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Massage Therapy as a Complement to Physical Therapy

Overview
Although there is much overlap between the fields of massage therapy and physical therapy, current Western practice of each provides a complement to the other rather than duplication of services. Massage therapy encompasses the techniques of touching or rubbing the patient’s body in order to relax the muscles, to enhance circulation or to loosen adhesions. Physical therapy often involves stretching and exercise to rehabilitate injured tissues and restore range of motion. By capitalizing on the strengths of each practice, a complementary treatment can be developed that provides maximum healing in an efficient and effective manner.

History
Historically, many of the activities we commonly associate with either massage or physical therapy, such as rubbing and stretching, were usually practiced together by the same person. In Axel V. Grafstrom’s 1898 “A Text Book of Mechano-Therapy,” he refers to Per Henrik Ling as being the father of the techniques later known as physical therapy. Ling has often been cited as one of the first to use aspects of massage to complement his physical therapy. Massage has been utilized as a key technique employed in physical therapy since its inception.

Physical Benefits
The primary focus of physical therapists is to restore the patient to maximal function, using a series of strengthening exercises, activities and stretching to accomplish the recovery of the muscles. Massage, when used in a complementary capacity, works to create the optimal internal environment for muscle tissue to heal and function through increased circulation and lymph flow, relaxes chronically contracted muscle tissue and may loosen scar tissue adhesions that restrict normal movement. It prepares tissue to respond better to physical therapy treatment.

Psychological Benefits
Massage therapy can further enhance the beneficial effects of physical therapy by helping patients to relax mentally, therefore decreasing stress-related chemicals such as cortisol in the brain and enhancing endorphins and other mood-elevating chemicals. This improved attitude helps patients to relax and respond more completely and with less pain to the treatments provided by the physical therapist. The improved mental outlook associated with massage therapy can also help patients to feel less depressed about their impairments, to be more positive about their ability to recover and to be more tolerant of the healing and rehabilitation process.

 Read more at livestrong.com.

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9 Responses to “Massage Therapy as a Complement to Physical Therapy”

  1. Edgar Medina says:

    I love Massage Therapy

  2. Christine says:

    I think Massage therapy is great before AND after physical therapy. It relaxes and loosens all your muscules so the PT wont be as intense. However, both therapists need to remember to not over correct the patient.
    But both are great!

  3. Jena Wiley says:

    I believe that our returning wounded military would greatly benefit from massage as well as physical therapies. I have yet been able to find a V.A hospital that provides massage therapy. What a shame for our soldiers. I would love to re-pay their braverywith a healing massage.

  4. Linda Epps says:

    One of the keys to effectively complement physical therapy includes communication with the client and/or the physical therapist. The therapist should understand what caused the problem area. This can give direction to the treatments for optimal results.

  5. Bron says:

    Having worked for many years in a PT department before going to massage school, I would agree that massage therapy is a highly complementary practice for increasing the efficacy of physical therapy. So much of the emphasis of physical therapy is to restore function and to do that, the person being served is required to actively and physically participate. While some may think that massage therapy is a passive modality, when given in a holistic way it does require participation on the part of the receiver as well: all massage is not completely relaxation oriented, and with some types of massage therapy (NMT, orthopedic, etc.) cognitive participation of the receiver is quite necessary. This allows for a dialogue which can reveal more of the needs of the client/patient, and the 1:1 is more attentive. For those who really need to relax mentally, who have apprehension and are overwhelmed by what their recovery may demand of them, massage can give relief that allows them to work toward their recovery, as the article states. Physical therapists typically treat more than one person at a time, and are often busy with the other aspects of the program necessary to rehabilitate a person to as near full function as possible, and may have their time divided between several PT programs during the same time.

  6. Barb says:

    I have had several clients that have used massage while they are going through physical therapy. Trigger Point Therapy suggests that if the trigger points are not dealt with properly, stretching and exercises can make them worse. Treating the trigger points, followed by gentle stretching can further the client along and get the problem area ready for more aggressive rehabilitation.

    I totally agree that the mental/spiritual component of massage, when given in a separate room with the right abmiance, does imprvove their outlook.

  7. Steven Otte says:

    Since the beginning of my practice 14 years ago, I have been complimenting PT treatments with Therapeutic Massage and Myofascial Release. I have observed that every PT pt I have been involved with, 100%, has had comments from their PT that “oh! you must be doing your home exercises!”. This tells me that PT and MT are highly complimentary…

  8. Carole Ricks says:

    I think it is a great addition to Physical Therapy. I know by experience, even though I am a Massage Therapist, I was in a head on collision the earlier part of the year. I went to a Chiropractor and that therapy did not work for me. My doctor referred me to the Physical Therapy department and they do Massage along with my other treatment and I am almost like a new person….great results!!!! I couldn’t lift my head for long periods of time and now I am back at work full time…it’s great!!!!!

  9. Carole Ricks says:

    I think it is a great addition to PT. I am a Massage Therapist my self, I know from experience. I was in a car accident and was not able to lift my head for long periods of time. Now after PT and Massage Therapy I am back to work full time…It’s great!!!!

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