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Massage Choices: Deep Tissue vs Swedish

Deep Tissue vs Swedish Massage

As a massage therapist, I am asked almost daily, which is better: deep tissue massage or Swedish massage. Massage therapists lament expending strenuous energy on multiple deep tissue massages per day. Providers are constantly annoyed by clients who ask for Swedish massage, only to request more pressure, and therapeutic work.

Should we charge the same price? Should we upgrade the client? How much pressure is enough, etc? In this article, I will attempt to offer my humble opinion for consideration.

What is the Difference? 

In short, deep tissue vs Swedish massage truly comes down to the end goal of your massage session. If you are seeking a relaxing session, in which the therapist is providing long, flowing strokes, and you want to feel relaxed and refreshed you are probably best served with a Swedish style massage. If, on the other hand, you have "some tight spots," like neck work, shoulder pain, low back trouble, or even leg concerns, you are seeking therapeutic, deep tissue work. The pressure is truly immaterial.
If you want to relax, ask for a Swedish massage. If you want to work out tight muscles, you want a Deep Tissue massage. Pressure offered is immaterial.

What Style is Best?

In this industry, there are thousands of therapists who offer thousands of styles, techniques and pressure. From energy work, like Reiki, to Neuromuscular work, to trigger point therapy, myofascial release, to intensive restructuring like Rolfing, there are many types of massage, and massage therapists will use the technique best suited to their training and the client's stated goals.

Should There Be A Price Difference?

We seem to fall into a trap of charging for pressure, then getting frustrated when the client is seeking more pressure after requesting a Swedish massage. If we dismiss their concerns for more pressure, or "just work out that one spot'" because they don't want a deep tissue massage, the client is unhappy. If we give them what they seek without educating them, or upgrading the service, we feel resentment and anger.

Have The Conversation

Sadly, because many therapists are uncomfortable having that conversation, we are left in a trap in which clients are confused, and therapists are unsure how to escape the cycle. It is incumbent upon therapists to educate their clients about the service the client is requesting, and if that will fulfill the goals they seek for their session. We are the ones who received the training and licensing. We are the ones who know how to address their problems. We cannot expect clients to be mind-readers and understand the myriad options and styles of massage. Additionally, when we base our pricing on pressure, we set up a trap of our own making, which leaves both client and therapist unhappy. It is time for us to fix this problem.


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