When it comes to addressing pain in the body, there are a huge range of options on the market. Whether you’re into holistic health, alternative therapies, traditional methodologies or modern medicine, there is something out there for you. Two of the most common and popular physical therapies are physiotherapy and remedial massage. Whilst they have some things in common, it is important to make a distinction between the two of them.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, is a medial treatment, and in Australia, its practitioners must have, at minimum, a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy. Specialist physiotherapists will have completed a Masters degree in addition to this. Due of this, physiotherapists are classified as medical practitioners.
Physiotherapy is typically offered as a treatment for an injury or specific issue. It involves a process of assessment, diagnosis and treatment, and true diagnoses can only be made by medical professionals. Hence why official qualifications are needed to practice physio. Pain, weakness, limited mobility and muscular degeneration are the main reasons a person would seek out a physiotherapist.
A variety of tools and techniques could be utilised in a session. Some of these sessions might involve massage, but can also use things like transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or an ultrasound. Referrals can also be made to other medical professionals in particular instances, such as when an x-ray may be needed.
A physiotherapist can also prescribe certain stretches, exercises or mobilisation techniques for maintenance after, or in between, appointments.
How is physiotherapy different to remedial massage?
Massage therapists go through training and education to earn their qualifications, however they are not medically licensed as physiotherapists are. Therefore massage practitioners do not provide official diagnoses for afflictions. Instead, they may make suggestions and prognoses. This is an important distinction your massage therapist will make. In this way, massage can be considered a more hands-on body therapy as opposed to physiotherapy. An easy way to summarise it is that physiotherapy is more talking whereas massage therapy is more action.
Remedial massage specifically targets the body’s soft tissues to relieve tension and reduce pain. Massage increases circulation and blood flow, which can help reduce swelling and improve mobility. A massage therapist may also suggest strengthening exercises and stretches for posture and balance the same way a physiotherapist can.
The main difference between physiotherapy and remedial massage is that the former is typically useful for specific or sudden injuries that require rehabilitation. Remedial massage is a favoured maintenance therapy and is performed to keep the body operating consistently, to the best of its ability. Massage is excellent for stress relief as well as for pain.
- Official medical practice
- Involves an assessment and official diagnosis
- Addresses specific injury/issue
- Can assist in sudden pain/injury
- Variety of modalities employed, including massage
- Can involve equipment and tools (TENS, ultrasound)
- Referrals can be made
- Can prescribe strengthening exercises
- Involves an assessment and prognosis
- More hands-on therapy (less talk, more touch)
- Manipulates muscles and soft tissues
- Alleviates pain, tension and stress
- Useful for injury rehabilitation
- Employed for overall body maintenance
- Improves circulation and blood flow
- Practitioners may suggest some strengthening exercises
Should I choose a physiotherapist or remedial massage practitioner?
Depending on the nature of your injury or issue, both physiotherapy and remedial massage will set out to treat it. Typically, injuries should be address by a physiotherapist but again, that is dependent on the nature of the injury – if it is recurring, or sudden (eg. due to a random an accident). Remedial massage is the preferred massage treatment for those who experience chronic pain, tension and stiffness. Swedish massage differs in that it typically uses less pressure and smoother strokes, which is why it is also known as relaxation massage. You can read about the difference between remedial and relaxation massage here.
At the end of the day, each person’s body is individual and will respond to particular treatments differently. It is always best to experience each treatment for yourself. If you have any concerns or underlying condition, always consult your health care professional before engaging in any physical therapy.
Fortunately, as technology develops, physical therapies are becoming more accessible. Blys offers remedial massages on demand for injuries, pain, discomfort and stress (which can lead to these things). This means that relief can be access outside normal working hours, including on weekends and public holidays. Don’t just “deal with it” – address it. Some Blys therapists offers health fund rebates if you require a remedial massage, so it’s easier than ever to feel well again.