Massage therapy is complementary care to your appointments with the physical therapist. Physical Therapists are trained to diagnose and prescribe movement therapies to address the injury as it is presented by the body. Massage Therapists are trained to relax the body, treating tightness in muscles, tendons, and joints. These approaches to the body complement one another. Movement begins the strengthening of injured muscles, while massage therapy unwinds the tightness associated with muscle guarding the injury site.
How does one know if PT or massage therapy is the appropriate modality? Pain level is one indication. If pain level is consistently over 7 on a scale of 1 (little or no pain) to 10 (huge pain, I wish it would stop!) considering a diagnosis with a PT or MD is important. If range of motion in a joint is restricting your movement, for example you can’t exercise as you would like to, seeking out a PT is recommended by this massage therapist. If an injury has slightly restricted your range of motion or pain is slightly limiting your ability to move around in the world, a session with your massage therapist may be just what the body needs to assist in the healing taking place within.
Often I will say to my clients, “A strong muscle is a relaxed muscle.” When muscles are tight, holding an injury site to reduce pain, circulation is reduced through the area that needs to heal. Massage therapy, when applied gently with close attention to sensation and resistance in the body, can help relieve the tension on a joint or muscle improving both range of motion and circulation in the area being treated.
Some of my regular clients, will choose to come in for massage and craniosacral therapy when an injury occurs, trusting that my hands will help reduce their pain, improve their mobility and decrease healing time. While these are all possible outcomes of a session or series of sessions, massage therapists do not diagnosis the underlying injury. Through gentle palpation of muscle, tendon and bone, we can help you identify the exact location of pain, though it is beyond our scope of practice to offer any diagnosis of the underlying physical problem. This information about the location of your pain is helpful information to take to your PT or MD.
Physical Therapists are trained to identify and diagnose where in the body there is imbalance or injury causing your pain. Once the source of pain is identified, the physical therapist designs a program of movements to bring functionality back to the body. During the healing process, these movements may cause pain in the joints, emotional response to pain including depression and anxiety may develop if the healing does not unfold quickly. This is where one or two sessions of massage therapy can make the difference in healing. When you hit a plateau in the healing process, an experienced massage therapist can assist in releasing the tightness and guarding around the injury sight, allowing the body to relax and open to the next step in healing.
Next time you are working with a Physical Therapist, consider a massage therapy session to assist in the healing and recovery process your body is experiencing!