What is Bodywork?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Jul 29, 2020
Health & Wellness

Bodywork is a unique and holistic approach to treating the body, which incorporates more than one modality of healing techniques. Many people train to become a massage therapist, but becoming a bodyworker takes times and maturation.

What’s in a Name?

One could argue that it is a matter of semantics, and a bodyworker would certainly be able to clarify the difference for you. The term ‘massage therapist’ has replaced the term ‘masseur’. This is due in part to the negative reputation that became associated with sexual massage parlors. (If you are hearing this for the first time…please do not call your therapist a masseur any more.) A massage therapist focuses on applying therapeutic applications on their clients. A bodyworker, on the other hand, goes several steps further than the massage therapist goes.

Here are some of the factors that will determine the difference between bodywork and massage. These are not laws set in stone, denoting where a massage therapist stops and a bodyworker starts. There are merely variables that come into play in the field of massage therapy. Perhaps after reading this you may feel that you qualify as a body worker, and not a massage therapist. That is great. Please understand that this is not a judgment against the skills of a massage therapist in any way. It is to clarify why some people label themselves as bodyworkers instead of massage therapists.

Postural Analysis

A bodyworker will most likely put the client through a rigorous postural analysis. As the client walks in, the therapist will watch their gait. They will notice the balance in the hip and shoulder girdles. They will also take notice of the neck and head placement in relation to the spine. In addition, a thorough examination will probably be done with the client either using a plumb line or against a wall.

It is not to say that a massage therapist does not look at posture. A bodyworker has trained their eye to see catches, hitches, pulls and snags that have manifested in the client’s body just by watching them.


When the bodyworker spots the issues, they will begin to piece together what may be causing the problems. They will use their collected understanding of kinesthetic movement to see the client from all layers of their bodily design. They understand that headaches can come from tightness in the ankles, and will try to deconstruct the problem from every angle. The have the ability to see the interconnectedness at work in their clients.

Combined Applications

Many bodyworkers do very little actual massage. They will use methods that a physiotherapist would incorporate, like working resistance movements and tracking the joints. They may also include breathwork, visualization and emotional release techniques. They will often administer energywork in the form of reiki, Theta healing, acupressure, reflexology and other various methods. When a bodyworker does apply massage, it is very specific to an area or location. They may put an elbow deep into stagnant muscles or connective tissues. They may work on readjusting bones with manipulation somewhat like a chiropractor. They may also choose to give soft adjustments like craniosacral or Bowen techniques.


Your bodyworker will most likely ask you to schedule another session soon. They like to have two or three shots at the issues in a short span of time. They want to give their work a chance to set in without waiting so long that the issues will revert to their unbalanced ways again. After a few immediate sessions, the bodyworker will tell you that you are to come back occasionally, and should give you some exercises or practices to implement into your daily life to keep you on the healing path.

If you want to try a bodyworker, then ask for their credentials. See how long they have been in the field, and ask them for an analysis of your issues before you get on their table. A confident bodyworker will be able to give you a five minute overview of your case without blinking an eye.

Originally published on Nov 04, 2011

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills… There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind… So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. — MARCUS AURELIUS