to Clinical Massage, the focus is on the functional outcomes with measurable results. Client satisfaction is not assessed until a limited number of sessions are completed. Rooms are more clinical, sessions are shorter and the number of minutes spent with hands on the body isn’t the focus. Prices are usually set by third party payers (insurance companies) in 15-20 minute increments and tips are rarely involved. Typical goals include reducing pain, increasing range of motion, improving posture, and reducing edema (fluid retention). The whole body is not the focus, but rather a treatment plan is developed to target specific issues for the client. Modalities used for clinical massage may include trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage and myofascial release along with knowledge of assessment and other medical massage practices.
Research provided by the American Massage Therapy Association shows that 52% of people who received massage therapy in the last 12 months did so for medical reasons. Thirty-three percent saw their therapist for relaxation and stress reduction. *
Massage is a growing field with opportunities for therapists in both spa and clinical settings. No matter what path you choose, you can go to school to learn the techniques that improve the quality of life for people.
*Section titled: Industry Fact Sheet, Released February 2016 by the AMTA https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html
Contributed by Nancy Tegan, MAEd, LMT, NCBTMB
Program Chair, Massage Therapy, East West College of Natural Medicine