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The confusion between regular and remedial massage arises from the fact that often people require a massage treatment that overlaps both specialties. When one is in pain or discomfort, the point of getting in touch with a massage therapist is to feel better. Feeling better can be achieved with both massage modalities. Although both remedial massage and regular massage have the patient’s wellbeing in common, they are very different in what they target. They are executed differently and ask for a different level of qualification. 

Which is which, and how to choose the one for you?

Remedial Massage vs. Regular Massage

Various massage techniques include some form of kneading and applying pressure and movement to the body. It aims to provide relaxation, relieve pain, heal injuries, and target specific body areas to help patients achieve maximum health and wellbeing. Here are the key differences between remedial and regular massage:

  • Massage goal: address particular pain points vs. promote a whole-body wellbeing
  • Technique scope: remedial massage targeted specialties such as effleurage, petrissage, deep strokes, compressions, wringing, picking up and skin rolling, vs. liberty to choose a variety of strokes and movements

It is not impossible for a regular massage therapist to know or use any of the above techniques. But a remedial massage program is goal-oriented. It contains focused and detailed strokes for solving the most painful localised issues as fast as possible. 

What is Remedial Massage?

Remedial massage, sometimes also called massage therapy, targets body ailments related to specific body areas. The examples include ligaments, muscles, tendons, and soft tissue to provide relaxation, remove pain, eliminate muscle tension, and treat injuries. 

Remedial massage is a therapeutic modality, which means that its primary goal is to heal disease (the meaning of “therapeutic” is “healing disease”).

The root of the word “remedial” itself is “medicine” so the first thing that comes to mind is a massage treatment provided by a qualified professional. 

Patients tend to mix remedial massage with deep-tissue massage. That is a common confusion especially for those who visit a massage therapist to treat muscle soreness and sports injuries. However, they are not the same. Deep-tissue massage uses forceful pressure methods to recuperate over-trained muscles, inflamed tendons and joints, and to treat chronically painful connective tissue — the fascia. It is not unusual to feel sleepy and fatigued after a deep-tissue massage.  

What Hides Behind Regular Massage?

Regular massage is the umbrella term for massage modalities that include relaxation and stress relief techniques, muscle tension removal, and methods for improved circulation, energy, and mental alertness. Shiatsu massage and Swedish massage are two massage treatments that belong to the “regular massage” group. 

Unlike remedial massage, which typically follows a stricter schedule, you can choose how often you undergo deep-tissue or regular massage. 

Massage Therapy Qualifications for Remedial and Regular Massage

Remedial therapeutic massage is performed by a qualified remedial therapist. 

A remedial therapist is certified to use advanced massage techniques to heal musculoskeletal and joint disorders that are more serious or have been dormant for some time. If you schedule an appointment for a remedial massage, the physical therapist will usually assess the level of injury or disease, create a specialised program, pick up the best massage techniques, follow progress, and adjust treatment accordingly. 

Remedial Massage Techniques

The additional weeks of training in remedial massage qualify massage therapists to ask questions and reveal what bothers the client in a more specific way. Apart from specialising in the universal massage techniques applicable for a regular massage, remedial massage therapists spend additional hours in training to learn about:

Trigger Point Therapy 

Muscle knots that trigger chronic pain are among the top three reasons clients ask for help from a remedial massage therapist. Trigger points can be located anywhere in the myofascial tissue. You can tell that you have a trigger point if you feel the tension in a certain area. The existence of a harder muscular fibrous tissue that passes through a tender spot in a shortened muscle is a clear indicator. When you apply pressure to the area, the muscle responds by a twitch or a jump. 

Painful knots in muscle tissues can make life hard, especially when left untreated for a long time.

The therapist’s task is to apply pressure to the trigger point and stretch the muscle to release tension and reduce myofascial pain. By stretching and moving the affected area, the myofascial point is softened and knot pain and surrounding pain are eliminated, or at least reduced.

Neuromuscular Techniques 

Neuromuscular techniques are used to treat muscle spasms with steady focused pressure executed with the fingers, knuckles, or elbows. The therapist holds a stable pressure level for at least ten to thirty seconds. 

The benefits of neuromuscular therapy are:

  • Improved strength and flexibility 
  • Ease of movement 
  • Better posture 
  • Tissue detoxification
  • Overall improved neuromuscular and skeletal health

The more practice hours the remedial therapist has, the better their choice of a specific neuromuscular technique will be for a speedy recovery.

Special Orthopaedic Assessment 

Orthopaedic testing is a physical examination tool for identifying musculoskeletal disorders. Your remedial massage therapist will perform a series of assessments to rule out specific orthopaedic conditions and injuries. The therapist will ask you to position your body standing and lying and perform motions with the purpose to determine the cause of the problem. By observing your performance, the therapist will design the best course forward and re-assess the success of the assigned remedial therapy at a later stage. An AROM (active range of motion) test is an example of such an assessment.  

PNF Stretching

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching is a partner-assisted stretching that applies passive and isometric techniques for improving static muscle flexibility. Since the remedial therapist acts as your partner, they will stretch, hold, contract, and relax muscles in a series of movements. Although you can do it by yourself, PNF has better effects on the isometric (motionless) contraction when partnered. This remedial massage technique can improve passive and active range of motion.   

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