Is a Massage Therapist and a Physical Therapist the Same Job
The short answer to this question is no. In a large number of states, massage therapists and physical therapists are considered the same profession. Both massage therapists and physical therapists specialize in helping people recover from injury or surgery, manage pain, and improve mobility through various hands-on techniques. However, they go about doing it in very different ways.
This article will look at the similarities between massage therapists and physical therapists, compare what each profession offers in its unique way, and then tell you about some of the differences between these two groups. By being aware of both similarities and differences, you can choose which type of therapist is more appropriate for your needs.
What is a Massage Therapist?
Technically, a massage therapist is someone who specializes in therapeutic massages. In practical terms, though, you could consider a massage therapist a physical therapist who uses touch rather than manipulation to heal or alleviate pain and stress. Massage therapists also sometimes use soft tissue techniques to help improve body function and work on pressure points to ease the pain. Unlike physical therapists, though, massage therapists are not required to have any formal training in anatomy or physiology.
What is a Physical Therapist?
On the other hand, physical therapists are trained in how muscles and bones move together and affect one another. A physical therapist will often use equipment like telescopes, weights, pulleys, or electrical stimulation machines to help patients heal or improve mobility. Some physical therapists may also use massage techniques to ease pain, but typically only after the patient has been diagnosed by a physician and determined to require physical therapy.
Massage Therapist Vs. Physical Therapist: The Similarities
The first thing you should understand about a massage therapist and a physical therapist is where their expertise comes from. Massage therapists receive training in the massaging of soft tissue, while physical therapists are trained to use exercises and therapeutic exercise equipment. Being that they both work with soft tissue, their areas of expertise do overlap to some degree. Many physical therapists have at least a basic understanding of massage techniques and vice versa.
Both are also trained in anatomy. Each profession may focus on different body systems for the human musculoskeletal system, but they are both fully aware of how everything relates to one another.
Additionally, they work with patients who are experiencing pain and limited mobility in some form. Although they both work with pain, massage therapists and physical therapists will likely approach the problem from very different perspectives.
The Differences Between Massage Therapist & Physical Therapist
The significant difference between a massage therapist and a physical therapist is that physical therapists focus on fixing structural problems within the body. In contrast, massage therapists focus on relieving pain and restoring mobility.
Physical therapists help people recover from injuries, surgeries, or other physical trauma by using therapeutic exercise equipment such as stretch bands, therapeutic exercises such as stretching and range of motion exercises, and modalities like ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation (E.M.S.) ice, heat, etc.
On the other hand, massage therapists focus on massaging soft tissue to relieve pain and restore mobility. It is generally recommended that you receive a message prior to (or in some cases after) an appointment with a physical therapist. Physical therapy can often exacerbate pain and make it more difficult for the body to recover if the muscles are not relaxed and ready for physical therapy treatment.
Massage therapists are also trained in the body’s structural system, but they typically do not use this knowledge when working with a client. Instead, they work through acupressure points, trigger points, deep tissue massage, Swedish massage techniques, etc., using their hands to target specific areas that are having problems.
Both will also use some massage chairs while performing treatments, although the purpose of the different chairs varies greatly.
Even though there are some similarities between massage therapists and physical therapists, they remain very different occupations. That said, it is not uncommon to see a physical therapist perform some light stretching on an injured area before or after therapy exercises. The more you know about both professions, the more you will determine which type of professional you need on your healthcare team.
If someone is injured or recovering from an injury, it is often recommended that they receive treatment from a physical therapist before trying massage therapy. If the patient has already seen a physical therapist and did not have relief from the pain, they may benefit more from a massage.
If an injury is not currently affecting someone’s life, it might be better for them to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist on their own. This way, they can lessen their chances of experiencing pain or limited mobility before needing physical therapy treatment. If the discomfort becomes unbearable, they can always schedule an appointment with a physical therapist, who will likely prescribe them medication or other treatments to provide additional relief.
Regardless of what type of professional you choose, you must speak to your doctor before starting any new treatment. This way, you can understand how the two types of professionals are related and the different expectations for your treatment.
Conditions Treated by Massage Therapy vs. Physical Therapy
While massage therapists and physical therapists can agree that all pain should be treated, there are some things they focus on very differently during the treatment process.
Since physical therapy is intended to fix structural issues within the body, they mainly treat musculoskeletal problems, including injuries or diseases affecting muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. This can include arthritis to migraines but mainly focus on these conditions during treatment.
Massage therapists treat pain/discomfort either directly or indirectly through the use of acupressure points. They also focus on the body’s soft tissue to promote relaxation and aid in recovery while treating the “whole” body, not just the structural system.
Massage therapists are often more concerned with sore muscles, while physical therapists are more concerned with restoring range of motion or improving muscle function/power. Massage therapists are also trained in trigger point therapy, which is used to help relieve muscle tension and spasms.
While both professions can agree that a person’s pain should be treated, they only work together when a patient’s injury has not disappeared after treatment from a physical therapist. At this point, it is often recommended for the patient to receive massage therapy to increase their chances of recovering quickly and thoroughly.
Some conditions could affect both your muscles and your structural system. These types of conditions could be treated by either a physical therapist or a massage therapist, depending on the severity of your injury or area of discomfort.
Physical therapists are generally more concerned with helping their patients regain mobility, while massage therapists are mainly concerned with increasing blood flow and promoting relaxation. Both professions can improve circulation in the body, aid in pain management, and help a patient relax after being treated for an injury.
If you want to know more about how massage therapy can treat your condition, please get in touch with us today. We would be happy to discuss all of the treatment options available for your specific needs.
When should you choose one over the other?
If you already have a diagnosis and are currently experiencing pain, it is best to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. This way, you know what type of condition you have and the course of treatment recommended for your specific case.
On the other hand, if you wish to prevent injuries or treat stress but do not think you are experiencing any pain, it would be best to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist. This way, the masseuse can find where your body is holding tension and work to release this stress before tensions snowball into more severe problems.
If your doctor or another medical professional recommends that you receive treatment from one of these professions, then, by all means, it is best to follow whatever direction they give you. However, if you are unsure what type of treatment would be the best for your case, please feel free to contact us. We would be more than happy to answer any questions about how massage therapy can benefit your specific condition or situation.
Grande Prairie Massage Therapist is a full service, open to the public massage therapy clinic. We help people in Grande Prairie recover from injuries and chronic pain by using relaxing techniques and acupressure points. Our team is made up of licensed massage therapists who are ready to answer any questions you may have about how they can help you today.
We are the only clinic that offers therapeutic and relaxation massage services to our clients. Our goal is to help you achieve your wellness goals by providing professional service emphasizing client education and satisfaction. We have been serving this community for years, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with you!
If you’re ready to take control of your health, schedule a visit today! Call us at (587) 495-2239 or book online now! We can’t wait for you to experience what makes us different from other clinics in town. It will be worth it when we see the smile on your face after every session! Let us know how we can help make your life easier – because that’s what we do best here at Grande Prairie Massage Pro.
If you know someone who could benefit from either massage therapy or physical therapy, please feel free to share this article with them. If you are looking for relief through either treatment method, contact us today for more information on how our professionals can help you achieve your goals.