Why Massage Therapy is an Important Part of Physical Therapy

By: Amy Montia, PhD, LMT.

At Physio Logic, most physical therapy patients receive massage therapy (also called manual therapy), woven into their treatment plan, as integrating massage therapy into each session optimizes physical therapy treatment and can effectively expedite their recovery.

Sports massage

A great research paper in Science Magazine in 2012 by Mark Tarnopolsky, a metabolic researcher at McMaster University in Canada, looked closely at how massage therapy affects muscle tissue at the cellular level. They took samples of muscle tissue from the subjects’ legs before and after a challenging focused workout of intense exercise (similar to the effects of a challenging PT session). They found a significant increase in genes associated with repair and inflammation in the post-exercise leg samples compared to pre-exercise leg samples, as expected. But more importantly, they saw clear differences between the massaged legs and the unmassaged legs post-exercise.

The massaged legs had a 30% increase in PGC-1alpha expression, a gene that helps muscles build mitochondria – the engines that convert the cell’s food into energy. And the same massaged leg samples also had 3 times less NF-kB (a protein complex that promotes inflammation) than the unmassaged leg samples. An overactive NF-kB mechanism is associated with a dysfunctional inflammation response and has been linked to delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), as well as cancers, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases in extreme cases. These findings suggest that massage therapy integrated into physical therapy treatment, can effectively regulate inflammation that follows intense PT exercise, and also promote faster healing.

Physio Logic Massage Therapists use varied techniques that commonly include (but are not limited to):

  • effleurage
  • petrissage
  • myofascial release
  • compression
  • muscle stripping
  • trigger point release
  • & gentle stretching

Some Therapists also use Active Release Technique (ART) or apply compression along appropriate energy meridians and acupoints to help mobilize and free up areas associated with injury, discomfort or trauma.

In physical therapy, pain can be a challenging obstacle. Often times, pain must be endured in order to regain balance and strength or establish new functional movement patterns. Massage Therapy is helpful as it can help to lower pain perception and increase the pain threshold.

We believe the number one benefit of incorporating massage therapy into a physical therapy treatment plan is the stress relief and calm state of mind it provides. It can help patients to establish slower calmer breathing patterns, and establish better body awareness in areas related to pain or injury. These are benefits that are sustainable and can be carried into other aspects of our daily lives.

But remember, you don’t have to be undergoing physical therapy to justify getting massages regularly or semi-regularly. In fact, regular massage therapy may help to keep you out of physical therapy and pain. If you are interested in trying out Massage Therapy, call us now to schedule an appointment or reach out to us by filling out the form below:

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