The Difference Between Massage and Physiotherapy

The terms massage and physiotherapy are often used interchangeably, but there are actually some significant differences between the two.

Knowing which treatment you need is essential to get the most from therapy.

In this article, we’ll explore the two options.

Note – for more information about massage therapy at Kiterise physiotherapy clinic, click here.

The difference between massage and physiotherapy

Massage therapy is a more general term that can refer to a variety of different techniques for manually manipulating the soft tissues of the body.

Physiotherapy, on the other hand, is a branch of medicine that specifically focuses on the treatment of physical injuries and disorders.

Source vs symptoms

Massage therapy is often used as a way to relax the muscles and improve circulation, and often addresses some of the symptoms caused by the underlying medical condition.

Physiotherapy, on the other hand, is primarily focused on treating the root cause of physical injuries and disorders.

This can include everything from slipped discs and ligament sprains to postural issues and neurological conditions.

Scope of treatment

One of the main differences between massage and physiotherapy is the scope of their respective treatments.

Whereas massage focuses on the soft tissues of the body, physiotherapy employs a host of other treatments, from joint mobilisation and manipulation to acupuncture, electrotherapy and exercise rehabilitation.

This means that it can be used more effectively to treat a broader range of medical conditions.

Practitioner qualifications

Another key difference between massage and physiotherapy is the way in which they are each regulated.

In most areas, massage therapists are not required to have any formal medical training.

Physiotherapists, on the other hand, must complete a comprehensive university degree with rigorous medical training.

This means that physiotherapists are better placed to identify serious issues which need further examination.

Do physiotherapists give massages?

Yes, physiotherapists utilise massage therapy as part of their overall treatment options.

Massage can play a vital role in injury rehabilitation by treating some of the major causes of pain and dysfunction.

Many physiotherapists, therefore, undertake additional training in the discipline.

How does massage help physiotherapy?

There are a number of ways in which massage therapy can help physiotherapy.

  • First, it can help to reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • It can also increase range of motion and release muscle tension.
  • Massage can improve circulation and promote relaxation.
  • Finally, it can help to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.

All of these benefits can help to speed up the healing process and improve overall recovery.

Types of massage in physiotherapy

There are a variety of different types of massage that can be used in physiotherapy.

Swedish massage

The most common type of massage is Swedish massage, which is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes and light pressure. Deep tissue massage and trigger point massage are two other popular types of massage that are often used to treat specific injuries.

Trigger point massage

This is a type of massage that is used to release trigger points, which are areas of muscle tension that can cause pain in other parts of the body.

Myofascial release therapy

This is a type of massage that is used to release myofascial restrictions, which are areas of tissue that are constricted and unable to move freely.

Sports massage

This is a type of massage that is specifically designed to treat injuries that are common in athletes. It can be used to prevent injuries, as well as to treat existing injuries.

Deep tissue massage

This type of massage uses deep pressure and slow strokes to reach the deeper layers of muscle tissue. It is often used to treat chronic pain or injuries and therefore physios often do deep tissue massage as part of their treatment.

Craniosacral Therapy

This is a type of massage that is used to release restrictions in the craniosacral system, which includes the bones of the skull and spine, the membranes that surround them, and the fluid that surrounds and cushions them. It is often used to treat headaches, migraines, and TMJ.


So, what’s the bottom line? If you’re looking for a way to relax and rejuvenate, massage therapy may be right for you.

If you’re dealing with a specific injury or disorder, however, physiotherapy is likely to be a more effective treatment.

However, there’s normally no need to choose between the two – consulting a qualified physiotherapist will give you access to various forms of massage and also a host of additional treatments for faster recovery.

Consult our physiotherapy services here.

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