Muscle Manipulation: Masseuse vs. Physical Therapist

Patient using resistance band while talking with a physical therapist

Back pain caused by degenerative spine conditions can interrupt a person’s daily life, making it difficult to do the things they enjoy. Fortunately, working with an experienced healthcare professional can make a big difference. Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, based in northern New Jersey, offers advice to help people in pain understand when to see a physical therapist instead of a massage therapist for pain relief.


What Is a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who focus on helping patients recover from injuries, restore mobility, and reduce acute or chronic pain. To practice physical therapy in the United States, one must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) through an accredited institution and pass a licensing exam. Physical therapists receive extensive training in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and other medical topics. They also complete hands-on training in a clinical setting as part of their academic program.

Physical therapists receive training in different modalities and treatment methods, including:

  • Muscle manipulation
  • Electrical stimulation (ESTIM)
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Manual therapy

Additionally, physical therapists are trained to diagnose mobility issues and create personalized treatment plans based on the underlying condition or injury. The physical therapist will monitor the patient’s progress during appointments and usually will create an exercise plan for the patient to continue at home after their course of structured physical therapy is complete.


What Is a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapists use hands-on techniques to relieve tension and relax muscles. Some massage therapists focus on a specific modality, such as sports massage, or other complementary services, like aromatherapy or reiki. Massage therapy programs are offered at community colleges, massage institutes, and other postsecondary institutions. The amount of hands-on training can vary by program. A professional license is required in most states to practice massage therapy.

While massage can be relaxing and help a client improve their well-being, massage therapists are not trained to treat injuries and cannot provide medical advice. For people who are looking for a way to reduce stress, massage can be a great option. However, when a patient has an underlying injury or chronic condition, it is best to see an experienced physical therapist.


Benefits of Physical Therapy

Besides reducing chronic pain and improving strength and flexibility, physical therapy can:

Assist with Post-Surgical Recovery

After surgery, patients often need help regaining their range of motion and rebuilding their strength. It is common to have physical therapy appointments as part of post-surgical care. Working with a physical therapist can help reduce post-surgical pain and even shorten the patient’s recovery time.

Treat Athletic Injuries

Some athletes are injured in game-related events, such as being tackled in football. Others develop repetitive stress injuries, such as shin splints, from doing the same movement repeatedly over time. A physical therapist can work with an athlete to create a treatment plan that focuses on reducing pain while improving strength and conditioning.

Physical therapists also educate patients on how to properly care for muscles, tendons, and joints to reduce the likelihood of future injuries.

Improve Balance

Some spinal conditions can cause balance issues. A physical therapist can develop an exercise program that helps a patient improve coordination and balance. This helps decrease the risk of falls, which could cause fractures or other injuries. Improved mobility and coordination are especially important for older adults.

Physical therapists can work with patients of all ages to address a wide variety of health issues. Some physical therapists have a specific area of expertise, such as postoperative recovery or orthopedic care.


Comprehensive Care at CNSO

At CNSO, the physical therapy staff works in conjunction with physicians, surgeons, and other members of the medical team to provide coordinated care. While CNSO offers innovative surgical treatments, the staff works to relieve symptoms and improve function through conservative care first. Alongside physical therapy, this may include:

As a comprehensive care center, patients can receive onsite diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of back, neck, spine, and brain issues.


Find Pain Relief at CNSO

Patients with spine or back pain can find expert care at CNSO. Serving people throughout northern New Jersey, CNSO has convenient locations in Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. The physical therapists at CNSO work in coordination with a team of board-certified neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons, as well as pain management specialists. For more information or to schedule an initial consultation, contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics