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What's the difference between Physical Therapy and a massage?

Female physical therapy patientThis is a question many patients ask when first arriving to physical therapy. The confusion grows when they look at the prescription and see “massage” checked off under the instructions. While it’s true that “massage” is a part of physical therapy, it is not the type of massage you are used to getting from a massage therapist.

Your physical therapist will likely perform “soft tissue mobilization” on you when you have a restriction in motion. Soft tissue mobilization is a form of manual therapy (where the therapist uses a hands-on approach to illicit a change) which may include effleurage (most commonly seen with Swedish massages), deep tissue massage, and mobilization techniques involving instruments, such as cupping or specific tools for mobilizing muscles and their fascia. While physical therapy soft tissue mobilization may not be as relaxing as your standard massage, it works to release knots and adhesions that may be causing pain with motion or limiting your motion.

Although each therapy session lasts for 45 to 60 minutes, it is important to note that the manual treatment including soft tissue mobilization does not last the entire session, and it is a component of therapy and not the only therapeutic technique required to get you better faster!

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