The Difference between Spa and Clinical Massage

The Difference between Spa and Clinical Massage

Here at Oahu Spine & Rehab we are an integrated healthcare clinic and we offer our patients clinical massages as a part of their treatment plan. What is important for our patients to know is that our massage therapists are providing a completely different type of massage than those that are given at day spas. Although both industries are important and growing, they are separate.

The most popular section of this industry is the personal massages. This refers to the common “spa” or “relaxation” massages that people will get at spas or from their own personal masseuse. The clinical massage industry is starting to boom a little more and is known as massage therapy or medical massages. We understand here at OSR in Kailua that the difference is not quite clear to consumers, so we are here to clear up the air. Both types of massages are equally important and wonderful for the body! OSR just focuses more on the clinical and medical type of massages.



If you are a current patient at OSR you have probably heard our massage therapists use the word “modalities” when describing your treatment plan here. According to a modality is defined as “the way or mode in which something exists or is done.” When it comes to clinics or medical terms this word is referring to how we diagnose the condition as well as the process we are going to use in order to fix it. Here at OSR we refer to our E-Stem, Diathermy and Traction machines as modalities. Other forms of modalities include Myofascial Release and the Trigger point therapy that you receive while you’re in our office. Many different kinds of modalities are practiced in clinical massage and in spa massage.


The Focus

The differences in focus and application are described by Christy Schumacher, NCTMB in her article Understanding the Difference between Clinical and Spa Massage:

Spa Massage

In spa massage, the therapist is ultimately focused on the satisfaction of the client. The session is often intuitive and compassionate. The environment is private and often includes luxuries that put the client at ease. Sessions are defined and charged by a set number of minutes the hands are on the body, and tipping is expected. Attention to details such as music, table warmers, aromatherapy and high-end linens is common, and often required to stand out to consumers to get them to return.

Clinical Massage

In clinical massage, the ultimate focus is on functional outcomes. There is an evidence-based reason why a therapist applies one modality over another and most importantly, results must be measurable. Client satisfaction is often not assessed until the completion of a limited number of treatments, referred to as “treat and release,” or the achievement of a specific therapeutic outcome. Finally, the length of the session is often shorter and the number of minutes that are spent with the hands on the body is not a focus point for the session (no more clock watchers!). Prices are defined more often by third party payers (insurance companies), in 15-20 minute increments, and tipping is rarely involved.

Like mentioned above, spa massages are very focuses on relaxation and making sure that the client is happy. Here at OSR our massage therapists are trained to treat many conditions such as headaches, neck pain, lower back pain, hip pain and the symptoms of TMJ. Our specialists in medical massage provide neuromuscular therapy that manipulates soft tissue with the aim of treating underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. Also at our clinic in Kailua, we address a wide range of issues that include:

  • Tender muscles
  • Circulation
  • Nerve compression
  • Incorrect posture
  • Biomechanical problems caused by repetitive movement injuries

Hopefully this brief description of the two types of massage focuses has helped you understand the services that we provide better. Our team here at OSR is dedicated to giving our patients more value and lasting benefits than they expect which is why we are proud to offer clinical massage to our patients as a part of their treatment plan. If you are interested in clinical massage to help treat existing conditions then contact us here or give us a call at 488-5555!




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