As a Physio it’s something that I get all the time: “aren’t you just a glorified massage therapist?”. Massage is a hugely effective form of treatment that has been around for years. It’s so good that new studies are still coming to light showing how good it is at reducing fatigue and improving function. In fact, Physiotherapy has its roots in massage therapy and is believed to have branched from massage therapy in the late 19th century. As a profession it increased its recognition during World War I with the rehabilitation of injured soldiers.
As I’ve discussed in a previous blog, Physios deal with treatment of injuries through physical modalities. Physiotherapists regularly incorporate massage into treatment to target specific muscle tightness as well as assist in movement of fluid. Physios can also use many other modalities to address the problem at hand, including joint mobilisations; electro-physical agents (ultrasound, heat and cold); dry needling; taping or bracing; and therapeutic exercise. This essentially just means that a Physio has more tools at their disposal in the course of treating a patient.
In addition to this, Physios (especially those who treat musculoskeletal conditions) are able to recognise and re-train movement patterns and address the cause of your pain or stiffness. As the old saying goes, “weak muscles get tight”, and one of the roles of a Physio is to correct the movement patterns causing this. Now this isn’t to say that strong well-trained people don’t get tight muscles! These people can experience significant muscle tightness, and that is mainly due to the fact that they are putting large loads on the body, as opposed to having weak muscles. This is where having a good coach, trainer or Physio comes in handy. It’s good to have professional assistance to help determine if your issue is coming from weakness, poor technique or simply from doing a lot.
The final difference between Physios and Massage Therapists is that massage is passive. Meaning, the patient isn’t involved in doing any of the treatment. Physios love to use active movements and exercises as part of your rehab as well as giving you strategies and exercises to help you to speed up your rehab program.
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