(and other associated terms not remotely offensive to either profession)
I’m not a Physiotherapist. I’m a Remedial Massage Therapist.
Who cares? What’s the difference? You’re all the same aren’t you?
DEFINITION: Remedial Massage is the skilled, manual, therapeutic application of soft tissue manipulative techniques. A remedial massage treatment usually consists of the application of different soft tissue techniques combined with mobilisations with the specific goal of remedying a medical, pathological, or musculoskeletal condition.
QUALIFICATIONS: Remedial & Sports Massage Therapy qualification is earned to Diploma level and can only be achieved after having successfully obtained a Diploma in Swedish Massage (or suitable alternative as determined by the course provider). A remedial massage therapist is qualified in human anatomy, physiology, and pathology, and can treat muscles, fascia (connective tissue), ligaments, and tendons. They are skilled in advanced techniques including trigger point therapy, myofascial release, muscle energy techniques, and neuromuscular techniques. Remedial massage therapists use various tests to identify the likely cause of pain or injury such as postural, bio-mechanical, range of movement, and neural. Remedial (& Sports) Massage Therapists (in the UK) are found in private practice and do not form part of the NHS. References: Scottish Massage Schools Ltd Sports & Remedial Diploma Course; Niggles & Knots, Brisbane, AU.
DEFINITION: Physiotherapy is a science-based profession and takes a ‘whole person’ approach to health and wellbeing, which includes the patient’s general lifestyle. At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.
QUALIFICATIONS: Physiotherapy is a degree-based profession. Physiotherapists (or Physios) use their skills to improve a range of conditions associated with different systems of the body such as neurological (stroke, Parkinson’s Disease), neuromusculoskeletal (back pain), cardiovascular (rehabilitation post heart attack), and respiratory (Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis). Physios work in a variety of specialisms in health and social care and can be found within the NHS and private practice. References: Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, NHS UK.
Clear as mud? These definitions are succinct, but how do they help you decide which is best?
Well, it all depends on your issue. Given that the highest percentage of visits to the GP is for musculoskeletal issues, it’s fair to say that as a nation we’re in muscular/ associated joint pain. Musculoskeletal problems result from trauma, overuse, repetitive use, carelessness in movement, inactivity, over activity – or a combination.
But, remedial massage therapists and physios can both treat musculoskeletal issues you cry.
That’s true, but we treat them differently although we both ensure a full, open consultation takes place prior to any treatment, and you will likely leave with advice on home care such as stretches, exercises, lifestyle changes, etc. But, to remain neutral in this discussion, I suggest that you pick one and see how it goes.
What if it’s not working for me?
It is perfectly acceptable to assess how you are feeling/progressing/not progressing after about three consecutive treatments over the course of three weeks (don’t expect results if you only visit us once every six months!) If you can honestly say that you have done all that your therapist has advised, and painstakingly devised specifically for you – be that be a stretching routine, a strengthening workout, lifestyle changes, alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, Pilates – then you may wish to change to another type of therapy. But speak to your therapist; explain your concerns. We will not take offence. However, one of my key messages here is that you cannot expect someone to solve your pain issue for you passively – you must take responsibility for your own recovery.
Things to consider
Remember, manual therapy or bodywork therapy or massage therapy or physiotherapy are all words that sit comfortably under one big umbrella of support available to you. We have different job titles, qualifications, and clinical knowledge; we may slag off each other’s professions behind closed doors – but our overriding similarity is that we want to help you better your wellness.
Wellness done well
Your wellness covers many areas, and helping you feel physically well through massage and/or physiotherapy is one of the PS five key elements of wellness. The PS whole health approach is indicative of its entire purpose – she who seeks massage therapy will likely seek relaxation techniques, exercise goals, nutrition advice, and mental health and clarity. #psfivekeyelementsofwellness
So, hopefully that clears up some long standing misuse of the terms physiotherapist and remedial massage therapist – but if not, one thing to bear in mind is that neither of us play whale music in our clinics!