Many people are at a loss when it comes to knowing which therapist to go to. This is because the field is awash with many different therapists who specialize in a variety of massages.

 You might be wondering whether you need a medical massage therapist or just a massage therapist. The two may sound the same but they are completely different. The main difference is in what the goal of the massage they each do is.

Medical massage therapist provides medical care to a patient as recommended by a medical practitioner. The massage is done for remedial purposes.

Massage therapist, on the other hand, provides a consumer service to a client. This is done mostly for the purpose of relaxation.

Let us look at the different ways in which the two therapists are different.

Difference Between Massage Therapist And Medical Massage Therapist

1. Treatment Techniques

The treatment techniques used by both therapists differ.

A medical massage therapist uses clinical techniques like myofascial treatments, deep tissue massage, cross-fiber friction, neuromuscular “trigger point” technique, and muscle energy technique.

Difference Between Massage Therapist And Medical Massage Therapist

a. Myofascial treatments:

This is an alternative medicine therapy which is claimed to be useful for skeletal muscle immobility and pain. The therapist does this by way of relaxing your muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation and stimulating the stretch muscles.

b. Deep tissue massage

This is a technique that is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues. Issues such as strains and sports injuries. The way it works is by applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. By doing this it will help break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.

c.Cross fiber friction

It is also known as deep transverse friction. This technique aims at breaking down and decreasing the knots and lesions which are formed during an injury such as tears, breaks or sprains. This massage technique enables the body in forming strong and flexible tissue when it is applied to the injured ligament, joint or tendon.

d. Neuromuscular “trigger point” technique

A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot that is painful. It is called this because it triggers pain. Trigger points are located in taut muscle fibres. The most tender point in the band is the trigger point. The therapist will locate and deactivate them using finger pressure.

e. Muscle energy technique

This is a broad class of manual therapy techniques. The aim of which is to improve musculoskeletal function or joint function and improving pain. It requires the patient to move their muscles on request in order to help in treatment.

Massage therapist, on the other hand, uses relaxation techniques like Swedish deep tissue, and circulatory massage.

a. Swedish deep tissue

This is one of the most used techniques. Its aim is to promote relaxation by releasing muscle tension. It may loosen up tight muscles caused by everyday activities like sitting up. During the massage, a therapist would use kneading, long strokes, deep circular movements, and passive joint movements.

b. Circulatory massage

This massage helps to relieve stress from the body and muscles and can improve a person’s mental and physical health. It involves applying pressure, tension, vibration, or motion to the different parts of the body. It could be with hands, arms or electronic massage devices.

2. Accountability

Medical massage therapist has to account to the following bodies/ institutions

  • Insurance companies
  • Patients
  • Certification boards
  • State/city licensing boards
  • IRS/ state/ local taxes
  • Independent medical examiners
  • Auditors
  • Courts
  • Attorneys

Message therapist is accountable to

  • IRS/state/ local taxes
  • Clients
  • Certification boards
  • State city licensing boards

3. Training

Difference Between Massage Therapist And Medical Massage Therapist

Medical massage therapist has to take a basic 500-hour long massage certification course. In addition to this there is advanced training in the following

  • Pharmacology
  • Documentation
  • Medical terminology
  • Communication skills
  • Pathologies and contraindications
  • Orthopedic Assessment and treatment protocols.

Massage therapist has to take only a basic 500-hour long certification course.

4. Experience

Massage therapist can start practicing immediately after finishing their certification course.

Medical massage therapist needsclinical and professional experience. Alternatively they can go on internship.

5. Other Differences

  • Massage therapist does not need a doctors’ recommendation to attend to a client. They work at the request of the client. A medical massage therapist needs a prescription from a doctor to attend a patient. Which means it has to be a medical necessity for them to attend to a patient.
  • Medical massage therapist needs elaborate medical records before attending to a patient while a massage therapist does not need any medical background.
  • Massage therapist can conclude therapy when the client is satisfied or their needs are met while medical massage therapist can only terminate once they have achieved maximum medical improvement.
  • Massage therapist can be creative since the nature of the therapy is nurturing. Medical therapist though has to follow procedure since the nature of the therapy is problem-solving.
  • The setting for a medical massage therapist is not geared towards comfort but rather towards treating. Massage therapist on the other side provide a comfortable and luxurious environment to make clients at ease. Some even practice as mobile massage therapists, attending to clients in the comfort of their homes.

6. Career Growth

Difference Between Massage Therapist And Medical Massage Therapist

Massage therapist may end up learning beauty techniques like scrubs and wraps. Some move on into managerial positions. Other therapists move into self-employment working as mobile massage therapists, where they go to clients and attend to them in their homes.

Medical massage therapist could go on to pursue further education. In this way you could end up in physical therapy.


The goal of massages offered by both professionals is to make a person feel better and relaxed. While a massage therapist is more of a wellness therapist like my home therapy working to relax and satisfy the client with no medical issues. A medical massage therapist’s work is remedial and focused on treating a medical problem at the recommendation of a medical practitioner.


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