Eastern & Western Massage: What's the Difference?

Massage is a form of therapy that has been practiced in many countries and cultures for literally thousands of years. There are many uses for massage. Sometimes it is used simply for recreational relaxation. In other cases, it is used to target a specific part of the body that has become painful and problematic. Massage is often used along with other forms of therapy such as saunas, acupuncture and acupressure. Different cultures and regions have their own opinions about which supplemental treatments are most effective when used in tandem with massage. 

Revitalization and relaxation are two of the primary results of massage therapy. Over the years, people in the west have developed a different philosophy regarding massage than the eastern countries where massage first originated. The differing approaches of the two regions have led many people to take sides and proclaim that one type of massage is better than the other. The method of massage that is practiced in the western world focuses on the various aspects of the physical body and the result of continued pressure being applied to specific areas. The method of massage that the eastern world has embraced revolves around the energy that can be created by stimulating various parts of the body. What this basically means is that the western approach is a healing system that is created to address specific areas of the body. The eastern approach is centred around the balance and flow of energy as it relates to healing. 




Let's take a look at some direct comparisons of eastern and western massage to see exactly what the key differences are.

1. Wellness techniques associated with this form of massage

- Eastern Massage: Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga
- Western Massage: Trager approach, Pilates, Alexander Technique, Hellerwork, Feldenkrais method

2. Areas the massage works on

- Eastern Massage: The various points along the energy meridians are soothed and stimulated. This creates an effect along the meridians and other sites.
- Western Massage: The entire system is restored and realigned by various parts of the body being worked on such as the musculoskeletal system, nervous system and the digestive system.

3. Order

The order in which each massage works through the parts of the body depends on:
- Eastern Massage: Energy balances flow inside of the body.
- Western Massage: Concepts of physiology, pathology and anatomy.

4. Types of strokes

Eastern Massage: Striking, rolling, rocking and pressure.
Western Massage: Kneading or petrissage, vibration, friction, tapping or percussion, gliding or effleurage.

Diagnosis in western and eastern massages

A diagnosis is performed in the eastern massage technique through the observation of the pulse and tongue. Feeling the wrist in three positions is how the pulse is measured by a therapist. He or she will be able to find out if the person has any disharmonies or imbalances present in their body that need additional treatment. The eastern therapist also subjects the person's tongue to an examination that is detailed. The primary goal of the eastern therapist is to discover the root cause of what the person is suffering from instead of a symptomatic diagnosis. Therapists who are trained in the western style of massage therapy will address the issue directly. The therapist will look at all of the symptoms and try to figure out why they are happening.

Western vs. Eastern massage techniques

The practice of massage in the western world encourages the promotion of motion, circulation and relaxation. It also is known to relieve the tension that builds up in muscles. Aside from the five strokes of kneading, friction, vibration, tapping and gliding, some of the other techniques for contemporary western massage include trigger point therapy, soft tissue massage, sports massage, myofascial release and deep tissue massage.

Massage in the eastern world utilizes various stimulation techniques and it soothes energy meridian points of the body. It does this by producing effects that are found on parts that meridian points are used to regulate. The standard techniques of kneading and stroking are not used. The techniques that are employed by eastern massage are more varied and advanced that involve striking, rolling, rocking and pressure.

Forms of Western and Eastern Massage

Swiss massage has evolved into the most popular type of western massage. The combination of movement therapy, body work and massage have resulted in various techniques such as Trager approach, Alexander Technique, Pilates, Feldenkrais and Hellerwork. The majority of these help the body to relax and control aches and pains.

The eastern method of massage is mostly focused on the channeling of a person's inherent energy to aid in the body and mind integrating with one another. This produces a higher level of feeling and consciousness. When combined with breathing techniques, movement therapy and body work, mind and body can be integrated with the help of such practices as Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga.

1 comment


  1. Infra-red Sauna has been successfully treating it’s clients since 2005, assisting in everything from injury recovery for athletes to providing relaxing massages to those that simply wish to indulge themselves.

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