Remedial Massage vs Relaxation Massage


by Stacey Higgins, Remedial Massage Therapist

Remedial massage is defined as “the systematic assessment and treatment of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues of the body to assist in rehabilitation, pain and injury management.” A remedial treatment focuses on a specific area of the body that is producing pain or not performing correctly. The main aims of the treatment are to reduce pain, increase the range of motion and correct postural abnormalities.

Relaxation massage is usually a full body or head, neck and shoulders treatment that uses continual contact and long, flowing strokes which warm the body and help the body and mind to relax. Happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are released which give that post massage glow. Relaxation massage has also been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which in high levels can contribute to sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression.

Remedial massage treatments will begin with a medical history, a discussion of what has brought you in, a few postural, range of motion and specialised tests which will help the therapist to pinpoint which area needs the most work. Then the area is treated using the most appropriate treatment. After the treatment some of the initial tests are redone which will determine if there has been a change in range of motion or pain levels. The level of improvement will help to determine the treatment plan going forward.

In remedial massage there are multiple techniques used including, deep tissue, myofascial tensioning, cupping, trigger point, application of heat and stretching.

  • Deep tissue involves first relaxing the most superficial layers of muscle and sinking in deeper to the belly of the muscle where tension lurks.
  • Myofascial tensioning is the release of fascia which is the connective tissue holding our muscular system in place. When the fascia is tight the muscles cannot move correctly which in turn causes toxins to build up causing pain and restriction.

  • Cupping is one of the oldest treatments in the world and in remedial massage is used to release toxins from the muscles. It is done using either glass, plastic or silicon cups on the skin with the air sucked out with either heat or vacuum, this pulls the skin and muscle up resulting in increased blood flow.

  • Trigger points are small balls of muscle fibre that have gotten stuck together. This can be caused by many things including overuse, dietary deficiencies and incorrect posture. Trigger points can refer pain all around the body. They are treated with direct pressure and release which flushes the area with fresh blood.

  • The application of heat increases blood flow to the area by dilating blood vessels. When the blood is warm and flowing, toxins are removed and muscles function better.

  • Stretching increases blood flow and by lengthening the muscle fibres the body can achieve better posture.


  •  If you are experiencing any pain in a specific area of the body including sharp shooting pain, dull aches or headaches
  • If you spend hours a day with the body in one position, for example hunched over a computer or with legs crossed, this over lengthens or shortens areas of the body which may cause postural abnormalities
  • If stretching causes intense shooting pain or tingling the nerves may be being put under pressure from tight muscles.

While relaxation treatments have many benefits and will help you to feel revitalised and renewed, if your muscles are not working correctly the effects aren’t just on your body but can affect your emotional wellbeing. The longer dysfunction is left unchecked the harder it can be to reverse.

You can find more articles like this in our Autumn 2016 issue e-magazine!
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