Massage Demystified

Welcome, Curious Minds!

Here’s where I address many of the excellent questions you’ve asked me over the years, both during and outside massage sections. I know if it interests you, it will likely benefit others. Please feel free to submit questions on my contact page, using the “Comments” section.

Massage DeMystified  Q & A

What is the difference between a therapeutic massage and a regular relaxation massage?

All massage is therapeutic in nature because it affects the largest organ in your body—your skin.  All massage will increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, and promote relaxation.  For more specific effects, read “Benefits of Massage.”

The intention and techniques are what make a therapeutic massage different from a relaxation massage.  A therapeutic massage is intended to affect certain areas whereas a relaxation massage generally covers most areas of the body.  Many therapists use specific neural muscular therapy and connective tissue release techniques during a therapeutic massage.  Swedish massage is a common protocol for a relaxation massage.

Communication also differs in each type of massage.  In a therapeutic massage, it is essential for the client to be an active participant and give the therapist feedback on pressure, sensation, and changes.  In many relaxation massages, the client does not have to be active and can feel free to fall asleep.

A massage does not have to be either a therapeutic massage or a relaxation massage.  Your sessions may be a combination of both.  In fact, most of my sessions are a combination.  I find it helpful to have my clients be both active and passive participants—to give feedback and to relax and breathe.  Sometimes it is a challenging balance, but the results are worth it!

Does a therapeutic massage hurt?

It should not hurt!  In fact, some therapeutic modalities such as craniosacral therapy and lymphatic drainage can pleasurable and effective without triggering pain receptors.

Some people subscribe to the “no pain no gain” theory.  Since pain is subjective and based on multiple factors, this theory is not based in reality.  In fact, ignoring pain becomes counterproductive in massage sessions.  If the client and therapist ignore pain signals, the therapist might actually hurt instead of help the client.

While it is true that there may be times in deep tissue massage where the client feels tightness or uncomfortability, she should NOT feel lots of pain.  On a pain scale of 1-10, with 10 being excruciating pain, the client should not feel a sensation above a 6.

It is important that a client communicate her sensations to the therapist, so the therapist can adjust accordingly for a more beneficial and pleasant treatment session.  Just because a session feels good doesn’t mean that it is not therapeutic.

What is craniosacral therapy?

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance.   The craniosacral system is comprised of the cerebrospinal fluid and membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and their connection with every structure in the body.

With a light touch (about the weight of a nickel), the CST practitioner uses her hands to evaluate the craniosacral system by gently feeling a client’s skull, face, spine, and pelvis to test for the ease of motion and rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid pulsing around the brain and spinal cord. Soft-touch techniques are then used to release restrictions and improve the functioning of the central nervous system.  

CST is so subtle that some traditional medical providers question the effectiveness of the technique. The controversy centers around whether the cranial bones move or are immobile.

For more information on craniosacral therapy, see

What is lymphatic drainage?

Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) is a gentle technique that works through the body’s lymphatic system to activate the body fluid circulation and stimulate the functioning of the immune system and relaxation response. The result of these actions can include reductions in edema (swelling), detoxification of the body, and regeneration of tissues.

Therapists work with flat hands, using all the fingers to simulate gentle, specific wave-like movements. These subtle manual maneuvers activate lymph and interstitial fluid circulation.

For more information on lymphatic drainage, see


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