The differences between Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy

Both massage therapists and physical therapists use techniques to relieve pain, but they use varying methods and have different training. Let’s explore the differences.


Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who diagnose issues with functional movements to help patients manage pain and improve mobility. A physical therapist can develop a treatment plan and assess patient progress. They have training in physiology, pharmacology, and neuroscience. They also complete clinical practice rotations and must be licensed within their particular state.


Physical therapists are generally not as well versed in all the types of massage but use it as it relates to a particular overall treatment plan. For example, using a massage to break up tissue adhesions. Massage therapists have a broad knowledge of massage, whereas a physical therapist will generally use a very localized technique.


Massage Therapy

A massage therapist learns to manipulate the muscles and soft tissues to relieve discomfort, pain, and stress. While each state has different requirements, massage therapists generally complete a certificate program and also must be licensed to practice in that state. They study anatomy, physiology and massage techniques. Usually, training programs require at least 500 hours of study and hands-on training. Many massage therapists go on to focus on a particular massage technique.


Both physical therapy and massage therapy do use massage techniques. Massage therapists use a wide variety of methods like the Swedish massage or deep tissue massage. In general, massage therapists use many different techniques that involve kneading, gliding and compression movements to work stress out of muscles. Swedish massage is definitely the most common form used, but massage therapists utilize many other techniques like palm stroke and muscle lifting to deeply massage tissues and promote healing.


What’s The Difference?

A physical therapist is trained to work with people who have injuries or other illnesses that have caused a lack of mobility or range of motion. On the other hand, massage therapy is generally considered a wellness technique aimed at providing relaxation by reducing stress and pain. Massage therapists are trained to give massages to people who do have injuries or other areas of concern, such as old injuries that may be a bit tender.


Massage therapy is considered alternative or complementary medicine, while physical therapy is a healthcare profession that provides care to injured people. Many people see massage therapists as part of their overall health and wellness routines to reduce stress and relax.


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