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The Difference Between a Masseuse and a Massage Therapist

A woman lying down while getting massage from a massage therapist or a masseuse.

Massage has a long and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years from ancient China. In addition to China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome also have their history in massage.

There are a lot of benefits known for massage therapy and treatment, including:

  • Pain relief
  • Stress reduction
  • Immunity system improvement
  • Sleep balance
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lymphatic Drainage
  • Treating a variety of Pathologies such as tendinitis, sprains, strains, fractures, etc

Although massage is considered to be a “DIY” activity, it is important to know how to provide this service properly and safely to avoid causing any further harm to the body physically or internally.

Seeking help from trained professionals, known as RMTs, is advised.

In this article, we will learn more about massage providers, including a registered massage therapist and a masseuse, and their similarities and differences.

What Is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is a hands-on technique performed by a licensed massage therapist who utilizes various methods, including therapeutic kneading, joint mobilization, and stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Massage Therapists apply varying degrees of pressure using their hands to improve blood flow and bring oxygen and nutrients to the involved soft tissue. This assists in reducing muscular tension and facilitating the nervous system to relax for an overall mental, emotional and physical relaxation experience.

Each patient’s approach is altered to fit better the goals of each treatment and what they would like to achieve.

There are many reasons to see a registered massage therapist, including orthopedic conditions, whether you are an athlete or a common individual going about your day, personal or professional stress, ICBC-related injuries, overall relaxation, and more.

This therapy consists of using various techniques to suit each patient’s needs and pain threshold levels and overall observing the tissue response.

There are various types of massage provided by professionals and each type works best for specific conditions.

Massage therapy also stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), responsible for rest. Therefore, massage therapy, can serve different purposes depending on your needs.

It can be a more relaxing massage after a stressful day or a more therapeutic massage that targets a particular area that may be injured in need of some attention.

You might be interested in reading this article:

Different Types of Massage Techniques You Should Experience 

Who Is a Massage Therapist?

A massage therapist is a person whose hands-on therapy approach is to use their clinical skills and knowledge to treat various body parts for therapeutic purposes.

The term massage therapist is reserved for individuals who have completed the rigorous 2-year educational program from accredited colleges and have obtained licensure to practice as a massage therapist.

Once they have done so, the College of Massage Therapists in British Columbia, known as CMTBC, sends an email to the applicants whether or not they are eligible to start their practice.

Hence, all Registered Massage Therapists are highly regulated, and the profession is tailored towards helping individuals with an injury, an orthopedic condition, or an injury from a car accident.

Massage Therapy Students

When looking at a clinic’s website, you may notice non-registered or relaxation massage. This type of service is typically administered by students who are in the RMT program waiting to graduate or waiting to write their board exams.

This group of massage therapists is identified as bodyworkers or student massage therapists.

Patients are given the same level of treatment for a lower rate and a great alternative for those without extended health coverage.

This option is great for individuals needing a therapist’s expertise at a much lower hourly rate or those without extended health benefits.

Who Is a Masseuse?

A Masseuse refers to a bodyworker who does massage and is generally a female.

This type of provider undergoes a different type of schooling. It attains knowledge of manual therapy such as hot stones, paraffin wax and more introductory techniques.

A masseuse is a female massage provider who has not gone through any education or school of massage.

A masseuse is different from a registered massage therapist in terms of their schooling, hands-on manual therapy training and education and professional guidelines that they must adhere to.

Masseuses typically work at Spas and target those seeking a relaxing massage experience.

Spa-level providers have a different set of guidelines they must adhere to compared to an RMT. For example, spa providers do not have individual insurance they must upkeep to continue their practice or annual registration fees.

Some RMTs may choose to practice in a spa facility. Still, if you choose to see a spa-level massage provider strictly, those appointments may not be billed to extended health unless required by a doctor’s note.

What we just explained is the difference between receiving massages from a masseuse at the spa vs. an RMT at a medical clinic. Furthermore, this difference makes masseuse rates much lower and must be billable to extended health policies.

Masseuse vs. Masseur

If you are wondering about the difference between a masseur and a masseuse, let’s say:

In English, “masseur” typically refers to a male massage therapist, while “masseuse” refers to a female massage therapist.

The distinction is based on gender, with “masseur” being masculine and “masseuse” being feminine.

However, it’s important to note that these terms can be considered outdated and are gradually being replaced by gender-neutral terms such as “massage therapist” for both male and female practitioners.

Gender-neutral terminology aligns with promoting inclusivity and recognizing that individuals of any gender can pursue and excel in massage therapy.

It avoids reinforcing stereotypes and ensures that all professionals in the industry are recognized and respected for their skills and expertise, regardless of gender.

Therefore, while “masseur” and “masseuse” were traditionally used to differentiate between male and female massage therapists, it is becoming more common to use gender-neutral terms that encompass all practitioners in the field.

What Is a Body Worker?

There is another category of massage therapist students or those awaiting to receive their license through the college.

These individuals have undergone the same rigorous educational program and training. However, they must still be board-certified and practice as student massage or bodyworkers.

What Is the Difference Between a Massage Therapist and a Masseuse?

Masseuses and Massage Therapists are different in multiple aspects. The most common differences between these two massage experts are mentioned below:

  • Masseuses often specialize in relaxation and stress-relief massages. At the same time, Massage Therapists, with their formal training and expertise, can offer a broader range of services, including therapeutic massages.
  • Masseuses acquire their skills through informal training, workshops, or short courses, while massage therapists typically complete a comprehensive massage therapy program at an accredited school or institution.
  • A masseuse typically refers to a person who provides massages and is often associated with relaxation and spa settings. In contrast, a massage therapist is a trained professional who has undergone formal education and received a license to practice therapeutic massage.
  • Masseuses are commonly associated with spas, resorts, and wellness centers. At the same time, Massage therapists can work in various settings, including a chiropractic clinic, physical therapy office, sports facility, and even a hospital.

In the following table, you may find a brief and short answer to “masseuse vs massage therapist“.

Registered Massage TherapistMasseuse
It can be male or female, and the designation is gender neutralMasseuse refers to a female who gives the massage
Requires rigorous education and hands-on training, and board exams to receive licensure to practice as an RMTDoes not require much schooling, but some may choose to complete a short certification program
The term is reserved for those who have completed their educational program and have strict professional useIt may carry some negative sexual connotations, especially due to the term carrying gender affiliations
Higher hourly rate and billable to extended health benefitsMore affordable hourly rates and not billable to extended health benefits
Specialized training and relevant certifications are requiredDoesn't need any specific training or education
They may offer a wide range of techniques tailored to address specific concernsUsually limited to providing general relaxation massages

Choosing a Massage Therapist or a Masseuse Is up to You

Although the difference between a masseuse and a registered massage therapist is distinct, there are occasions when the two terminologies are unknowingly used interchangeably.

In this article, we inform you of the difference between registered massage therapists and a masseuse, guiding you to help make informed decisions when choosing the right treatment for your goals and needs.

To summarize, a registered massage therapist works primarily with therapeutic massage that can be dedicated toward a specific orthopedic condition, but can also work in providing a well-rounded relaxation massage.

RMTs work with the skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joint mobilization to a certain degree allowed in their practice by the CMTBC.

On the other hand, a masseuse is often tailored towards relaxation, working with Swedish techniques on a lighter pressure level and perhaps using hot stones, paraffin wax and more.

Regarding extended health billing or ICBC cases, RMT providers are approved under those portals and work with them.

It is also a benefit covered by extended health benefits and under the ICBC massage therapy program. Knowing these differences can help clarify any confusion when trying to book the right treatment and avoid being ignorant about the two distinct professions.

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2 Responses

  1. A masseuse also has to have training the same as a massage therapist. In the state of California you have to be registered and license to the state of California. To work in a spa you have to have your license.
    A masseuse is a woman that gives massages Masseur a man that also does massages.

    1. Thanks for the clarification Marcie. This article is written based on Canadian regulation and state of California may have different regulations. Thanks for letting us know.

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