Generally speaking, the difference between massage and bodywork can be explained as the difference between Western and Eastern practices.
Massage modalities such as Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Myofascial address specific musculature or circulatory systems, working with the body by releasing specific areas of tension. These are the modalities more frequently encountered in a spa setting, and, typically, clients are expected to relax as their soft tissue releases.
Bodywork modalities like Reflexology, Shiatsu, and Reiki treat the body holistically. With bodywork, the expectation is that increased overall wellbeing will prompt individual musculature to release, and will ease and increase circulation as energetic systems clear and restore the body’s ability to heal itself.
Really, both Massage and Bodywork modalities address the same issues, they simply approach it from different perspectives, massage from the micro, and bodywork from the macro. Modalities like the Raindrop Technique are wonderful because they incorporate the best of both (aroma to address rebalancing of the energetic system, and massage techniques utilized on specific musculature).
In the end, choosing the modality best suited to you is completely individual. Often the best way to find out what works for you is to alternate trying new modalities with integrative sessions, where the therapist chooses. Communicating about what works from each can help to quickly develop your ideal treatment plan.
Massage is a passive workout, so it is very possible to do too much. In any therapeutic session, it is important to mention any pain you might experience. In general, massage should not be painful.
It can be tempting to try to breathe through the pain. And it’s true that deep breathing will help you relax into a more sedated state, assisting in allowing the therapist to work more deeply more quickly. However, keep in mind that it is possible to overstress the body, and bracing any muscle, the way we all do when experiences get too intense, can be counterproductive to the massage.
A 1 to 10 scale can be really helpful in communicating during massage sessions. With a 1 being very little or no intensity, and a 10 representing the most intensity imaginable, describing the ever subjective topic of pressure becomes possible. The therapeutic range tends to top off around a 6, and can be anywhere within that range, from extremely light to incredibly deep, with all layers of intensity at some time needed to help the body heal.
Once you reach a 7 or above, the likelihood that you will feel sore later or the next day begins to grow exponentially. Bracing also tends to happen at this point. Simply clenching your teeth can tighten your jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and on throughout your body as habitual muscle patterns kick into effect.
Over time, the need for communication between therapist and client will often lessen as the therapist learns the client’s average threshold and preferred pressure. But though it lessens, the need to communicate never ceases completely. With an ache or unusual stress, sensitivity may increase, and your generally preferred pressure may not be appropriate for that day. Always feel free and comfortable in letting your therapist know that the pressure needs to be adjusted. We are happiest when providing the most appropriate massage for you.