February 28, 2023

Manual Physical Therapy vs. Massage Therapy

Which treatment option should you choose?

Imagine you wake up one morning and you have a pain in your upper back. Thinking you may have just slept in a weird position, you take a couple of pain relief pills and go about your day. But then you wake up the next morning and the pain is still bothering you. So you decide to look up some other suggestions for relieving your pain, and two main options surface: manual physical therapy and massage therapy.

These two treatment options sound similar, and it can be easy to get them confused. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between manual physical therapy and massage therapy and discuss how to determine which treatment option is appropriate for you.

Manual Physical Therapy vs. Massage Therapy

Definitions and Purposes

Manual physical therapy involves the use of physical, hands-on techniques such as joint mobilization and passive stretching. Its main goals are to reduce pain and increase range of motion in one part of the body. It can also be used to relax the muscles and assess your willingness to allow movement into a specific area.

Massage therapy is the application of different movements and amounts of pressure to muscles and other soft tissues in the body. The primary goals of massage are to relieve stress and, like manual physical therapy, relax the muscles.

Providers and Benefits

Both treatment options are administered by state-licensed professionals. Physical therapy is performed by state-licensed physical therapists, many who have completed a Masters or Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Massage is performed by state-licensed massage therapists who have a diploma or certificate from an accredited therapeutic massage program, which typically includes around 600 hours of training.

One of the main benefits of manual physical therapy is the restoration of your range of motion and restrengthening your muscles. It can also reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as improve your body's tolerance during exercise and movement.

One major benefit of massage therapy is reduced stress. It can also reduce muscle soreness, make you feel more relaxed, and give you better quality of sleep.

Which is more appropriate for you: manual physical therapy or massage therapy?

When it comes to choosing treatment, you aren't limited to only manual physical therapy or only massage therapy. The two treatment options often overlap -- in fact, many manual therapy techniques include various forms of massage therapy. And some physical therapists even recommend that their patients see a massage therapist as part of their treatment plan.

The appropriate choice for you depends on your goal and what you're currently experiencing. If you're looking for ways to reduce joint or muscle pain, or if you're just wanting to improve your overall mobility, manual physical therapy could be beneficial for you. If you're wanting to reduce muscle soreness or stress, massage therapy could help you find some relief.

It's important to note that manual therapy is not the only treatment option that's included in a physical therapy program. Instead, manual therapy may be a component of a complete physical therapy treatment program that's designed to help improve your mobility, strength, and functional tolerance in order to reach your physical therapy goals.

What We Offer

At Achieve Orthopedic Rehabilitation, manual physical therapy is a hallmark of our treatment philosophy. We develop a personalized therapy plan for you that addresses your current symptoms and helps you reach your mobility goals. Our therapists combine manual therapy with pain-science education to help better understand your pain and move you along your journey to recovery.

If you're currently experiencing pain or would like to see what your personalized treatment plan would look like, you can contact us here.