What is Medical Massage Therapy?
Rachel Simhon, LMT & August’s therapist of the month answers the question, “What exactly is Medical Massage and how it can help me?” Take a look!
Very often our clients point out that the massage we give you at Bodyworks DW is very different than what you experience at a spa. This is because we provide customized, therapeutic work that falls under the classification of medical massage therapy.
According to Article 155, Section 7801 of New York State Law, “The practice of the profession of massage therapy is defined as engaging in applying a scientific system of activity to the muscular structure of the human body by means of stroking, kneading, tapping and vibrating with the hands or vibrators for the purpose of improving muscle tone and circulation.”
Obviously, this is quite a broad definition. It covers a whole host of massage and bodywork modalities. So what is medical massage?
How Is Medical Massage Different than Spa Massage?
A licensed massage therapist (LMT) is the professional performing the work in both the spa and medical massage settings. To date, there is no extra certification required in New York State to perform medical massage therapy above and beyond a New York State license to practice massage therapy. However, there’s plenty of post-licensure training and mentoring available for therapists who want to focus more on medical massage. The key distinction between spa massage and medical massage lies in the intention of the work.
What is a Spa Massage?
The intention of a spa massage is generally relaxation, but can also be any sort of non-specified self-care. The spa massage experience prioritizes feeling good in the moment. A spa will often have additional comforts such as robes and aromatherapy in order to heighten the customer experience of pampering. This can have very wonderful results in overall mood, and feel very relaxing. However, the results usually don’t last very long.
What is Medical Massage Therapy?
Alternately, NYC medical massage therapists focus on helping to manage a medical condition for the long term. We practice outcome-based massage therapy. This can include improving functionality after an injury, relieving pain, or managing a chronic condition such as arthritis or MS. As a result, many of our clients at Bodyworks DW have been referred to us for medical massage by a physician, surgeon, and/or physical therapist.
Medical massage therapy can sometimes feel uncomfortable at points during your session, but that’s often the trade-off. It may not feel as relaxing, in session, as a spa massage. But the results can last much longer. When it’s performed in a series of sessions that build on each other, many conditions can be improved or eliminated for the long term.
What can medical massage help with?
- Physical pain from muscle tension around the spine and major joints of the body
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis elbow
- Frozen shoulder
- Work-related or repetitive stress injuries
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Sports injuries
- Headaches and migraines
- Pain from arthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Scar tissue from trauma and surgeries
At a medical massage session, you can expect a thorough intake. Your therapist will ask you questions. Their intention is to understand what your goals for getting a massage are. With my own clients, I generally lead with “How can I help you today?” The most important details you can provide have to do with the timeline or history of your current concerns.
Your History is Unique…Your Massage Should be Unique too
A client’s timeline helps us establish if particular issues are acute or chronic. This is important for knowing which techniques would be most appropriate. It also helps in getting a better idea of how many sessions you might need to achieve your desired outcome.
For example, neck pain that came on suddenly and for the first time two days ago after taking a long standardized test is different than neck pain that has come and gone for the last five years after whiplash from a car accident. During a medical massage, your therapist might also ask questions about your lifestyle. A ballet dancer will have vastly different priorities than an attorney who sits for 12 hours a day at their desk.
Assessment and Planning for the Session
After speaking with you, your therapist will make an assessment of your posture and alignment. This involves you simply standing up so that the therapist can visually establish the location of certain landmarks. For instance, looking at the position of the head in relation to the ribcage and pelvis. It can also include assessment of how certain joints move in relation to each other.
We may ask you to bend forward and backward, side to side, and rotate in both directions. This helps determine whether or not you have movement available in all three planes. And what your range of motion in those planes is. Sometimes we’ll ask you to walk across the waiting room so that we can observe how you move during walking or running. Or we’ll perform manual muscle testing to assess the strength and function of certain muscles. And of course, every therapist will use their hands to palpate areas of the body to develop a plan of where to focus the work during the session.
Addressing the Root of Your Issue
The assessment is important so that we don’t simply get stuck rubbing the areas that hurt like at a spa massage session. We want to address the actual root causes of your complaints. Many of you are often surprised to find your low back pain relieved by work on your hips. Or your elbow pain improved by focusing on your neck. While a spa massage might evenly divide time between both left and right sides of the body and front/back, medical massage is an individualized session based on your specific issues.
Your medical massage therapy session may skip areas of your body, or feel quite asymmetrical. Frequently, pain is caused by asymmetrical posture. So an asymmetrical, customized session is often needed to bring you into balance.
What Happens After Your Medical Massage?
At the end of a medical massage session you and your therapist will have an outtake discussion together to evaluate how to meet your goals. And to discuss specific follow-up recommendations for you. This may include how many follow up sessions you might need and how long you should wait between sessions. In addition, we’ll suggest exercises or lifestyle changes you can implement between sessions. These will help your body accept changes initiated during the session. And give you the tools to keep pain in check going forward.
Not all conditions improve with medical massage alone. So we may refer you to another wellness provider such as a pilates instructor, physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, orthopedist, etc. We have a wide network of colleagues that we and our clients have raved about. Everyone we refer to has been vetted for excellence in their field.
Our own staff has a wide array of skill sets. We might also suggest that you work with one of our colleagues in-house. Especially if we feel like they might be able to help you more quickly. We invite you to think of medical massage as part of a healthy lifestyle!
At Bodyworks DW we Specialize in Medical Massage
We offer medical massage in the New York area in Midtown and the Financial District. Would you like to schedule a professional medical massage with a qualified massage therapist in midtown Manhattan or in the Financial District? Contact Bodyworks DW today or click on the button to book online at our medical massage Midtown or medical massage Fidi studios!
Rachel is my therapist and she’s the Best. She’s smart and knows what she’s doing to fix my sports related pain and discomfort. She always explains what the treatment is going to be for the session and we talk about how and why medical massage is the correct therapy.
I feel much better and my injuries are being helped every time I have a visit. I’m getting back to the way I used to be.
Thanks so much!
Thanks Anthony! Glad to hear that you are feeling better and getting back to how you’d like to feel 🙂
A very interesting article that contains a lot of helpful information. Depending on what your specific needs are will depend on if you need a medical massage or a spa massage. It is important to discuss any health issues and what you would like to accomplish with your massage therapist and they will be able to help you decide which massage is best for you.
Thanks Keith! And yes, we totally agree that it’s really important to discuss any health issues and to work together with your massage therapist to create a solid plan 🙂
A very informative article! Many people are no longer satisfied with going to the doctor and being told to simply take a pill. They want to treat the underlying cause of their problem instead of just addressing the symptoms. One of the options is a medical massage! Communication is an important part of the process, as you are the only one who can tell the therapist if the pain is subsiding with the treatment. Thank you for sharing this helpful article.
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