Physiotherapy or Remedial Massage? Which is the best for you?

Whether you are suffering from general aches and pains, injured, or looking to improve your athletic performance both physiotherapy and remedial or sports massage can be greatly beneficial. However, there are some cases when physiotherapy may be more appropriate than massage, and vice versa. To help you make the right decision for you, we’ve asked our resident sports physiotherapist to explain the differences between physiotherapy and massage.

Physiotherapy, and Sports Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy involves the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of injuries.  While some physio’s treatments involve remedial massage techniques a large part of their expertise is in diagnosing the injury, recognising the cause of the problem, and constructing a comprehensive management plan that may include massage, joint mobilisations/manipulations, and strength or mobility exercises. 

Sports Physiotherapy or Sports Physio is a specialised branch of physio that deals with sport and exercise related injuries.  Now called Sports and Exercise Physiotherapists, a therapist needs to complete further education and apply for recognition from the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) to become a “Titled” Sports and Exercise Physio.  These therapists have a more comprehensive understanding of the demands of exercise, and how to manage training and lifestyle factors for optimal recovery and a quick return to training. 

Specialist Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist’s:  Therapists who have excelled in their knowledge and experience can go through a training program to become “Specialist” sports and exercise physio’s.  Specialisation as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapists is conferred to physiotherapists who have attained the highest level of expertise in their particular field of physiotherapy.”  Specialists are recognised at having more developed assessment and management skills, as well as experience handling complex or unusual injuries.  We are immensely proud of our Titled Sports Physio Myles Burfield who has been accepted as a registrar in the sports and exercise specialisation program with graduation expected in 2023. 

Remedial massage and sports massage

Remedial massage, on the other hand, is a type of soft tissue treatment that is used to help treat soft tissues and help restore normal function. The aim of remedial massage is to decrease muscle tension and spasm, improve blood flow and circulation, and promote healing. A remedial massage therapist may also prescribe stretches and give you general advice on how to help manage yourself.

Sports massage is a type of remedial massage that focuses of sports related muscle pain or imbalance.  A sports massage therapist has an appreciation of the demands of different sports on soft tissues (especially muscles and tendons) and are experienced in the best massage techniques to address these imbalances.  Because they deal regularly with athletes, they are good at recognising common sporting presentations and can target their treatments accordingly.  Our massage therapists work with the Brisbane Lions, Brisbane Heat, local triathlon and running groups, and frequent gym goers.

So do I need physio or massage?

Which is the best treatment for your current condition – physiotherapy or remedial massage? As a general rule of thumb, if you have suffered a new injury or you are in pain that is affecting your ability to move (i.e. you can’t walking, run or train normally because of pain) then it is best to start with a physio assessment. 

Your physio will be equipped to correctly diagnose the injury and set up a thorough treatment and rehabilitation plan. This may include a mix of both physiotherapy and remedial massage, as well as exercise prescription.

However, if your pain is not sharp and you are experiencing general muscle soreness and tightness after exercise, or work-related stress and tension, remedial massage will be most beneficial. It is also a great option before a sporting event or as regular maintenance to relieve tension, boost circulation, improve recovery and maintain general mobility.

To recap, see a physio as your first step if you have:

  • Acute or sudden pain
  • A current injury
  • A complicated injury history or recurring injuries
  • Chronic, undiagnosed pain
  • Postural issues
  • An underlying health condition
  • Recurring headaches
  • Recently undergone orthopaedic/reconstructive surgery
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • A desire to enhance your sporting performance

remedial massage is ideal if:

  • You spend a lot of time seated
  • You do a lot of computer work
  • You’re stressed and tense
  • You need a relaxing treatment
  • You’re run down and often get sick
  • You’re in training for a sports event
  • You want to recover sooner between training sessions or after a sporting event
  • You want to maintain your body

If you need to see a physiotherapist in the Brisbane CBD, our experts can help you. Don't put up with pain, book your appointment today.

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