Clinical Massage vs Spa Massage. A common misconception regarding massage therapy is that it can use all its techniques in all situations. Massages for various reasons, the most common being clinical massage and wellness massage.

Also known as Clinical Massage Therapy, aims primarily to achieve a specific, predetermined result. Clinical massage therapy is usually for helping to treat conditions such as back pain and spasms, spinal abnormalities, migraines, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. These massages are typically shorter than a spa massage and focus on overall health benefits. Clinical massage therapists must receive intensive training in human anatomy and medical treatment protocols. During the massage, the therapist communicates with the patient to ensure the treatment relieves the pain and pressure in a pain area.

Spa massage helps relieve stress because many techniques are the same, but clinical massage differs in many ways. The difference is in the application. Spa massages are designed to help achieve a higher level of relaxation. This style of massage includes unique treatments such as body wraps, scrubs, and masks. Massage therapists in spas are usually silent and only talk to clients to give them basic and minimal instructions. Training to become a therapeutic masseur is similar to that of a clinical therapist but with less emphasis on human anatomy and medical terminology.

Purpose and intention

Clinical massage

Clinical massage has corrective expectations aimed at specific outcomes. It is intended to prevent damage, reduce disease progression, and restore normal body function after musculoskeletal injury or disease. Therefore, they focuses on injuries that impair movement and lead to severe limitations in daily activities and quality of life. Therapy Massages can significantly improve chronic or acute conditions such as:

Clinical Therapy massage is popular for treating pain, stress relief, and relieving physical symptoms caused by anxiety. A physician prescribes this type of massage. It involves insurance companies, workers’ compensation insurers, attorneys, and other medical professionals. These treatments may be covered by HSA/FSA plans or reimbursable in the case of injury under certain limitations or circumstances.

Spa Massage

Spa massage is a general health treatment used to relax the body and mind, manage minor stressors, or take care of oneself. Most likely, the person seeking a spa massage will not have a medical condition or need to focus on a specific body part to relieve pain. Spa massage may be referred to as a “feel-good” massage. Insurance companies don’t usually cover Spa treatments. 

Training and Techniques

Although a licensed massage therapist is skilled in many styles by profession, the main difference in the purpose and intent of both types of the massage requires that the therapist have specific training. The varying needs of clients and the facilities require that massage therapists learn techniques, gain experience, and choose the appropriate continuing education to gain expertise.

For Clinical massage

Because it is a Clinical, massage therapists must obtain the client’s general and specific medical history and are, therefore, HIPAA compliant. Therapists must assess mobility, range of motion, and muscle imbalances; measure progress with appropriate records; identify setbacks and triggers; communicate with the various parties involved in the patient’s treatment, and follow guidelines imposed by other medical professionals. Techniques commonly used by therapists include deep tissue, myofascial release, sports techniques, and PNF stretches, with a small number of neuromuscular techniques, trigger points, and lymphatic drainage. They also use adjuncts with pain-relieving ingredients such as cupping, Azuka, Hypervolts, hot compresses, ice, myofascial blasters, creams, gels, ointments, and oils. Your therapist can apply deep pressure to muscles, long strokes, cross-fiber friction to release restricted connective tissue, rocking, and vibration.

For Spa massage

Spa massage focuses on general techniques and gentle strokes for a full-body experience that ranges from the face to the scalp to the feet and sometimes to the abdomen, always using the same pressure to ensure a smooth and even flow for all clients. Techniques may include facials, wraps, hot or cold stones, scented products for relaxation, and manual pressure that does not exceed the client’s pain threshold. These full-body treatments can be enjoyed by couples on special occasions and celebrations or given as gifts. A small medical history is required for these treatments, based on general health, to determine contraindications to the massage. Spa massages are usually offered with a consent form that allows therapy at the client’s own risk and discretion.


It is undeniable that the results of the two types of massages are different.

Clinical massage

Clinical massage focuses on correcting musculoskeletal problems that interfere with normal daily activities and restoring or recovering a person’s mental and physical condition. The Technique is often called an influential “wound healing massage” with delayed positive results, although it can be very uncomfortable during sessions. Clinical massage is evaluated with more measurable and objective tests and scales. The desired outcome is the return of full joint mobility without pain or discomfort and the resumption of normal daily activities, work, and any routine that involves mental and physical demands. Clinical massage also aims to increase resistance and educate clients about the body mechanics affecting or contributing to the problem. This type of massage builds a relationship with the client over several appointments, using a holistic approach and in-depth conversations to provide information, insight, and solutions that prevent regression and maintain progress.

Spa Massage

The goal of spa massage is general relaxation and well-being, revitalization, or recovery from the usual stresses of life. Spa massage is based on the feeling of relaxation the client can achieve after the session. There are no expectations other than to ensure the client’s satisfaction, from offering a hot drink, a snack, or a small gift to take home to relax in a quiet and peaceful environment with a “pampering” approach that focuses on all the client’s needs. Guests can indulge in massages at the spa.

Bottom Line:

I hope this clarifies a few things between a Medical Clinical Massage and a spa massage. Make sure you always check that your Clinical Massage Therapist has been Licensed in South Carolina.

Difference between Clinical Massage and Spa Massages. | Blog Article | Oceans Calm Massage | Greenville SC | All Rights Reserved | Dec 2022