Swedish Massage versus Clinical Bodywork as a Career Choice …

What Are The Differences Between
Massage & Bodywork?

swedish massage versus clinical bodywork

Notice this is primarily a CLINICAL & MEDICAL Massage & Bodywork Therapy School. Yet we DO teach Swedish Massage as foundational to your training.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You’ll notice this and other pages indicate the focus of the North Carolina School of Advanced Bodywork is mostly on what many call bodywork. Many therapists and consumers use the terms massage and bodywork more or less interchangeably. But there is a difference in usage, explained below in this article.

Yet we frequently use the term massage far more often than the term bodywork. That’s because “website success” is in great part dominated by Google Search Engine optimization strategies. The term bodywork hardly shows up in Google Trends Search, so we have to use the word massage as much as possible so Google can understand what our pages are about.

Relaxation, Spa Style Massage

Many, possibly most, massage therapists practice one or more forms of massage that are very relaxing and healthful, yet general in nature. While modalities like Swedish Massage and Asian Bodywork (such as Shiatsu and Acupressure) are very useful and valuable in many settings, there is a significant difference.

Such styles as Swedish massage have been utilized in America for well over a hundred years. It was given a big boost by John Harvey Kellogg. In an article from Massage Today Online Magazine, we read this:

John Harvey Kellogg’s accomplishments are impressive by any measure: Superintendent and surgeon at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, inventor of myriad medical and surgical instruments; the man behind the discovery of the therapeutic value of electric light and the sinusoidal current, founder of the health food industry at Battle Creek and last, but certainly not least, author of the groundbreaking book, “The Art of Massage” written in 1885.

Kellogg, a true “whole (or ‘natural’) health” physician, was far more than a massage therapist. Yet the system of massage Kellogg used in his practice, taught, and wrote about could generally be called the “Swedish” style of massage. Peter Ling of Sweden, a developer of the Swedish system, was acknowledged by Kellogg “for devoting his life to helping patients with research efforts into Swedish massage and gymnastics.” Swedish massage had a great impact on massage in America, but there was more to it than that. Again form the Massage Today article:

Kellogg spent many years researching his techniques, and was able to document the results of his hard work scientifically. He understood the value of massage and touch, defining it as “not simply an ordinary touch or contact of the hand with the body, but a skilled or professional touch. It is a touch applied with intelligence, with control, with a purpose, and simply as it is, capable of producing decided physiological effects.” Because of his investigations into the study and application of massage, he established beyond all question that “massage affords one of the most effective means of influencing the functions of the human body.”

As “modern” or “orthodox” medicine become more popular by the “quick fix” of drugs, surgery & radiation, massage, as well as other manipulative techniques such as osteopathy, naprapathy and chiropractic, fell by the wayside. Massage was even considered by many to be “quack” medicine.

And of course, the association with prostitution and other illicit activities became widespread and common.

In recent decades, however, massage has been making a comeback, but to a great degree, it is best known for the generally relaxing, long, firm stokes with oil, clients with clothing removed (but draped), often in a room with mood lighting and soft, relaxing music.

This is the type of massage work usually available in the Spa Environment, or massage clinics focusing exclusively on massage, where it’s all about general relaxation, de-stressing & tension reduction, pampering, and all that.

Sometimes the environment is quite luxurious and “up-scale” to accommodate wealthier clientele.

This kind of massage can indeed be very therapeutic, especially for generalized conditions of excessive stress and tension. Yet it is generally not very specific or targeted in its application.

Clinical / Medical Bodywork

Deep Therapy on Abdominal muscles - swedish massage versus clinical bodyworkThe word bodywork, though not always defined this way, tends to refer to more therapeutically focused work, targeted toward specific complaints a client might have. Often done without oil or lotion, often with client’s clothing still on, and the environment tending to be more “clinical” than relaxation or spa environment.

In the 1980s, the terms were further confused, however, when one individual coined the term medical massage to refer what may of us were calling clinical bodywork or therapeutic bodywork.

And it is often the case some therapists will mix the many forms together in one session. They will, for one example, “loosen up” the muscles first with more generalized relaxation strokes, then apply more specific pressure to specific muscles for specific treatment. Others do it the other way around.

Your Massage & Bodywork Career Possibilities Are Truly Endless!

Our focus is PRIMARILY on YOU becoming a clinical / medical, soft tissue specialist in managing and resolving significant pain, posture, movement, and dysfunction issues for which many people have not found relief. If we didn’t have to worry about Google Search Engines and search terms, we’d be calling it clinical (or medical) structural bodywork.

And yes, we do feel our approach is indeed “advanced.”

Yet, in addition to our Leading Edge Clinical / Medical Massage Therapy & Bodywork Training, you’ll receive excellent education in the skills of Swedish Massage, the more relaxing type of full body massage with oils and all that. This is all great and useful stuff, especially if you want to work in a spa setting or a franchise massage center.

Full-body Swedish massage might well be the original basis for most massage in modern America. Our highly accomplished Swedish massage instructor will provide you with top-of-the line education in full body, therapeutic, relaxation & spa style massage. You’ll be very skilled in these modalities when you finish your program.

Yet you’ll have even more to offer … much more!

One interesting aspect of the health aspects of the more general style of Swedish Massage is the proven effect it has on the improved development of infants. Infant Massage has been demonstrated to improve growth of nerve tissue and other body systems.

By virtue of the skin’s close association with the central nervous system, this cutaneous stimulation is literally awakening organic functions in the newborns’ internal organs, and without it their chances of survival are markedly diminished.

Even those who had been previously retarded showed dramatic increases in their weight, height, energy, and mental acuity. In institution after institution, the mystery of infant merasmus* was cleared up: The tactile stimulation associated with tender, loving care was absolutely crucial to a baby’s development. Without it, no amount of food and no kind of medicine could produce a healthy individual.

Juhan, Deane (2015-01-31). Job’s Body (Kindle Locations 1542-1544). Barrytown/Station Hill Press, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

(* Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency.)

Infant Massage might well be an excellent career opportunity for therapists with an affinity for families and children.

Swedish Massage versus Clinical Bodywork as a Career Choice

Our Clinical / Medical Massage Therapy & Structural Bodywork training is a very different therapeutic discipline compared to Swedish, relaxation, spa, or other Asian or “energy” related therapies. We are primarily focused on Western, science-based and medical approaches for the millions of people suffering from acute and chronic pain, injury and trauma related issues.

We also provide you with skills for achieving optimum physical performance of the neuro-musculo-fascial & joint system for clients such as athletes, construction workers, musicians and others who use their bodies in their work or other activities on a frequent or daily basis.

There is also the effect of excess muscle tension and stress on the aging process. Teaching and faciitating clients how to feel, relax, lengthen and balance their muscles can have a profound effect on reducing the aging efeects of C.E.M.&.N.T. or (Chronic, Excess Muscle & Nerve Tension & Stress)

Just one of countless examples is the dental hygienist who’s sitting in a twisted and distorted body posture under high levels of stress, for many hours every day. Such work produces many muscular imbalances, in turn creating various aches, pains and other dysfunction.

Professional musicians, typists, and others using the same small muscles ever day are also subject to repetitive strain syndrome. Yet most of the time, this is just a matter of “tight muscles,” what we call C.E.M.&.N.T. (or chronic, excess muscle & nerve tension & stress).

And those who are not in pain, yet want better posture, movement, balance and coordination, to feel better in general, will be amazed at the results you produce. There is an entire market in corporate and industrial America for working with clients who must sit in front of computers or run machinery all day long, suffering from poor posture and repetitive strain injuries.


Anatomical study on skeleton - swedish massage versus clinical bodyworkOur Clinical / Medical Massage Therapy School
 provides you the ability to understand and effectively identify and manipulate the soft tissues of the body.

Such knowledge is important for the purpose of reducing specific conditions of chronic, excess muscle and nerve tension and stress, contributing to the onset of pain and dysfunction and symptoms of premature aging.

We offer  in-depth examination and understanding of anatomy & kinesiology, helping understand the various causes, symptoms and conditions of neuro-musculo-fascial tension and the principles to reverse that tension and stress.

Structural Analysis & Balancing

You will learn to scientifically track down the structural sources of aches, pains, and dysfunctions not sufficiently responsive to the usual localized treatment (at the location of symptoms such as pain or restricted motion) of neuromuscular and myofascial structures.

When you add the scientific elements of clinical massage and structural bodywork to our No Pain, More Gain “Edge” Technique and Structural Analysis & Balancing Strategies, you’ll get the most results in the widest range of myofascial and neuro/myo-structural syndromes. And though Western in nature, we believe, our approach is a no less of a “conscious” system than some of the more esoteric and Eastern modalities out there.

Legal Definitions of Massage & Bodywork

Legally speaking, the definition of “massage” actually covers “bodywork” as we are defining it here. According to many state statutes, they are synonymous terms. Yet many therapists prefer the term bodywork, or such as myotherapy or muscle therapy, to distinguish their work from the relaxation, spa style of work.

One legal definition of “massage” is:

system of manual therapy performed by a formally trained, often licensed practitioner that focuses on the application and principles of therapeutic massage to reduce musculoskeletal pain and promote healing, relaxation, and overall health.

And one from the Florida Massage Statutes:

“Massage” means the manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body with the hand, foot, arm, or elbow, whether or not such manipulation is aided by hydrotherapy, including colonic irrigation, or thermal therapy; any electrical or mechanical device; or the application to the human body of a chemical or herbal preparation.

Another, more specific definition from the Arizona Statutes on Massage Therapy is:

3. “Bodywork therapy” means massage therapy.

4. “Massage therapist” means a person who is licensed under this chapter to engage in the practice of massage therapy.

5. “Massage therapy” means the following that are undertaken to increase wellness, relaxation, stress reduction, pain relief and postural improvement or provide general or specific therapeutic benefits:

(a) The manual application of compression, stretch, vibration or mobilization of the organs and tissues beneath the dermis, including the components of the musculoskeletal system, peripheral vessels of the circulatory system and fascia, when applied primarily to parts of the body other than the hands, feet and head.

(b) The manual application of compression, stretch, vibration or mobilization using the forearms, elbows, knees or feet or handheld mechanical or electrical devices.

(c) Any combination of range of motion, directed, assisted or passive movements of the joints.

(d) Hydrotherapy, including the therapeutic applications of water, heat, cold, wraps, essential oils, skin brushing, salt glows and similar applications of products to the skin.

So the Arizona Statutes consider massage and bodywork to be more or less synonymous terms. Yet the massage versus bodywork question is not rigidly defined or settled. In fact, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was in the massage industry quite a controversy going on as to what exactly the terms meant, and how they should be used.

Eventually, it was decided to use them individually to indicate different modes or intent of therapy.

These elements will be a primary focus of your training, and will prepare you for private practice or employment upon graduation from FloridaSAB.

You Don’t Have To Decide Now On Swedish Massage versus Clinical Bodywork!

The great thing is we see Swedish style massage as an excellent way to get more familiar with your sense of touch and how to contact another human body, and how to work with people. Yet you don’t have to decide on the direction of your professional focus until you’re out of school and more sure which way you want to go. And you might decide to include both in your practice.

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