Medical Massage vs. Spa Massage

D’Vida Clinic Explains Medical Massage vs. Spa Massage: What’s the Difference and Which One is Right for You?

Massage therapy, encompassing a broad spectrum of techniques, is a holistic practice aimed at promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and enhancing health. From soothing spa massages to targeted medical massages, each modality serves distinct purposes and offers unique benefits as having different branches of the same tree. Spa and medical massages provide various ways to support your wellness journey. While they share common roots, understanding their differences can help you choose the right service specific to your needs.

What is a Spa Massage?

A spa massage is probably what comes to mind when most people think about massage therapy. Often considered a luxury treatment, a spa massage aims to promote relaxation, stress relief, and general wellness. The environment is usually serene, with calming music, dim lights, and a focus on a luxurious experience. Common types of wellness spa massage include Swedish, hot stone, and aromatherapy massage. These treatments aim to relax your muscles, ease tension, and improve circulation and flexibility.

What is a Medical Massage?

Medical massage, also known as clinical massage, on the other hand, is a more targeted form of massage therapy. It is often prescribed by healthcare professionals to help treat specific health conditions or physical injuries. A medical massage therapist has extensive training in understanding the body’s anatomy and physiology, enabling them to work effectively on problem areas.

Medical massage may help with conditions like chronic back pain, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and sports injuries. The goal of this therapy is to improve functionality, alleviate pain, and promote healing rather than simply relaxation.

Massage Therapist at D'Vida Clinic in Beaverton OR

Key Differences Between Spa and Medical Massage

The Goal of Therapy:

Spa Massage: The primary goal of a wellness spa massage is to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being. The techniques used are designed to soothe the body and mind. They may include elements such as aromatherapy, hot stones, or hydrotherapy.

Medical Massage: Clinical massages are more treatment-oriented, with the goal of addressing specific physical issues or conditions. The therapy aims to alleviate pain, improve mobility, support rehabilitation from injury, or manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.

Massage Therapist’s Training and Expertise:

Spa Massage: While all massage therapists require a base level of training, those working in a spa setting primarily focus on techniques that promote relaxation and general well-being. They are skilled in modalities like Swedish massage, hot stone massage, or reflexology.

Medical Massage: These therapists typically have additional training and certifications to address specific health conditions. They need a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy and pathology. They are adept at techniques like trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage, neuromuscular therapy, or lymphatic drainage massage.

Location and Atmosphere:

Spa Massage: Spa massages are usually offered in a luxurious, serene setting aimed at promoting relaxation. You’ll likely find soothing music, soft lighting, and perhaps even amenities like a sauna or steam room.

Medical Massage: While comfort is still important, the atmosphere for a medical massage might be more clinical or practical, focusing more on treatment efficacy than ambiance.

Duration and Frequency of Treatment:

Spa Massage: Spa massages might be a one-time event (such as while on vacation) or part of a regular self-care routine. The frequency varies greatly depending on personal preference and lifestyle.

Medical Massage: The frequency and duration of medical massages are often more structured and based on a treatment plan to address specific health issues. Sessions might initially be more frequent (even several times a week), reducing over time as symptoms improve.

Assessment and Customization:

Spa Massage: While therapists will typically ask about areas of tension or preferred pressure, spa massages are generally more standardized.

Medical Massage: Therapists assess any injuries or preexisting conditions before starting a medical massage, and the treatment is highly customized to the patient’s specific needs. At D’Vida Clinic, they are oftentimes conferring with our in-house chiropractor or acupuncturist on the patient’s condition and treatment strategy.

Insurance Coverage:

Spa Massage: Spa massages are usually considered a luxury service and are rarely covered by health insurance.

Medical Massage: If prescribed by a doctor as part of treatment for a specific condition or injury, medical massage is more likely to be covered by health insurance. The insurance coverage may vary depending on your provider and plan.

Massage in Beaverton D'Vida Clinic

Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that choosing the right massage for your specific needs can be confusing, especially with so many options available. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about spa and medical massages:

  1. How do I know if I need a medical massage?

If you are dealing with a chronic condition, suffered an injury, or experiencing continuous discomfort in specific areas of your body, a medical massage may be recommended. However, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider or a qualified medical massage therapist to discuss your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment.

  1. Can a spa massage still have health benefits?

Absolutely! While spa massages are known for promoting relaxation, they also offer numerous health benefits, including improved circulation, lower blood pressure, and reduced levels of stress hormones. Remember, mental well-being is a crucial part of overall health, and taking time to relax can contribute to this.

  1. Can I request a medical massage at a spa?

While some spas may have therapists trained in medical massage techniques, it’s important to ensure that the therapist is qualified to address your specific health concerns. Always communicate your needs and preferences before your session.

  1. Will I need a doctor’s referral for a medical massage?

This depends on the policies of the wellness center and your health insurance provider. Some insurance companies may require a doctor’s referral to cover medical massage therapy. Check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage.

  1. Can I combine spa and medical massage in a single session?

Yes, many therapists can integrate techniques from both modalities into one session. This might be a good option for someone dealing with a specific issue but also wanting the relaxation of a spa massage. However, this should be discussed with your therapist in advance to ensure your session meets all your needs.


Both spa and medical massages offer unique benefits, addressing different aspects of health and wellness. It’s not about deciding which one is superior but rather understanding their distinct advantages and recognizing which one aligns with your current health and wellness goals.

Whether you’re seeking the tranquil retreat of a spa massage or the therapeutic treatment of a medical massage, our expert therapists here at D’Vida Injury Clinic & Wellness Center can assist you. Reach out to us today to explore the best options for your health and wellness journey.

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