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Many athletes enjoy and benefit from sports massage. It can provide pain relief, reduce stress and improve performance. However, sports massage is not a substitute for orthopaedic treatment or physical therapy. Massage therapists offer a valuable service, but they are not medical providers. Many athletes choose a comprehensive treatment plan, including physical therapy for long-term recovery and sports massage for short-term relief. Here are some of the differences between sports massage and physical therapy.
What Is Sports Massage Therapy?
Sports massage falls under the umbrella of massage therapy. It’s a massage focused on athletes and other patients with physically demanding professions or hobbies. It’s similar to deep tissue massage but targets particular muscle and soft tissue groups associated with the client’s physical activity. Sports massage therapists train to help athletes enhance performance and recovery, targeting specific joints and soft tissue areas. Sports massage can benefit amateur, professional, or student-athletes and others who have physically demanding jobs or activities. It can help athletes before or after an athletic event, during training, or recovery from an injury. Athletes often choose sports massage for pain relief, relaxation, and stress reduction rather than long-term healing.
What Kind of Training Do Sports Massage Therapists Get?
Sports massage therapists generally graduate from a six to 12 month program at a trade school, including 500 hours of education. Certified massage therapists must also pass a national licensing exam. Many massage therapists are highly qualified and terrific at what they do.
How Is Physical Therapy Different From Massage Therapy?
Physical therapists often include manual therapy as part of treatment. Manual therapy is a hands-on technique involving the manipulation of muscles and mobilization of joints. But a physical therapist’s practice goes well beyond manual therapy. Physical therapists use various tools, including strength and mobility exercises, hands-on manipulation/therapeutic massage, dry needling, ultrasound, hot and cold therapy, and electrical stimulation. Physical therapy is a comprehensive practice designed to help patients regain strength and mobility and avoid reinjury.
What Training Do Physical Therapists Get?
Physical therapy is a medical profession rather than a trade. Many of the nation’s top universities offer PT degrees. To practice in the US, a physical therapist must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from an accredited program and pass a state licensure exam. DPT programs typically last three years and cover biology/anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, and other medical subjects. Physical therapists spend nearly 30 weeks in a clinical setting as part of their DPT program, and many follow that experience with a residency in a medical environment.
Will My Insurance Cover Sports Massage Therapy?
Sports massage therapy is usually an out-of-pocket expense. However, insurance companies routinely cover physical therapy with a provider’s prescription.
Do I Need Sports Massage or Physical Therapy?
If you’re an athlete with an injury or suffering from aches and pains, your orthopaedist’s office is the best place to start. If you have muscle soreness, a massage from a certified therapist can provide relief. As orthopaedists, we may recommend sports massage to patients as part of an overall treatment plan. However, a comprehensive physical therapy program is the best long-term solution for healing and staying healthy after a sports injury. At Countryside Orthopaedics, we’re proud to have one of the region’s top physical therapy teams right in our office. Our team is made up of physical therapists, hand therapists, and occupational therapists, so we can meet many needs. Working with our physicians, our experienced physical therapists use the many tools in their toolbox to help patients regain strength and mobility and safely return to the activities they love.