Massage Therapy vs Physiotherapy: What’s the Difference?

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Back from a long run and feeling some tension in your calf muscles? A massage could provide the relief you need.

Suffering from a lower back injury? Some physiotherapy could be just what the doctor ordered.

Both of these therapies are designed to improve our physical well-being. Personal circumstances may be a factor in determining which one is appropriate for you at any given time.

Still confused? Relax as we explain the key differences between physiotherapy and massage therapy. 


Physiotherapists are well-educated health care professionals. Their goals are to help patients manage certain types of physical pain and improve movement.

A person’s age and general health can both have an impact on physical flexibility. Injuries can also limit movement. This is when it’s important to call on the services of a physiotherapist.

A trained physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the causes of poor movement and pain. They will work with a patient to develop a treatment program and then assess their progress. 


Physiotherapists need a graduate degree. DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) programs provide training in diagnosis and treatment.

Coursework will include subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and neuroscience. Students will also learn about the procedures used in physical therapy. 

They may be given practical training by being placed in healthcare facilities. They’ll then work under the supervision of licensed physiotherapists. Different methods of physical therapy such as rehabilitation and acute care will be covered.

Licensing and Employment Outlook

After graduating from an accredited program, students are then required to sit a licensing exam. Many states also require a jurisprudence test to be taken. This assesses individuals on the legalities related to physiotherapy in particular states.

To stay licensed, continuing education standards may need to be met once the therapist begins practicing.

Jobs for physiotherapists were predicted to grow by twenty-eight percent between 2016-2026. This is significantly higher than the national average. The median annual salary for a physiotherapist in 2018 was eighty-eight thousand dollars. 

Types of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy has developed to encompass a variety of styles of treatment. These help physiotherapists deal with different conditions in a more appropriate way. Here are a few examples of the types of therapies available.

1. Custom Orthotics

Using the latest scan technology, custom foot orthotics are customized to fit inside shoes. They will then strengthen feet by realigning and stabilizing the bones. They can then help with a variety of problems such as foot, hip and back pain.

2. Laser Therapy

Red and near-infrared wavelengths of light are used for their therapeutic effects. Laser therapy can improve healing times, boost circulation and reduce pain and swelling.

3. Radial Shockwave Therapy

This is an effective pain reliever and muscle restoration therapy.  Shockwaves which travel faster than the speed of sound are used to treat a range of issues. These include plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, bursitis and problems with the rotator cuff. 

4. Functional Dry Needling 

This treatment usually causes little discomfort. It’s an effective therapy for sciatica, lower back pain and a host of other issues. During the process, reflex relaxation is produced in the muscles. This helps relieve pressure on nerves and tendons.

5. Manual Therapy 

This is a technique used by physiotherapists to mobilize affected joints by manipulating them with the use of their hands.

6. Taping

This technique helps to promote a patient’s natural healing process. Pieces of tape are used, and these lift the skin away from the connective tissue. This then augments space and lets the lymphatic fluid move more effectively.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapists work on the body’s soft tissues and muscles. This is done to help people relax or relieve pain. Massage therapists will usually carry out a certificate program rather than a degree.


Different states will have their own educational requirements. Most programs will require around five hundred hours of study combined with hands-on experience.  

Topics such as anatomy and physiology will often be included in a massage therapy program. There will also be a focus on specific massaging techniques. 

Massage therapists work in many different settings, such as spas, clinics, physicians’ offices, and gyms. Some will also be available to travel to clients’ homes or places of work to deliver massages there.

Licensing and Employment Outlook

Many states will require massage therapists to have a certification or a license. In some places, a local authority may insist on licensing or certification even if the state does not.

Jobs for massage therapists were predicted to grow by twenty-six percent between 2016-2026. As with physiotherapists, this is much higher than the national average for other types of employment.

The median annual salary for a massage therapist in 2018 was forty one and a half thousand dollars. 

Types of Massage

Therapies are designed to relieve pain and stress, improve circulation and increase relaxation. Massages can help in the general wellness of clients. Here are some common types of massage.

1. Deep Tissue Massage

This helps deal with muscle release at a deeper level. It’s designed to ease tension and reduce pain. It can help with issues such as sciatica, back pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and muscle stiffness.

Deep tissue massages can also reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and ease some of the symptoms of arthritis. They are normally performed more firmly and slowly than a typical massage

2. Hot Stone Massage

The heat from stones penetrates the muscles to help loosen them up. The stones create soothing pressure on tense parts of the body. This type of massage can help with stress, insomnia, depression and it can also boost the body’s immunity.

3. Pre Natal and Post Natal Massages

These types of massage are designed for pregnant mothers or those who have recently given birth. They can be helpful with a range of issues from rebalancing hormones to reducing swelling and inflammation. 

Physiotherapy and Massage Therapy

Although different, both physiotherapy and massage therapy are there to help improve our well-being. It could be that both types of therapies are appropriate at the same time for some people. 

Check here to find out more of the benefits you’ll get by visiting a physiotherapist. 

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