Massage or physiotherapy? What is the difference and what to choose when I am in pain?

Massage therapy and physiotherapy are very popular treatments for people who suffer from muscular pain and tension. They both offer benefits to mental and physical well-being and work to restore the body to its optimal health and function. It is important, though, to understand the differences between these two disciplines, so that we can choose the professional treatment that will suit exactly our needs.


Let’s start with physiotherapy. While massage therapy is classified as alternative medicine, physiotherapy is included in the medical professions. This means that when someone receives a physiotherapy treatment, he or she will be referred to as “the patient” and will have to go through an extensive health assessment, where the therapist will ask details about medical history and the exact symptoms the person is currently experiencing, so that he or she can provide the patient with a diagnosis, followed then by the treatment.

physio1Physiotherapy can consist of different types of treatments, out of which manual massage is just one. For example, the therapist can use dry needling, radial shockwave therapy, laser therapy or taping. The combination of various techniques will be agreed based upon the patient’s conditions.

The main aim of physiotherapy is rehabilitation, helping the body move better, correcting and fixing an issue by treating its cause, so that it won’t return in time. Therefore, physiotherapy might require a long cycle of treatments before starting to see some results, but the effects will be quite long term.

When is it best to choose physiotherapy? This treatment is recommended when one is suffering from a critical disease, a lack of motion, a specific and recurring pain that massage therapy couldn’t help with. Also, physiotherapy is indicated after an injury or in the post-surgery, when the body needs to be re-educated to restore its correct mobility and functions.

Let’s now see the key benefits of massage therapy and when it’s advisable to choose this option, rather than physiotherapy. As mentioned earlier, massage therapy is part of the range of alternative medicines, therefore there is no need of a formal diagnosis, but before the treatment the therapist will just discuss in details with the client (not “the patient”) his or her needs, so that he or she can adjust the pressure accordingly and focus on the areas where pain or tension is occurring. 

 massage4Massage therapy is mostly manual (one exception is, for example, the hot stones massage where heated, flat stones are placed on specific parts of the body, in order to calm and smooth tightness) but it presents different techniques: Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sport massage, lymphatic drainage, trigger point massage are just some types of treatments that you can receive in a professional wellness centre.

massage2The key aim, and benefit, of a massage treatment is relieving the body from aches and tensions. It takes care of the overall wellness of the client, while it can also focus on a specific pain, as far as it is not chronical (in that case physiotherapy should be suggested) as this type of therapy treats the symptoms.

Massage therapy, when practised professionally, allows the body to immediately feel better afterwards, helping muscles to relax, boosting the circulation and leaving an overall feeling of well-being and calmness. It also helps manage stress and anxiety, as well as it is a powerful mood boost and a great way to support the immune system.

When is it recommended to choose massage therapy? When one is suffering from muscular pain and body aches and is in need of overall relaxation or relief on some specific areas where tension has built up. A professional massage is great for shoulder and neck pain, or for lower back pain; it will be beneficial if you have a busy working life in an office as it can help with all the issues related to bad postures and lack of movement (for example, wrist pain or back pain); also, as mentioned, massage therapy is a really valid aid to a treatment plan for mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. 

Here at Fulham Massage & Wellness we are specialised in massage therapy only; we do have however an in-house physiotherapist who will supervise directly or indirectly all the treatments, in order to ensure that all your medical needs and expectations are met. We understand the science behind massage and physiotherapy and always implement it into the treatments, which are designed and developed by our whole team of highly qualified therapists. Our therapists are also experienced and confident to provide suitable rehabilitation programmes which involve stretches, strengthening exercises, core balancing exercises and additional home care advice. We take research very seriously, so that we can offer not only effective, but enjoyable treatments as well. 

massage3You are more than welcome to ask any questions you might have about massage or physiotherapy and we will be happy to recommend the best treatment for you. Give us a call on 020 3794 9760 or send us an email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to seeing you soon in our Fulham clinic!programmes which involve stretches, strengthening exercises, core balancing exercises and additional home care advice. We take research very seriously, so that we can offer not only effective, but enjoyable treatments as well.

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