As a massage therapist, I am often asked what the difference is between a ‘regular’ massage and a ‘clinical’ or ‘rehab’ massage. This is a great question, especially with the frequency of half-off massage deals that are being offered everyday. The result of these daily deals is that a lot of people are going for a massage wherever they can find the best deal. Is this bad? Not necessarily. What’s important is to ask yourself, “Why do I need a massage?” If you are getting a massage because you enjoy receiving them but don’t necessarily have a chronic injury or problem area, then this is probably fine. I do have to note that there are great benefits in seeing the same practitioner. A licensed massage therapist who sees you regularly will get to know your body and could help you identify potential issues.
Now if you do have a chronic injury or are recovering from an acute injury, you may want to look for a massage therapist who is experienced with clinical massage therapy. Clinical massage therapy (or rehabilitation massage therapy) means that the massage is a site-specific treatment with a precise goal or outcome in mind. Similar to physical therapy, you would go to a clinical massage therapist with a specific complaint that you would like treated.
Here are four ways that clinical massage therapy is different from a relaxation massage:
All massage therapists (MTs) start out in a pretty similar place when they graduate from school. Besides the slight difference in curriculum, we all have to pass the same national certification exam. The difference comes with experience. I, personally, do 90% clinical massage therapy. Almost everyone that I have had my hands on for the last 7 years has had an injury or complaint. If you have a torn rotator cuff, you don’t want to see someone who does 90% relaxation massage. A clinical massage therapist learns over time what treatment is most effective for various conditions.
- Continuing Education
Along with experience, continuing education is very important for a clinical massage therapist. There are hundreds of courses out there for MTs. Everything from hot stone massage to energy work to orthopedic massage. The types of classes MTs take shape the kind of practice they develop. A clinical massage therapist will take classes such as Rotator Cuff Treatment, IT Band Syndrome, Common Orthopedic Injuries, Neurofascial Integration, and Positional Release. These classes not only teach advanced anatomy and kinesiology, but skilled hands-on work as well.
- Professional Contacts
Clinical massage therapists usually work within a network of medical professionals. Whether it be chiropractors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, or medical doctors, a clinical massage therapist will have resources at his or her disposal. We have all heard that is takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes a village to bring someone to their optimal health. Very rarely is there one answer to a person’s recovery. A good clinical massage therapist will utilize his or her experience, as well as their contacts, to make sure all bases are covered.
- Detailed History and Plan for Recovery
A good clinical massage therapist will sit down with you before your first session and ask a LOT of questions. They will want to make sure they know all there is to know before they even get their hands on you. We want to know whether your goal is to decrease pain or run a marathon. This will help the clinical massage therapists work with you, the client, on developing a clear plan of care. This means there will be recommendations on how often you should receive treatment, advice on what to do outside of the massage sessions, as well as referrals as needed. A clinical massage therapist will also have the knowledge to know when an injury or condition is outside of their scope of practice.
If you have any questions on what type of massage therapy you need, just call and ask. Any Athletico massage therapist can help guide you toward the treatment you need.
I have a scrip for Physical Therapy. I have a right rotator cuff area pain and occasional neck pain. Im not sure I need PT and think MT might help more. I have been going to the Deerfield location. What does the MT session cost per visit?
Weekly massage therapy has allowed me to continue to work and exercise without having major injuries stop me from doing both. I have “severe, corrosive, aggressive osteoarthritis” and was losing my ability to do normal activities until I found Athletico and turned it around. Will I ever be without pain or restricted movement again? Probably not. But being able to work and play without doing more damage to my joints has been a God-send. Besides working out my kinks and keeping me limber, my therapist guides me in the ways that I can best work my body. That is worth everything. Thank you Candance and thank you Athletico!
@Jill- Thanks so much for the comment. I am so happy that Massage Therapy works for you. Every MTs dream is to be able take away pain and help people reach their optimal health.
@Tom- Our prices vary by length of treatment and location. Without knowing more about your condition I can’t really make a recommendation about how long of a session you would need. If you want to give me a call, I could help get you in the right hands. (847)548-0360. Also, if you are a current PT patient at Deerfield, I would recommend discussing Massage with your treating Physical Therapist. He/She might also have recommendations.
I am going to Athletico in Bolingbrook and I am convinced massge therapy will help in my treatment for lower back pain. Thoughts?
Excellent article Candace. Really lays it out very clearly and is spot on with my experience 🙂
@Julie- Thanks for the feedback! I am glad you have had such a positive experience.
@Ron- Without knowing your particular symptoms it is hard to say, but very likely YES it can help, especially as a supplement to your current rehab program. Also, Massage Therapy can be a good maintenance plan after your therapy is complete. Our goal is to keep you out of therapy and your back healthy. Massage Therapy has been shown to be incredibly effective to treat low back pain. Ask your therapist about Massage Therapy to make sure you don’t have any restrictions, but we have a great MT at Bolingbrook who would be happy to help.
Hi Candice, I fell recently & hurt my back & am currently going to Athletico ( Niles ) for physical therapy, I have also gone for therapy for stress headaches ( my dr. said I have an abnormal spinal cord ) and part of the therapy was a ” mini massage “on my neck & shoulders which did wonders for me besides feeling great! Do you think I should ask my dr. if this is something I should have done on a regular basis
@Ann- It certainly would not hurt to ask your doctor. Maybe even start by asking your Physical Therapist as he/she will have a good idea if this is something that can help. Massage is great at ‘normalizing’ the tissue so the muscles function the way that they were designed. And the best part, for a vast majority of the population Massage Therapy is safe and without side effects. Let me know if you need a recommendation in your area. Thanks! Hope that helps.
@Tom – my MT charges $50/session but also accepts almost all insurance so that cuts it down to just $20 co-pay for me!
Thanks Candice This is great information!
Tiffany- Thanks for commenting! Glad you found the information useful. 🙂
As a fellow MT this is a great article! May I share it on my blog? Full credit to you of course 🙂
@Jessica- Thanks! I’m glad you liked the blog post. I would be honored if you shared it. The more people that get this information the better. 🙂
I have a prescription for Therapy for Arthritic shoulders. Very stiff and getting weaker. Can you help and do you take Florida Blue HO insurance?
@James- sounds like you would be a great candidate for a combination of Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy. I’ll send you an email to get some more info from you, but I believe we could help you. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
Massage is the best thing ever for the body! Regular massages have great benefits for the mind,body and soul! Everyone needs to incorporate them into their life! 🙂