Physical therapy and massage therapy have some similarities and also many differences. Most places that only offer massage will not discuss or offer physical therapy. While some physical therapy offices will recommend a massage and others even offer professional massage as part of their physical therapy services. So, what are the differences between physical therapy and massage therapy? Below a few of the most common reasons physical therapy and massage therapy are used together.
Physical therapy is performed by highly trained health care providers. They are trained to heal people after surgery, illness or injury with a focus on specific joints and muscle groups. They develop a treatment plan based on the patients needs. The plan may require a combination of a number of different tools such as, heat and cold packs, stretches, exercises with or with a device, and various types of massage. The goal of the physical therapist is to relieve pain and for the patient to regain their range of motion as quickly as possible by using the prescribed plan.
Massage therapy is generally performed by licensed individuals who hold a certificate rather than a higher degree. Massage therapy is focused on relieving tension and stress of the muscles by apply pressure to the small muscles and tendons to increase blood flow. Although there are several types of massage available the treatment does not generally focus on one section of the body. It is more of a holistic approach to help the entire body and various muscle groups to relax. This allows the muscles to move more freely and naturally reduces pain.
Why Massage is part of Physical Therapy
As mentioned above, the act of massaging a muscle or group of muscles can be a very effective treatment for those patients that require physical therapy. Depending on the patient and treatment needed, a massage can be more effective when combining the use of other tools, even something as simple as ice and heat. In massage therapy though, they do not use any other tools or treatments. Their focus is solely on manipulating the muscle so they are less stressed and more relaxed. Having the services of a certified massage therapist as part of the offerings of a physical therapist is a great asset for any physical therapy practice.