Therapeutic vs Regular Massage. What are the differences?

We often hear about therapeutic massage and wonder what it really is? Is it different from the regular massage?

Does it have any exclusive benefits? When do you use it?

Find answers to all these questions and much more as you read on.

Brief introduction of therapeutic massage

We have a fair idea about what is massage. It is physical rubbing, kneading of the body by hand to de-stress and relax it.

The physical act of manipulation and mobilization of tissues, muscles, and body fluids to achieve regular systemic and functional use of the body and its parts is ‘therapeutic massage.’

In simple words, therapeutic massage helps resolve musculoskeletal pains and disorders. The sole objective of therapeutic massage is to solve a physical ailment or disorder.

For that matter, it could be a massage done to increase the range of motion in case of frozen shoulder. Or massage of knees to reduce the arthritis pain. Or try to increase the strength of an arm, which was in plaster for a long time.

Therapeutic massage is done with a particular health goal in mind. And most of the time, it deals with increasing the range of motion, flexibility, or induce strength to some body parts.

The healing ability of the therapeutic massage is based on the philosophy ‘Vis Medicatrix Naturae’- The body knows how to heal itself, therapeutic massage just aids and cues this natural healing process.

What are the significant differences between the therapeutic and the regular massage?

The word massage conjures up the image of a well-decorated spa, with incense fragrance, lamps, flowers, and relaxing music. This ambiance is real for the regular massage, very popularly known as the Swedish massage. Ironically the Swedish massage has nothing to do with Sweden. The whole idea and execution are glamorous.

Therapeutic massage is administered by an LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), generally in his/her massage Centre, which looks more like a clinic rather than a spa. Glamour is amiss. It is done very seriously, like physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is more about exercises done by the patient, whereas in therapeutic massage, the patient is passive, and the therapist executes the massage.

The difference between the regular massage and therapeutic massage is easy to understand based on the following parameters.

The goal or the intent

  • The only purpose of regular massage is general body relaxation and de-stressing. Anyone on any day he pleases can go in for a regular massage. It is a full body massage at one go.
  • But in the case of therapeutic massage, a particular objective is in focus. The focus is on a specific part of the body. And the intent is to resolve an issue. One goes for therapeutic massage only if there is an issue at hand.

The process

  • Regular massage adopts a standard procedure for all and any of the customers. One may be able to choose some specific packages, and that is the only choice.
  • In the case of therapeutic massage, every massage is precise and customized according to the individual and his requirement. Even for the same ailment, let us say arthritis, the massage will be different for two individuals.


  • For regular massage, absolutely no details are required about the client. Frankly speaking, even the name does not matter. Absolute anonymity does not affect the massage in any way.
  • Conversely, to administer therapeutic massage, the therapist has to know all personal details like age, occupation, the problem, the history of the problem, expectation of the client, his medical history, his lifestyle, and such a host of information.


  • Except for greeting and pleasantries, the client need not talk to the masseur. For all it matters, he can go to sleep during the massage.
  • In the case of therapeutic massage, the client has to keep giving feedback about the pressure of the massage, coverage, pain, and so on.


  • The strokes used, in the regular massage,  are light to moderate, gentle, and soothing. Even the kneading motion does not go that deep. They are soft and scintillating.
  • The strokes in the therapeutic massage are heavy. The pressure needs to reach the underlying connective tissue. The massage is so hard that the clients feel sore for a day or two.


  • The strokes are executed in a way to increase blood circulation, hasten toxin release, facilitate lymph movement in the case of regular massage.
  • Whereas in the case of therapeutic massage, the strokes stimulate pressure points, release knots, work on the myofascial layer. The technique itself is therapeutic.


  • In the case of regular massage, the result is feeling light, de-stressed, energetic, and relaxed.
  • If executed well, the result of therapeutic massage is relief from the pain of the disorder.


The therapeutic massage is expensive than the regular or Swedish massage.

Benefits of therapeutic massage

Therapeutic massage delivers lots of specific benefits. Some of them are;

1. It promotes stress management. Particular nerves and pressure points when massaged with skill and expertise, reduce the stress levels considerably.  Continued therapeutic massage can reduce the stress levels permanently. The body registers the new standards and learns to be at ease.

2. It is administered as a part of the post-operative care if permitted by the doctor. Blood circulation and toxin disposal increases. And specific muscles and tissues can be worked upon for flexibility or strength.

3. It is a complementary therapy along with medication to treat psychological disorders and emotional bouts. Therapeutic massages help release endorphins, serotonin, and such other happy hormones.

4. The chronic pain is very well managed by therapeutic massage. It breaks the pain spasm cycle, and the body slowly forgets the pain and gets well.

5. Used as an excellent pre-sport massage, it loosens up the muscles and tissue, and the body is fully relaxed before the play. After the game, the therapeutic massage can take away the fatigue and sore out of the muscles.

Apart from these, therapeutic massage works very well for

  • Migraines
  • Whiplash
  • Lower back pain
  • Tendonitis
  • Radiating pain
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle disorder
  • Repetitive stress

Depending on your requirement, you can go in for a regular massage and feel relaxed or try the therapeutic massage and feel relieved.