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When to see a massage therapist: Massage therapy vs. chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy

Updated: Apr 18


When to see a massage therapist: massage therapy vs. chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy

Have you ever found yourself wondering when is the right time to see a massage therapist? It is a question many of us Google, often prompted by an immediate need to address acute or chronic muscle issues. Whether that be a sudden neck restriction making daily activities difficult or lingering, recurring pain that has become your 'new normal,' seeking relief is a priority.


In the face of NHS waiting lists and the challenge of getting a timely appointment with your GP, many turn to massage therapy as an alternative approach. But amidst the search for answers, you may wonder: Is a massage therapist the right professional for my specific needs?


In this article, we will explore when to see a massage therapist: massage therapy vs. chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy.


Overwhelming options making it hard to choose?


In the realm of holistic health approaches and alternative medicine, navigating the list of options available in your area can be daunting. If you were just to search 'when to see a massage therapist' you may get a several hits for similar articles like this one or similar blog posts talking about the top reasons to get a massage. If you are using Google, you will probably be recommended to massage therapists near you based off of your location.


Massage Therapy not regulated?

In the UK, where massage therapy is not regulated, different massage therapists come with varying educational backgrounds, levels of experience and knowledge. Not to mention the service menu and price list among different massage therapists in your area may be very confusing to understand. What service do you choose? Is there a difference between soft tissue massage and deep tissue massage? Can you get a sports massage if you you do not play sports? What is this about hot stones?


So you keep searching or maybe you ask for recommendations. Now you realise on top of massage therapy you may also need to seek out chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy.


When you just want to get out of pain, you want your choice to be easy.


Feeling a bit lost in the world of alternative healthcare?


When to see a massage therapist: massage therapy vs. chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy

Do not worry, you are not alone. When it comes to dealing with chronic or acute pain or wanting relief from symptoms of mental health: depression, anxiety and stress, the options seem endless. Massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, osteopathy...the list goes on!


So, let's break it down.


When you choose Knotsology, you are getting Advanced Clinical and Sports & Rehab massage therapy. You may read that and your takeaway is "ah-you are a 'sports massage therapist' then?"


Yes. And then some...let me explain.


I began my work with massage in the hair and beauty industry in the US in the early 2000s. After getting my massage qualification to work in the UK, I went on to complete L6 BTEC and ACMT, which is a three year course for already qualified massage therapists from Jing Advanced Massage Training from Jing Institute of Massage and Complementary Medicine in Brighton, England. They are, from the date this article was written, the only school in the UK to offer a L6 BTEC, the highest level of achievement in the UK's massage therapy industry. Why does only one school offer the L6? This is because of Rachel Fairweather and Meghan Mari of Jing, who have pioneered the way forward for the UK massage industry. They want to bring the same high level of standards and regulations like in the US where they began their careers in this field.


Meghan Mari and Rachel Fairweather of Jing

Just to recap, massage therapy is not regulated in the UK. So that 'great deal on a massage' you found could be from someone that studied for only a week to get qualified and does not plan on doing any further training or from someone who works for a massage company where they get paid less than your barista at your favourite speciality coffee shop. I say that to inform you and to explain that not all massages should be lumped into one or compared to each other. Find the perfect massage therapist for you and your goals. If your goal is to get out of pain or fix a problem, look for the right massage therapist who can tailor a session to you as an individual.


At Knotsology with my L6 BTEC and ACMT qualifications, I use The Jing Method™, a partnership between patient and practitioner to increase your mobility, agility and joint range of motion (ROM), whilst focusing on decreasing your daily pain. It uses Advanced Clinical Massage, a unique outcome based system for addressing chronic musculoskeletal pain through a tried and tested fusion of advanced soft tissue and massage techniques.


L6 BTEC ACMT

What I love about using The Jing Method™, is the blending of the best of advanced bodywork techniques from both East and West including trigger point therapy, advanced myofascial work, acupressure and stretching with a truly holistic approach based on the biopsychosocial model of pain and modern neuroscience.


I use this style of massage therapy for helping people wanting relief from chronic pain and relief from symptoms of mental health. It is also effective with most types of chronic musculoskeletal pain including; back pain, sciatica, neck pain, whiplash, migraines, frozen shoulder, sports injuries, knee pain, ligament and tendon issues. As well as systemic conditions like fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and plantar fasciitis.



let's have a chat about when to call up your friendly neighbourhood massage therapist versus giving physio, chiropractic, or osteo a whirl.


So that is a breakdown of what I do when it comes to massage therapy at Knotsology. Massage therapy is not the only game in town! Just in my area we have physiotherapy chiropractic care and osteopathy. Each with its own educational standards, qualifications and experience to help feel like your best self.


But how do you know which one is right for you? That's where things get a bit tricky.


Understanding the differences between these modalities can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. But fear not, my friend! As your Knotsologist and massage and yoga therapist, I am here to be your trusty guide through the jungle of alternative healthcare.


So grab a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's have a chat about when to call up your friendly neighbourhood massage therapist versus giving physio, chiropractic, or osteo a whirl.


Understanding the Differences: Massage Therapy vs. chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy



Massage Therapy


Massage Therapy:

If you take one thing away from this article it should be that massage therapy is for everybody and every type of body. Even if not all massage therapists are alike or offering the same service or experience, you can find the right one for you. I hope I have done a good job at highlighting my work as an L6 BTEC, ACMT in Advanced Clinical and Sports & Rehab massage therapy with the Jing Method™ at Knotsology. It is not a cookie cutter, one size fits all treatment, and is tailored to both the individual and to the specific session. It may not be the right massage treatment for you. Luckily there are many different massage therapists out there and I know you can find the right therapist for you.



Physio


Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, is a healthcare profession focused on restoring movement and function to individuals affected by injury, illness or disability. Physiotherapists employ a variety of techniques, including exercise therapy, manual therapy, and modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation, to help patients regain mobility, alleviate pain, and improve strength and flexibility.


If comparing physiotherapy to a massage therapist who offers say swedish, deep tissue or remedial massage, you may see the differences between the two professions more clearly.


Where my L6 BTEC and ACMT takes a step up from a general massage therapist and is more similar to physiotherapy, is how I go beyond the focus of soft tissues, joining physiotherapists with also taking a more comprehensive approach.

We both:

  • address the musculoskeletal and aspects of movement and function

  • assess clients' conditions (however, massage therapists cannot diagnosis)

  • develop personalized treatment plans

  • incorporate education and exercise prescription to empower individuals in managing their health.


I myself have seen a physiotherapist after breaking my arm in 2021 and enjoyed my experience receiving physio as a client. You can read more about my recovery and rehab with My Personal Journey with The Jing Method™ here on the blog.



Chiro


Chiropractic Care:

A chiropractor focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, primarily those related to the spine. Chiropractors utilize spinal adjustments, manipulation techniques, and other manual therapies to realign the spine, alleviate joint restrictions, and improve nervous system function. The central concept in chiropractic care is the belief that proper alignment of the spine facilitates the body's innate ability to heal itself and maintain optimal health.


Chiropractic treatment often involves a series of adjustments aimed at addressing misalignments (subluxations) in the spine and other joints. While chiropractic care shares some similarities with manual therapy techniques used in massage therapy and physiotherapy, its primary emphasis on spinal manipulation sets it apart as a distinct modality within the realm of alternative medicine.



Osteo


Osteopathy:

Osteopathy is a holistic healthcare approach that focuses on the interrelationship between the body's structure and function in promoting health and well-being. Osteopathic practitioners use a combination of manual techniques, including manipulation, stretching, and massage, to restore balance within the musculoskeletal system, improve circulation, and support the body's natural healing processes.


I find osteopathy very interesting and love hearing from Osteopaths about their work. I believe it is the differences and the similarities between their profession and mine as a L6 BTEC of Advanced Clinical Massage Therapy that makes that connection. Some of the things that I find comparable are:

  • an emphasis on treating the body as a whole

  • considering factors such as posture, biomechanics, and lifestyle habits in assessment (again massage therapists can assess but not diagnose)

  • Using Special and Orthopedic testing

  • aiming to address underlying imbalances and promote optimal health from within


This may not be things you notice about your current massage therapist and if you would like to get more from your massage therapy,look for a therapist that is either an ACMT (and a Level 4 or higher) or also holds an L6 BTEC certification and qualification.


When to See a Massage Therapist vs. Osteopath, Physiotherapist, or Chiropractor: Making Informed Healthcare Choices


I believe there is not one fix-all-magical solution and advocate for a therapeutic alliance. To me as an L6 BTEC and ACMT that means the partnership both between client and practitioner but also between the different practitioners that a client may be seeing at one time. I love when I hear a client is actively taking ownership and advocating for their health and wellbeing.



yoga on a mat


Understanding the strengths of massage therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors can help you make informed decisions about treatment options. We all offer unique approaches to musculoskeletal issues and wellness, while sharing a common goal: optimizing health and function.


However, the best choice depends on factors like your condition, preferences, and treatment goals. I recommend, whomever you choose, to prioritize any care that is personalized and tailored to your needs to achieve your desired outcomes.


Have you had a session from all the different type of professions listed in this article? I would love to hear about your positive experiences!



 

Blog post written by Bonnie Rose Aherin, L6 BTEC, ACMT | www.knotsology.com

knotsology.com

Bonnie Rose is an Advanced Clinical and Sports & Rehab Massage Therapist and yoga teacher located in Dunfermline, Scotland, UK. With Knotsology she works to help people with the management of their mental health and chronic pain both in clinic and in online sessions.


 


References




“Chiropractic: What Does a Chiropractor Do for Back Pain? | Bupa UK.” Www.bupa.co.uk, www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/muscles-bones-joints/chiropractic. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


College of Physiotherapists of Ontario. “Everything You Need to Know about Physiotherapy.” College of Physiotherapists of Ontario, 2022, www.collegept.org/patients/what-is-physiotherapy. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


Complete Physio. “What’s the Difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy.” Complete Physio, complete-physio.co.uk/difference-between-physiotherapy-osteopathy/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


Fairweather, Rachel, and Meghan Mari. “The Jing MethodTM.” Jing Advanced Massage Training, www.jingmassage.com/therapists/the-jing-method/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


General Osteopathic Council. “About Osteopathy - General Osteopathic Council.” Osteopathy.org.uk, 2020, www.osteopathy.org.uk/visiting-an-osteopath/about-osteopathy/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


WebMD. “What Is Osteopathic Medicine?” WebMD, WebMD, 1 Feb. 2016, www.webmd.com/pain-management/osteopathic-medicine.



National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Chiropractic: In Depth.”, Apr. 2019, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic-in-depth. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


Physiopedia. “Physiotherapy / Physical Therapy.” Physiopedia, 2012, www.physio-pedia.com/Physiotherapy_/_Physical_Therapy. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.




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