In our therapeutic environment we have the privilege of offering both physiotherapy and
massage therapy services to our patient population. The two are commonly sought-after
services that often work side by side. But what is the difference between these two fields of
practice? What should you expect when you come in for a physiotherapy session versus a
massage therapy session in an outpatient orthopedic setting such as ours?
Whereas both forms of treatment have an overall goal of reducing pain and returning you to
your normal everyday function, they utilize different methods in order to do so.
Let’s talk about some of the differences between each of these respective fields and some
other clarifying details.
WHAT IS PHYSIOTHERAPY?
As listed under the “Description of Physiotherapy in Canada” document found on the Canadian
Physiotherapy Association website:
“Physiotherapy is anchored in movement sciences and aims to enhance or restore function of
multiple body systems. The profession is committed to health, lifestyle and quality of life. This
holistic approach incorporates a broad range of physical and physiological therapeutic
interventions and aids.”
A physiotherapist may use a number of interventions during a treatment session. These include
but are not limited to:
- Education on your current condition, activity modification, positions of comfort, pain
- Therapeutic exercise tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
- Manual therapy such as massage, joint mobilization and manipulation
- Modalities for pain relief and healing as well as acupuncture
STRUCTURE OF PHYSIOTHERAPY SESSIONS AT OUR CLINIC
On the first day in clinic as a new patient the physiotherapist will conduct an initial assessment.
This takes between 45-60 minutes in duration. During the initial assessment, the therapist will
take a detailed history to learn more about your current complaint. Based on this history, a
thorough physical assessment of the area of concern is performed. From the physical
assessment, the physiotherapist will determine a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan
based on your presentation and personal goals. You will have the beginning of treatment on
day one as well. Normally, the physiotherapist will focus on a maximum of two regions of
complaint in order to ensure the most thorough and efficient assessment and treatment
For subsequent follow up visits, you will be in clinic for approximately 30 minutes in duration.
This treatment may involve any one of the interventions listed above if deemed appropriate
from your physical assessment. We also utilize rehabilitation assistants at our location. Our
assistants are highly trained and skilled individuals who work side by side with the therapist to
deliver the treatment plan as delegated by the therapist.
WHAT IS MASSAGE THERAPY?
As per the Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of Ontario website:
“Massage therapy is the manipulation of soft tissues of the body including muscles, connective
tissue, tendons, ligaments and joints. Massage therapy is a clinically oriented healthcare option
that helps alleviate the discomfort associated with everyday occupational stresses, muscular
overuse and many chronic pain conditions.”
Massage therapy can be used for: relaxation, decreasing muscular tension, reduction of both
acute and chronic pain, to assist in resolving musculoskeletal disorders that may be linked with
stress, overuse, and/or other pain syndromes.
It may also be utilized in a preventative manner such as for those participating in sports training
or who have jobs which may lend to repetitive strain type injuries over time.
STRUCTURE OF MASSAGE THERAPY SESSIONS AT OUR CLINIC
On the first day in clinic as a new patient our registered massage therapists also perform a
detailed assessment to determine the nature of treatment that would be beneficial for you.
Focus can be on multiple regions of complaint. Sessions can vary in duration with appointments
being 60 minutes, 45 minutes or 30 minutes long. It is recommended at your initial assessment
that you are in for a longer duration session in order to ensure that our massage therapists best
service you after meeting you for the first time. Although primarily your sessions will involve
manipulation of soft tissue, a session may also include instruction in exercises that suit your
presentation for you to utilize in a home program and education.
The duration and frequency of subsequent sessions will be determined by the massage
therapist based on your presentation and individual needs.
Physiotherapy and massage therapy do not have to be viewed in isolation from one another.
Physiotherapists and massage therapists often collaborate with one another to allow for
continual and comprehensive care. Often you can benefit from both types of treatment
simultaneously. It is certainly common at our location to have patient’s follow up for both types
of treatment if it will allow for the best achievement of the therapeutic goals set out.
Curious about how either physiotherapy services, massage therapy services or both could
possibly benefit you? We welcome you to give our clinic a call or send us an email to discuss
how the Beacon Hill team can be here to support you.
It should be noted that the following blog depicted a view of physiotherapy in our clinical practice setting – an outpatient orthopedic clinic. There are many more environments in which physiotherapists work and many more elements of scope of practice that they have – this includes physiotherapist who work in cardiorespiratory physiotherapy, neurological physiotherapy, or pelvic floor physiotherapy. Should you have a condition that would require a physiotherapist practicing in one of these settings, we would be happy to assist you in finding a location appropriate for you.