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  • Writer's picturebeccaellenrose

Massage vs Bodywork vs Integrative Bodywork


I am often greeted with a confused expression from people when I tell them I am a Bodyworker. Perhaps this is because ‘bodywork’ isn’t a term thrown around as much as ‘massage’. The clue, however, is in the name itself - ‘body’ ‘work’ - working with the body. Plain n’ simple (or not - ha). Oxford dictionary describes it as this: 'Therapies and techniques in complementary medicine that involve touching or manipulating the body.’ Often, after the confused expression, follows the question “Oh, so basically massage?” - and yes, although there is some truth in this, it doesn’t feel accurate, and maybe that is because, at the crux of it, it’s not. Bodywork is a much broader term and covers more techniques and modalities.





What is Massage Therapy?


The main intention with massage therapy (which is a type of bodywork in itself) is to focus on releasing tension within muscles, using techniques such as kneading, rubbing, tapping and rolling. This alone can work wonders, e.g. managing pain, achieving relaxation, improving circulation, stimulating the lymphatic system, increasing joint mobility, improving the recovery of soft tissue injuries, boosting immune function, lowering stress… The list really does go on.

Now, when it comes to bodywork, throw some extra techniques and intentions in the mix. It is important to note that depending on the therapist, these techniques will vary - not every bodyworker will work with all of these modalities. Some examples of bodywork techniques; massage, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, reiki, Rolfing, cupping, even non-touch therapies such as breath work, yoga and Qigong can be considered a type of bodywork. Again, the list goes on.

Ultimately, the intention with any Bodywork therapy is to find balance with in the body, regardless of how you achieve this, and often as a by product of finding balance, there is a whole other world of benefits available; from those already mentioned, to relieving anxieties, improving sleep, transforming and releasing trauma, finding harmony within menstrual cycles, developing heightened awareness to mind and body, stimulating the body's natural healing abilities and promoting physical and emotional well-being, again, the list goes on and different bodywork modalities brings a different essence to a different part of you.

Bodywork vs Integrative Bodywork?


Ok, so, now add an extra layer of explaining to the confused expression - “So, why is it called integrative bodywork?”

Integrative Bodywork is the approach of using a variety of bodywork techniques influenced by a combination and crossover of different disciplines and practices. A core consideration of the client’s individual interaction with the 5 frameworks (Mind, Body, Heart, Earth, Spirit) is at the centre of this approach and supports the client and therapist in the journey of achieving balance within varying aspects of the client's body.

In short, Integrative Bodywork considers A LOT when it comes to treatments and the overall care of the client. No two sessions are the same and there are layers upon layers, on different levels and realms that the therapist will be considering when it comes to drawing on which techniques and disciplines to hone in on at any given time, for the optimum ‘results’ for their client.


In reality, it’s quite tricky to explain. I’ve had client’s visit me not knowing what to expect and then leave saying “you’re right, it’s not ‘just’ a massage, is it?”. The answer is no, no it’s not. Yes, massage techniques may be a big part of the session, but there is more to it than that, I will be guided by the client, the information the client provides me, my knowledge and my intuition. Ultimately, how can one explain in words something that is meant to be felt? It’s almost like trying to describe a colour. Tricky.


Beyond all of the technical jargon I can throw your way explaining all the ‘what’s, whys and how’s’, I think it is important to keep things simple, and one thing I will say is this; there is a real beauty in this work and that it truly is a craft and expression in itself, it is fluid in nature and the beauty is in the variety. I encourage anybody to put the feelers out into what type of bodywork calls to them because at the end of the day, there are serious benefits to all of them. It is also important to have the awareness that these different modality callings will shift and change over time, depending on you and your body, and a large part of this is about trust. I am not one to say my work is ‘better’ than someone else’s, because it’s not. There is simply not a measure on this sort of work, it is entirely individual-experienced based, and what one treatment will do for one, might not do for another, and that is the beauty of it all.

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