We often have clients enquiring whether they need Physiotherapy or Massage Therapy, and which practitioner can offer the most appropriate treatment for their injury. The short answer is that both professions are trained and insured to treat musculoskeletal disorders but there are some key differences in their training and approach.

Both Physiotherapists and Massage Therapists are highly educated in dealing with musculoskeletal disorders, treating pain and injury through hands-on treatment modalities, rehabilitation and patient education. Both focus on restoring, maintaining and maximising movement, relieving pain and increasing quality of life.

Physiotherapy vs Remedial & Sports Massage

As a rule of thumb if you consider a Physiotherapist to be more medical than Sports Masseurs then that’s a good start.

Physiotherapy in itself is a huge subject and roughly speaking splits into 4 different areas which have been simplified here:

  • Musculo-Skeletal – when bits hurt
  • Neurology – when nerves stop working
  • Respiratory – when you can’t breath
  • Orthopaedics – when you’ve just had an operation

Physiotherapy is a healthcare profession regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). In order to use the title Physiotherapist, practitioners must graduate from an approved course of study, typically a four year degree, and meet a strict set of criteria set out by the HCPC. For a Physiotherapist to be classified as a Chartered Physiotherapist they must also be a full member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

The role of the Physiotherapists is to help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease. 

So where does sports massage fit into all this? Sports Massage is really just one of many techniques to help you recover from your condition. Just like spinal mobilisation, joint mobilisation, muscle activation and exercise based rehabilitation. I’d say they’re the biggies in terms of effective ways of getting you fixed. The principal body that provides standards and professional recognition for massage therapists is the Complementary & Natural Health Care Council (CNHC) and that along with the Scottish Massage Therapists Organisation (SMTO) ensure that therapists registered with these bodies maintain nationally recognised standards and levels of training.

Physiotherapy is degree level entry usually followed by at least a 2 year stint in the NHS working out where you want to specialise. Sports Massage on the other hand is usually Diploma level. So point of entry knowledge may not be to the same level as Physiotherapists. However, that’s not to say there aren’t some fantastic Sports Massage Therapists out there. We are strong believers it’s not what your qualification is, it’s what you do with it. As with most occupations your qualification is just the beginning of your learning.

What Difference Does That Make To Me?
Not much, unless you’ve got private medical cover. Most insurance companies will usually only pay out for Physiotherapy treatment. Though there are an increasing number of exceptions. So we can help those looking to cover the cost of their treatment using their private medical cover.

In any event if you see one of our therapists for an initial consultation if we establish that your condition would be better treated by another therapy of mode of treatment, even if it’s not with us we’ll recommend that to you.

Which brings us to the crux…

Should I See Physiotherapist Or Sports Massage Therapist?
The truth of the matter is it’s all down to personal preference. If we have good rapport with our clients it is more than likely we will be able to help our clients. If we don’t we won’t. That’s why we here are friendly, laid back and passionate about helping people get on with their lives.

But how do you pick a therapist that is going to work for you? I would like to go on personal recommendation to start with. That’s how we get a lot of our clients. If your friends don’t have a recommendation then do some research. Most good therapists will have a good website that gets across the ethos of how they like to work. If you like what you read and get a good feel chances are it’s a good match for you.

Finally, pick up the phone. Have a conversation with your therapist in advance of booking an appointment with them to see how they can help you with your condition. You will already to get to know the therapist and get a good indication as to whether you are going to get on and whether they know their stuff.

What If It Doesn’t Work?
In the first instance speak to your therapist and let them know that the treatment is not working for you. Before you do though be honest and ask yourself “Have I done everything that I have been asked to do?” We call it compliance. It’s well researched that people who do what they’re asked have better outcomes than those who don’t. It may be the odd stretch or exercise here and there or a slight change in posture. Maybe even a tweak in your lifestyle.

If you can honestly say you’re doing all you can then tell your therapist. They may well have a few different ideas or approaches that may work out better for you. If they run out of ideas still do not despair. There are so many therapists out there all with a whole manner of different approaches and specialism. Start the process again. Speak to the next therapist and explain what treatment you’ve had and if they have any different ideas that can help you.

Based on a Blog published by Brighton Sports Therapy May 2015 

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McLay Physiotherapy and Sports Massage

Treating Back Pain, Sports Injuries, Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Neurological conditions in Comrie, Crieff and Auchterarder