When it comes to drug-free treatments for various chronic and acute injuries, people can get confused between massage therapy and physiotherapy. While differences exist between both types of the natural healing process, the key to faster recovery is a mixture of both modalities
The primary goal of both physiotherapy and massage therapy is to relieve muscle tension, pain, and spasms to bring you back to optimal health.
However, before we dive into the five main ways this fantastic combination can alter your well being, it's essential to understand what each treatment stands for. That way, if you are interested in both you have a solid understanding of each individually.
If you are considering massage therapy make sure you choose registered massage therapists with the College of Massage Therapists British Columbia.
What is physiotherapy, and what does a physiotherapist do
As an evidence-based treatment for pain, physicians often prescribe physiotherapy, and people from all backgrounds, experiences, and ages have found it beneficial to help them with any physical restrictions they are experiencing.
Essentially, this type of medical treatment includes empowering patients through health education, lifestyle modification, and regular exercise. Those who go through physiotherapy are looking for lifelong healthy alterations to their routine. This routine can be characterized by an athlete striving to reach their potential within the sports arena or an elderly citizen managing daily walks.
This type of treatment is primarily concerned with strengthening your body to manage physical activities better. Because physiotherapy is recommended by doctors, surgeons, and high-profile medical officers, it has become one of the most reliable drug-free techniques in the medical field.
What is a massage therapy and what does a massage therapist do
While physiotherapy aims to improve your physical responses according to your diagnosis, massage therapy can work in a similar but complementary way. For example, therapeutic massages performed by an RMT can produce a relaxation response, release trigger points, and improve flexibility. This, in turn, helps your body make positive physiological changes hence improving your health.
The term 'relaxation response' does not just mean a tranquil state of mind. In this state, your heart and breathing rate slows down, your blood pressure decreases, and with that, the stress hormone production comes to a halt. As a result, massage therapy works by relieving you from the medical effects of stress, risk of hypertension, acute fatigue, and other physical dysfunctions.
How is massage therapy combined with physiotherapy?
Our muscles are constantly active. When we damage our muscles due to an accident, it causes pain in response to the injury and the blood flow around that injured area also decreases. For damaged muscles to recover, constant blood flow is required to keep all the tissues healthy.
Physiotherapy can often help with the stress release of muscles and improve your ability to move, however, in a state of high tension, uniform blood flow is often not guaranteed. This is where massage therapy can come in as a supporting modality.
Therapies such as Sports Massage, Swedish Massage, and Deep Tissue Massage allow constant blood flow through your muscles so that they can be exposed to a higher level of nutrition. With these massage modalities, clients can prevent their muscles from getting weaker and speed up recovery. When combined with physiotherapy, massage therapy relieves various kinds of pain and improves the functional capacity of muscles through their biomechanical loading.
Ways massage therapy complements physiotherapy treatments.
There is no denying it, science now shows that a combination of massage and physiotherapy can be highly effective for your body's healing. The following are five main ways massages work together with physiotherapy treatments such as electrotherapy, soft tissue mobilization, range of motion (ROM) exercises, and so on.
1. Faster recovery
Physiotherapy is often a reliable source of recovery. However, at times, muscle stiffness can slow down progress, and clients have to stay patient to see if their efforts are paying off. In this particular instance, a combination of massage therapy could be beneficial.
When massages are conducted to help the muscles relax after an injury or surgery, it allows clients to do the exercises correctly. Massages are scientifically proven to help calm the nervous system. Thus allowing you to go into better stretches with a deeper range of motion: Stretches that are necessary for treatment allow your body to make a faster recovery.
Therapists mostly recommend relaxation massage, therapeutic massage, and deep tissue massage if your goal is a smooth recovery in a short period. Deep tissue massage, for example, requires the application of pressure to the areas where the injury exists. This helps break down the collagen fibers and adhesions. These are commonly responsible for increased pain and reduced recovery.
When collagen fibers and adhesions are removed, there is room for improved blood flow and tension-free movement. Thus, the stress hormones stop coming in the way of your recovery.
As a result, massage therapy allows your muscles to stop resisting care and that makes the physiotherapist's job easier while making your recovery a positive experience.
2. Comprehensive medical treatment
The human body is a complex structure where each element has to work together and support each other. Chronic conditions affecting muscles such as fibromyalgia and lower back pain require physical therapy and rehabilitation for them to work smoothly so that you can achieve a healthier, pain-free, and active lifestyle. What makes this mix a comprehensive and thorough treatment plan is the physical exam that a physiotherapist conducts to measure your symptoms' severity. Your physician will take a look at your body and let you know which areas must be targeted to help your body function properly again.
Once that is done, your treatment will include both passive treatments and active treatments. Passive activities usually come first and do not require any active physical labor from you. Their goal is to make your body learn how to relax. Hot and cold therapies, deep tissue massage, and ultrasounds are all some of the best passive techniques which prepare your body for active treatments such as exercising.
Comprehensive treatments might be more time-consuming, but their effects last just as long. Since two different types of techniques are working simultaneously, this approach is broad because of its attention to detail, allowing every part of your body to regain its optimal function & vitalty. As your road to recovery is more prolonged, your massage therapist can also help you improve your posture, which is often the leading cause behind lower back pain and muscle cramps.
3. Boosting the range of motion
When a joint in your body stops moving fully and easily after accidents or injuries, that points to the fact that something is limiting your range of motion. This effect on your range of motion is often a cause of the joint's mechanical problems, swelling of tissues around the concerned joint, extreme pain in the area, or the spasticity of your muscles.
Often athletes are prone to experiencing this as part of their active lifestyles. On the other hand, if you're someone who just started lifting heavy weights, the intense activity can cause your muscles to tear and reduce your range of motion.
Physiotherapy requires you to move all your muscles and joints to get your body back to the normal state, but the process can get tough if your range of motion is limited. This is where massage therapy comes in handy.
When a clinical massage is conducted, it helps loosen your muscle and reduces tension between them. This, in turn, impacts your range of motion and increases the efficacy of your physiotherapy sessions. Soon, clients can experience increased movement and flexibility in their soft tissue, ligaments, and muscles.
Without such flexibility of your muscles, the physiotherapy sessions could progress more slowly.
4. Increases general health
The therapeutic effects of a massage include stimulating your body through nutritional flow is regulated, lymph fluid is circulated, and swelling is reduced. It can also help you lengthen your muscles, tighten them, and improve their strength. All of these qualities make it ideal to combine these two therapies. When massages and physiotherapy are utilized together, they stimulate your body's natural healing process and keep your body in proper alignment.
In the future, the chances of you experiencing muscle spasm, soreness, and discomfort are lower because massages ensure an excellent circulation of the lymphatic system and free flow of nerve impulses through your body. As the stress on your nervous system is relieved, this combination becomes an effective health care system for you.
Once your body goes through this comprehensive treatment, its natural response to injuries also changes. If you were to suffer through another accident or injury, your body would be better prepared to tackle the problem and solve it at an accelerated speed.
5. Improved mental health
Our mind can go into a state of panic when our body experiences severe health issues such as muscle injury, acute pain, arthritis-related injuries, and so on. When that happens, it can slow down your recovery period. In some cases, clients going through physiotherapy report no improvement because they're tense about the risk that comes with taking active steps when they’re already in pain.
For physiotherapy to work, it's not just your body that needs to maintain a state of calmness but your mind as well. Worrying about whether your body will recover or not can take a toll on you. This is where massage therapy can help your body accept physiotherapy and its benefits.
With the help of massages, your body can reduce the built-up stress that makes anxiety run rampantly throughout your veins. Scheduled massages have proven to reduce cortisol in your blood by 30%, and this way that helps your body with the 'relaxation response'. Massages stimulate the production of dopamine and serotonin in your blood, which produces a calming effect on your nerves.
Once your mind is put to ease, you can feel confident in your recovery through your physiotherapy sessions. You become more open-minded and take on different challenges that come in the way of your health. In short, your body can recover faster, but it is often our mental state that delays a potentially speedy return to better health.
Importance of certified massage therapists
Individuals with acute or chronic injuries often find massage therapy reliable when combined with physiotherapy. However, finding an experienced massage therapist is necessary to ensure that you are making progress health-wise. In addition to that, you have the right to ask your chosen therapist about their license, where they got trained, and how long they have been practicing.
If you want to experience registered massage therapy we’d love to suggest you to one of our favourite local clinics Mountainview Movement. You can book online at Mountainview Movement Massage and Wellness.
If this is your first massage, a trained therapist will discuss your medical history and goals.
If you are interested in starting your physiotherapy journey, book a complimentary consultation with us at Vancity Physiotherapy to discuss your goals!
A big thank you to Michael and Caitlyn from Mountainview Movement for collaborating on this blog with us, be sure to check them out for all your Massage Therapy needs!