What is Orthopedic Massage Therapy?

First of all, what are “orthopedics”?

Orthopedics are a specialty field in medicine associated with the treatment of a condition or injury that impacts and impairs the musculoskeletal system (bones, tendons, ligaments and, of course, muscles). Most orthopedic conditions are not “visiting” ailments but exist in the form of chronic dysfunction in the moving body – often times, with global interruption in human movement. This includes, but is not limited to, such conditions like patellar tendinitis, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, lordosis (an overly extended lower back), and Morton’s Neuroma.

How does an orthopedic condition develop?

The generally accepted response to this question is “over time” but, really, it is the compound effect of daily activities repeated over and over that result in these conditions. They can, also, develop as a byproduct of an acute, traumatic change in movement mechanics (e.g. adjusting one’s gait to avoid pressure on a sensitive area on the foot). Whether as a repetitive stress injury or as a compensatory pattern, any number of events could contribute to what is now an uncomfortable-to-very-painful dysfunction of the body. This is where understanding the history of your movement mechanics is critical. Did your carpal tunnel syndrome develop from years of typing on a computer or did the symptoms start after that weight-lifting competition you’ve been training for since January? The devil is in the detail – no matter how minute.  

How do I know if I have an orthopedic condition?

Get evaluated by a professional. Period. If you suffer from an unfamiliar pain that affects your ability to move, proper diagnosis by a trained clinician is absolutely necessary in order to effectively meet your needs for treatment. Physicians, nurse practitioners and physical therapists are clinicians. Your local herbalist, life coach, and massage therapists are not.

(Side bar: Web-MD is not a reliable tool for self-examination.) 

Only a healthcare practitioner that is licensed to do so has the diagnostic power to steer you in the right direction. Know where you stand before you carve out your path to recovery.

What can I DO if I am diagnosed with an orthopedic condition?

The options are endless. Many sufferers of low back pain find relief in the form of acupuncture. Others use foam rolling and corrective exercises for building, balancing and maintaining proper structural alignment and, yet, some others mask their pain with medication. Prescribing a course of action is the responsibility of that diagnosing clinician but implementation is totally up to you. No one knows your body better than it’s sole proprietor. Keeping an open mind to all possible alleys of rehabilitation is key to finding exactly what works for you.

What is Orthopedic Massage Therapy and how can it help me?

Massage therapy, in the most general sense, is the therapeutic manipulation of soft tissue in the body with intent to promote a healing environment. An Orthopedic Massage Therapist is specially trained and certified in the treatment of orthopedic conditions. Therefore, Orthopedic Massage is the manipulation of the soft tissue in the body as they pertain to orthopedic conditions with the disciplined intent to promote a healing environment. It is target-specific, purposeful bodywork that aims to eliminate the symptoms of pain and dysfunction by focusing on the source of it all.

A typical session of orthopedic massage involves an initial intake of your medical background, daily activities and areas of concern. Gait and postural analysis may be used, along with some muscle testing and movement screening. The time spent on the treatment table is unlike what you would expect from your run-of-the-mill spa or wellness center. This is not a “fluff-and-buff, gift-certificate birthday massage”. It is effective, medically supported manual therapy for hurting bodies. Undivided attention is given to the chief areas of complaint for the maximum benefit of the client. With the right approach, touch and sound reason for treatment, a client once hindered and disabled by sciatic pain (for example) can walk out of a therapists’ office, pain-free and unrestricted.

If you suffer from a longstanding pain with little-to-no improvement over time and under treatment, you may benefit greatly from the knowledgeable and skilled hands of a manual therapist.