Massage Therapist versus Physiotherapist

Published on: 19 Oct 2016

Massage and Physiotherapist are both professions which work on the body but in their different ways, they both aim for the same goals but go about it in a different manner. Their goals are to restore function and mobility to the body, ease any pain and aid in the healing process.

So let’s look at them both individually…….

Massage Therapist Job Overview

A Massage Therapist is a certified practitioner with an understanding of the anatomy & physiology of the human body, they generally go to college for 1-2 years to qualify in their profession. Within this time they will complete test, case studies and hands on assessments, ensuring they are confident and efficient to work with the general public.

Massage therapist will take more of a holistic approach to the treatment and begin with a general consultation, asking you where your areas of concerns are for them to work to your individual needs. They will present you with a serene environment, a cosy couch, calming music and candles flickering to help your mind and body to relax and destress. They may also use aromatherapy oils which will enhance the treatment and multiply the benefits.

A massage therapist will work mainly on soft tissue, manipulating the muscles and ligaments to help them to relax. The main massage movements they will use are;

* Effleurage - A soothing, stroking movement performed with the palms of the hands, this movement is generally used at the beginning and the end of a massage. The pressure can vary in this movement from light too deep.

* Petrissage – A kneading action which is applied with pressure, this movement helps to warm the muscles encouraging them to relax.

* Friction – A fast, deep and stimulating movement helping to start breaking down scar tissue and lactic acid build up.

* Tapotement – A deep fast tapping, slapping or cupping movement which helps to deepen the massage and break down fatty tissues.

* Vibration – A fast shaking movement encouraging blood flow and helping to break down adipose tissue.

However massage therapist are not restricted to just hands on massage there are tools and massage aids that they can use, for example;

* Lava Stones – used warm to help increase blood flow and deepen the massage.

* Cold stones – helps to relieve tension and inflammation.

* Poultices – originated in Thailand, these are a Muslin cloth ball filled with herbs and spices, helping to deepen massage and relaxation.

* Hot Lava Shells – used to help increase blood flow and aid relaxation.

* Bamboo sticks – to help aid relaxation and to allow for a deeper pressure to be applied.

Using a massage aid can add a heated element to the massage and can work deeper and into the belly of the muscles.

Over the year’s massage has been known as an alternate form of medicine and can aid in the healing of the mind and body. There are many benefits to massage including;

* Increasing circulation

* Breaks down scar tissue (knots)

* Relieves aches and pain

* Helps boost immunity

* Normalises blood pressure

* Aids the removal of lactic acid

* Helps minimise anxiety & stress

Physiotherapist Job Overview

A physiotherapist is a medical professional and studies for up to 6 years to qualify in their field, they have a high level of knowledge in the anatomy and physiology and can identify injuries, diseases and help determine and provide treatment plans and programs to aid in recovery. Their educational journey will consist of assignments, assessments, test, work experience and more.

A physiotherapist will take more of a medical approach and begin with a deep informative consultation, they will proceed to perform test upon the body to check the mobility and to help identify and diagnose the injury. A physiotherapist will work locally to the injured area during your treatment concentrating on the rehabilitation and strengthening of the injured area. After treatment you will receive a tailored treatment plan containing exercises and stretches for you to perform at home to accelerate and aid the treatment that they are performing, they may also suggest further treatments with them until the problem area is back to full working order.

A physiotherapist can use a number of techniques which may include the use of tools and instruments.

The Hands-on Physiotherapy Techniques they may use will include;

* Joint mobilisation techniques – There are many different techniques and styles of joint mobilisation, their aim is to relief joint stiffness and pain.

* Joint manipulation – This technique aims to increase range of movement (ROM) and the relief of musculoskeletal pain.

* Minimal Energy Techniques (METs) – this technique can be applied to most areas of the body and consist of the physiotherapist and patient working together to stretch, relax and re-energise the muscle.

* Muscle stretching – muscles are flexed and stretched to improve muscle tone, flexibility and range of movement.

* Neurodynamics – this technique helps to relieve nerve pain and will work instantaneously.

* Massage and soft tissue techniques – similar techniques used by a massage therapist.

Again physiotherapist are not restricted to hands on they too can use a number of tools and aids to get the desired results;

* Acupuncture – a very fine needle is applied to pressure points around your body to stimulate your body’s energy (chi).

* Ultrasound – An ultrasound scanner provides you and your physiotherapist with a video picture of your muscles working.

* Tens machine - Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), a tens machine will stimulate your nerves via an electrical current. Providing you with short term pain relief.

* Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM) – A PIM is a mechanical spring device which helps to mobilise your spinal and peripheral joints

The benefits of going to see a physiotherapist whether it be an injury, muscle disorder or a reoccurring problem is they will help to combat the pain, restore function and movement ensuring you will recover quickly and efficiently.

So bottom line, what is best for you? Now we have looked at them both individually hopefully it has given you more of an idea of which will suit you individual needs and get you on the correct path to recovery.

I myself have been a massage therapist going on 15 years now and I will always enjoy and have regular massages, why? To help keep any tightness, aches and pains at bay and to keep me going through day to day life. But I also will carry on using physiotherapist when I have an injury or a pain that I just can’t get rid of. I would always advise you to listen to your own body, if you need something more than what a massage therapist can offer then go see a physiotherapist or combine the two practices. Combining the two will give you optimal results and help restore balance and speed up your recovery to get you fighting fit.