What Is the Difference Between Bodywork and Massage Therapy?

Feeling tense, achy, painful, or uncomfortable in your body? You might be considering a massage or bodywork session to improve your well-being. While both terms involve working on the body, there are key differences to understand before you book your appointment.

Bodywork: A Broader Spectrum

Think of bodywork as an umbrella term that encompasses various techniques. Bodywork includes massage therapy, but also other modalities like chiropractic manipulation, osteopathic manipulation, Rolfing therapy, physical therapy, somatic healing, energy work, and more.

Bodywork aims to restore the health and comfort of your body. It can include the treatment of chronic pain, postural issues, movement mechanics, trauma, and energy imbalances. The term itself indicates a more well-rounded approach, and thus it is sometimes used by massage therapists to differentiate their work from traditional massage relaxation sessions.

Massage Therapy: A Targeted Approach

Massage therapy, on the other hand, is a specific technique focused on relaxing muscles and promoting circulation. Unlike bodywork, it always includes direct manipulation of the soft tissues. Massage therapy sessions can be helpful for improving mobility, initiating deep relaxation, and reducing tension. Some massage therapists incorporate other modalities as well, which can help them address issues where massage isn’t helping.


In conclusion, if you’re struggling with a distinct pain or mobility issue that you need support for, someone who practices bodywork may have the most comprehensive tools to help you. If you feel like extensive tissue manipulation can best serve you, massage therapy may be the right option.

If you’re interested in in working with someone who specializes in bodywork or massage therapy, check out Tribe’s practitioner directory.

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