The Difference Between Massage Therapy And Asian Bodywork Therapy

“Massage Therapy” and “Asian Bodywork Therapy” are two totally different things. Among professional establishments and professionals, there has been considerable debate as to what descriptions, philosophies, and procedures cross over from one method of treatment to the other and where certain separations lie.  “Bodywork” generally refers to a wide variety of manual manipulation procedures.

“Asian Bodywork” specifically corresponds to the use of manipulation procedures whose roots originated in Asia and whose purpose is to balance/move Chi to restore or maintain health. Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) is a major component of a healing system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. The other components are Chinese Herbal Medicine, Medical Qigong, and Acupuncture in Jacksonville. Licensed practitioners of Asian forms of manual manipulation label their practice as “Asian Bodywork”. Within this system lie a number of uniquely individualized “forms”.

 According AOBTA, the officially recognized forms of Asian Bodywork are:

  • Tuina
  • Five Element Shiatsu
  • Acupressure
  • Chi Nei Tsang
  • AMMA Therapy
  • Amma
  • Japanese Shiatsu
  • Integrative Eclectic Shiatsu
  • Medical Qigong
  • Jin Shou Tuina
  • Jin Shin Do
  • Bodymind Acupressure
  • Macrobiotic Shiatsu
  • Zen Shiatsu
  • Shiatsu Anma Therapy
  • Traditional Thai Bodywork (Nuad Bo ‘Rarn)

The manipulation of connective tissue and muscle to increase function, “Massage” aids in the process of healing, and boosts well-being and relaxation. There are many, many forms of massage therapy. A few of the most popular ones include: Rolfing, Reflexology, and Swedish massage. Various other forms reveal place of origin, intended purpose, or the inclusion of complementary treatments covered or not excluded by the scope of practice of massage therapy.

  • Fijian Massage
  • Deep Tissue massage
  • Aromatherapy Massage
  • Equine Massage
  • Chair Massage
  • Sports Massage
  • Hot Stone Massage

Certain clinics and parlors advertise ”Oriental massage” or “Asian massage”. These labels are perhaps even purposeful attempts to mislead consumers or are outright misnomers. These pretenders to healing bodywork are more often than not neither Asian Bodywork nor massage establishments. They, in fact,  may be one of several enterprises that engage in activities of a sexual nature that intentionally utilize these labels to hide their nefarious activities that authorized bodywork professionals do not want to be affiliated with.

Requirements Needed by Asian Bodywork Therapists

In some states, Asian Bodywork Therapists do not need to acquire any license although they need to pass minimum education requirements and be certified by the AOBTA or American Organization of Bodywork Therapies of Asia or acquire an Asian Bodywork diploma from the NCCAOM or National Certification Commission for Acupuncture. 

For massage therapy, some states require minimum education requirements and a license to practice the therapy. They also need to pass an exam given by the FSTMB or Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards or the NCTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork).

Knowing the Difference Based on Terminology

Buzz words can tell you something about the person you are listening to. They can tell if you’re listening or not to a professional Massage Therapist or Asian Bodywork Therapist.

New buzz words related to massage come up often. The newer ones include “lymphatic drainage,” ”cranio-sacral,”and “myofascial release.” These terminologies are continuously changing and are too many to list. New terminologies are usually included to particularize methods or to promote renewed interest in the therapy by remodeling or redefining them to meet the needs of clients.

The techniques of Asian Bodywork originated thousands of years ago and their terminologies have changed very little since then. Some of the most widely used terminologies in Asian Bodywork are: deficiency, excess, chi, imbalance, balance, yin, and yang.

The Significant Similarity

Asian Bodywork and Massage therapies rely on methods of physical manipulation that encourage the smooth flow of Blood and Chi. According to the theory of Chinese Medicine theory, Stagnant Blood and Qi are the underlying sources of all illness.

The Basic Difference

Massage therapists aren’t particularly trained to address or evaluate the underlying reason of systemic illness in a direct manner.

Asian Bodywork Therapists are especially trained to detect regions of energetic imbalance that cause the illness based on Chinese Medicine theory and give necessary treatments to restore balance and wellbeing. Therapists who practice Asian Bodywork are trained to evaluate and administer specific treatment for internal conditions even if the conditions are detected or undefined by Western medicine terminology through the balance and regulation of the flow of chi (energy).

Evolving Times

Treatments associated with massage therapy are frequently altered and utilized to meet the changes in thinking and needs related to current times. This is the reason a wide variety of massage forms exist. The fact is, today’s massage therapies can trace their origins in the East dating back over 5,000 years.

Over the centuries, the theories of Asian Bodywork have changed very little.  A few changes have transpired because the principle and proper application of sound methods have endured over the centuries and still works well in this day and age. However, in order to evolve and adapt to current health concerns, now is the time to make to make necessary changes to elevate Asian Bodywork Therapy to a higher level. 

Over the centuries, the need for concise and clear alternative treatment options, modern thinking, and societal changes calls for the development and enforcement of valid modified types of Asian Bodywork Therapy. The changes from the traditional forms should be directed to current health problems and constitute explanations that logically expound how the therapy works. Modifications or alterations to ancient techniques should mirror an updated knowledge of how the body works. Advances in technology require that therapists should be able to assure clients that these remedies can be used safely in combination with modern treatments mirroring a proper level of understanding and growth by both clients and therapists. Just as Winter or Summer can’t last forever, so must the facet of Chinese Medicine evolve to contain the freshness of development and expansion needed to remain effective and reasonable for centuries to come.

The outstanding success of acupuncture has only recently led to research into how the aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine scientifically work. The outcomes have led to a new found respect for the effectiveness of the traditional healing arts. There, however, remains an air of mystery as to how and why Asian Bodywork Therapy works the way it works. The West is only now starting to realize the usefulness of alternative forms of healing thanks to the growing disdain for modern medical institutions and the anecdotal evidences of people who have experienced miraculous healing experiences with these alternative forms of treatment.