When you look at a massage theraist’s web site, you’re probably used to seeing a whole list of techniques to choose from: Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports Massage, Trigger Point Massage, Myofascial Release, Craniosacral Therapy, etc. But Sometimes they only list Integrated Massage or simply Massage. What the hell is that Integrated Massage thing, anyway? If they don’t list techniques, how can you know what kind of massage they even do?
I have a lot of feelings about listing techniques. While I understand why it’s done, I’m not a fan of the practice.
Abraham Maslow summed up my feelings perfectly when he said, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” What that means within our context is this: if you confine yourself to one technique for the entire session, you have limited yourself to treating a problem that may not be amenable to the solution you’re using. It’s a bit like grabbing a screwdriver to pound in a nail. It might kinda work, but it would have been better to go to the toolbox and grab an actual hammer instead of using the screwdriver handle just because it was within arms reach. (C’mon. I know I’m not the only one who’s done that!)
Listing techniques also has the downside of getting people to book a session for a particular technique simply because they’ve never had that “service” before and want to try it, not because they actually need it. For instance, I’ve worked at two places that list techniques on their menu and have had several people book myofascial release (MFR) with me “just to try it.” MFR is a great technique for people who have pain and tension that regular massage hasn’t helped. But… if you have no pain and no areas that feel tense or restricted it’s going to be the most boring session you ever pay for. You’re going to come away afterward thinking that it’s an absolutely worthless service. It might put you to sleep because it works with the nervous system and helps calm it down, so at least there’s that. Bu, the firm yet light touch and the absence of long flowy massage strokes, or the absence of any kind of massagey feeling strokes will leave you severely disappointed if your body doesn’t need this particular technique performed on it.
Integrated massage is just what it sounds like: it’s a massage session in which a bunch of techniques are integrated with one another. Put another way, it’s the art and science of combining numerous techniques/modalities into a single session to give the client the best possible results. It allows the therapist to tailor sessions to your symptoms, pressure preferences, and the way your body responds to the techniques used. If one technique isn’t effective, they can just move onto another one instead of being tied to a technique that isn’t working.
No two integrated massage sessions will be exactly alike, and that’s the beauty of it. There are no cookie cutter massage routines with an integrated session. The types of techniques used, the places they’re used, and the length of time they’re employed will change from session to session. It changes based on the issues that are being addressed, the desired results, and most importantly, how the body is responding to each technique that day. If I’ve learned anything in over 15 years of doing massage, it’s that what works for someone one day may not work for them another day.
Integrated massage mainly means more options for you. It can combine therapy and relaxation, can be strictly relaxing, strictly therapeutic, movement enhancing, pain relieving or any combination of these. That’s the beauty of it.