Massage vs. Bodywork...What's The Difference? - The Pain Relief Center - Hawaii
We are inclusive.

It’s really common for new bodywork clients coming into The Pain Relief Center to tell us “Nobody’s ever worker on me like that,” or “I’ve never had a massage like that.”

We generally just smile (we’ve heard it before) and inform them that what we do isn’t really massage, it’s bodywork; there’s a difference.

When we come out of massage school, massage therapists are all practicing massage. It takes time, experience, and maturity to become a real Bodyworker. Let me be clear that this in no way takes away from any professional who practices massage. In fact, massage is an integral part of bodywork. It’s just that Bodywork has different goals and uses a more extensive variety of techniques and modalities to achieve them.

Take A Look

Both massage therapists and Bodyworkers will observe how you stand and walk whenever you go in for a session. The difference is that Bodyworkers have been trained to catch a few more subtleties of a client’s posture, for example if there’s a difference in the alignment of the hips as compared to the shoulders.

Bodyworkers also tend to explore slight glitches in how you walk, or how movement in one part of your body affects other parts of your body.

The Puzzle

One of the things Bodyworkers are keen on is using their vast knowledge and experience of how the body moves, and how all the pieces are connected, in order to try and figure out the puzzle of what’s causing a client’s problem.

For example, noticing an issue in the ankles or leg lengths may trigger an idea as to why your back hurts.

Hold The Lotion, Please

Many Bodyworkers actually do very little massage…or at least the kind of work most people might think of as massage. Sometimes I’ll go through an entire session without using any lotion, except perhaps at the end when I want to finish off with some nicey-nicey movements.

Instead, they focus on using a cornucopia of techniques, most of which do not require any lotion. For example, trying to release trigger points on slippery skin is almost impossible, especially since a bit of grip is required to stretch the tissue.

There are also techniques like gua sha and cupping, which come from a Traditional Chinese Medicine background. Ha breathing, acupressure, reflexology, Reiki and Ho’omanaloa (both forms of energy work) also play important roles in the way we at The Pain Relief Center help our clients manage and resolve myofascial pain* issues.

Frequency Matters

Unlike getting a massage now and then, bodywork requires a commitment – because regardless of how the problem started, it always takes longer to resolve. For example, you’re sitting in your car at a stoplight and get rear-ended…that happened in a split second. However, resolving the ensuing whiplash can take 5, 10, 20 sessions. Why? Because, in this case, your body is doing what it’s designed to do – protect the spinal cord, and it takes time to turn off those triggers.

Any pain issue is going to involve a certain degree of muscle/tissue re-education. It’s often a three steps forward, one or two steps back process. Part of the problem is that, in most cases, the client isn’t going to stop the activity that’s part of the problem – you aren’t going to quite your job just because sitting at the computer all day is the root cause of your headaches. An athlete doesn’t want to stop doing his/her sport because of the physiological ramifications of training.

The key to feeling more comfortable in your body is consistency. Establishing a regular bodyworking schedule is one of the single most important things you can do to help manage myofascial pain issues.

Why It’s Called Body WORK

One of the most surprising things bodywork newbies find is how much effort they, as the recipient, have to put into the session. Most massage sessions encourage the client to relax completely. Most bodywork sessions require the client to become an active participant in the process through their breath, through their conscious efforts to unclench and release, or through applying a resistance against certain movements the Bodyworker may use.

A caveat to all that is that if you use a Bodyworker that doesn’t recognize – and know how to work within your tolerance levels – then you need to find a different Bodyworker. There’s a big difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain makes you want more; bad pain makes you want to scream and lash out.

Granted, sometimes Bodywork can be more challenging than blissful. But the rewards at the end – when your myofascial pain is managed and/or resolved – is SO worth it!

Our mission at The Pain Relief Center is to show everyone that they don’t have to live with myofascial pain. The key to feeling more comfortable in your body is to be consistent in having your body worked on.

Give us a call at (808) 386-6763 or contact us directly.

*If you want more of an explanation as to what myofascial pain is, checkout Where Does Pain Come From?


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