Do You Know How Massage Therapy And Physical Therapy Differ?

Massage Therapy Versus Physical Therapy

When it comes to massage therapy and physical therapy, to most people, they are one and the same.
But there are significant differences between them.
You should be aware these difference when deciding on who to consult for therapy.
This distinction is also relevant if you are considering going into one of the chosen fields.
Though both treatment modalities use massages and touch, their end objectives are different.
I have used both forms of therapy for various needs.
Let’s explore the major differences and similarities between the two forms of therapy below:

Professional Training And Style

Physical Therapist

Physical Therapists are medical professionals who are highly trained and who underwent a minimum of 4 years training and a degree before they are eligible for licensure.

These therapists are highly knowledgeable in science and medicine and are experts in anatomy and physiology.

Physical therapy

Also known as physiotherapy, physical therapy is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialty that uses mechanical force and movements.
Physical therapists, as the name suggests, focus on treating obvious physical maladies, and are often involves in rehabilitation following an injury to a joint or muscle group.


During training to be a physical therapist much of the emphasis focusses on correction of movement and posture, with the rehab setting of little importance.

For example, many physical therapists are trained to work in crowded hospitals, or even gyms, which is far from the norm of a massage therapist.

physical therapy

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists are much less intensive than the physical therapist program.
They might need to undergo some formal training.
This therapy involves the use of specific massages and other modalities to promote healing.
Massage therapists also focus on more than a particular area of interest, seeking to heal the body holistically.
Many massage therapists are also familiar with Far East complementary style medical techniques.
It is not uncommon for many massage therapists to also be licensed as professional acupuncturists.
Massage therapy training frequently involves methodology from other cultures and believes in restoring the natural energy of the body.
Many of these cultures make full use of the senses.
So white noise is often played in the background.
Along with scented candles and controlled lighting.
Thus, as you may guess- the setting is very important to massage therapists.

Overall Roles

Physical Therapist

The overall objective of a physical therapist is to evaluate and even diagnose health conditions resulting from disease and injury, with the goal of restoring the function of an affected joint or body part.
To achieve their goal they typically make use of both manual and mechanical techniques, and may even perform massages for pain and muscle disorders, although that is not their forte.

Massage Therapists

Massage therapists seek to ensure overall health and wellness of the body, on a more holistic scale.
For example, by incorporating techniques such as acupuncture health is improved on a higher plane.

Massage therapy is employed as an adjuvant to physical therapy many times, so it is not uncommon for a person who has injured their back or a joint in an accident to visit both practitioners.

In many cases, however, people opt to visit massage therapists to relieve stress of muscle tension as a preventative technique to more severe injury.
Physical therapists focus intensive session on a particular area, while massage sessions take longer and encompass the entire body.


If you are desirous of relaxation and stress relief, a massage therapist is your go-to, whereas if you are seeking ways to recover from an injury actively, a physical therapist may be a better fit.

Sometimes, a joint approach may facilitate faster recovery, as their approaches to healing can be used in conjunction to result in a better outcome.

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Karin is a flexitarian who loves history and languages. She also enjoys cycling, walking, watching Netflix (her guilty pleasure) and reading (a lot).
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