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Bodywork vs. Massage, what's the difference?

So, what's the difference between bodywork and massage? They sound different, but they are typically used interchangeably. This may not be a burning question you have, but it's one that I frequently get asked. So let's take a look at the similarities and the differences.

Bodywork is defined as "a general term for therapeutic methods that center on the body for the promotion of physical health and emotional and spiritual well-being, including massage, various systems of touch and manipulation, relaxation techniques, and practices designed to affect the body's energy flow (1)". So this can technically refer to anyone who works on the body, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists reiki practitioners etc. On the other hand massage is defined as "a method of manipulation of the body or part of the body by rubbing, pinching, kneading, or tapping (2)". So in short, massage is bodywork, and bodywork can be massage. But, bodywork refers to any modality that works on the human body in order to improve the health and well being of the individual, massage being one of those modalities.

Now this takes us into the cultural aspect of bodywork vs. massage. In my practice I tend to use bodywork more frequently than massage, because there is a social preconception as to what massage is. When I say the word "massage" to you, you likely think of a dimly lit room with calm music and a table with plush linens where you will spend the next hour or so having oil rubbed all over your body with the expectation of being relaxed when you leave. When I say the word "bodywork" to you, you think of someone who works on a body, probably by using massage. Any one who knows the work that I do knows it can be relaxing, but it is not done in a dimly lit room with an hour spent in silence. For that reason, I tend to use the word "bodywork" in place of "massage" so that you can have a little better understanding of what to expect when you receive a session from me. I want to be as accurate as possible (within a limited amount of words) so that you do not show up to my office and are disappointed that I won't be doing a traditional relaxation massage.

Another way to look at it (in the context of my practice) is, what is your intention for receiving the massage/bodywork? If your intention is to reduce stress and feel pampered, then a traditional massage is the route to go! If your intention is to move more comfortably, receive help with varying aches and pains or to recover more fully from an injury then my bodywork sessions are right for you! It is all about context and what your intentions are.

Is knowing the difference really that important? In one word, no. So long as you are getting bodywork/massage done and it is helping you, who cares what you call it. Just show up and receive the wonderful work that is the human touch.

Happy journeying you beautiful beings!

1. bodywork. (n.d.) Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. (2007). Retrieved May 30 2017 from

2. massage. (n.d.) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012). Retrieved May 30 2017 from

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