The Benefit of Massage Therapy in Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Care

massage therapy

While most people are familiar with physical therapy and massage therapy, many are unaware of the role that they can play together in the arena of overall care. In fact, each treatment shares a common goal of providing drug-free treatment that supports the natural healing process. They just do so with different techniques. When applied together, though, the treatments complement one another to provide even better results than one or the other alone.

What Does Each Type of Therapy Entail?

Having a good understanding of each type of therapy establishes the basis for better relating how the different treatments support one another. Each type of care has its own role and focuses on a different aspect of the body, which when paired with the others, presents a more holistic approach.

Physical therapy is a form of treatment that relies on physical methods to facilitate healing of disease, injury, or other deformities. It may include such treatments as massage, exercise, or even heat treatment as opposed to drugs or surgery.

Massage therapy is primarily focused on relaxing the muscles to eliminate stress caused by injury, surgery, or other means. This technique is also used to restore balance in the body.

Chiropractic care is designed to target disorders of the musculoskeletal system and even the nervous system. Chiropractors manipulate the joints and make adjustments to restore a more natural positioning of the spines and other bones to reduce pain and restore health.

What Are the Primary Benefits of Combined Treatment?

Whereas treatment previously was focused in one arena, today providers often suggest a combined treatment approach that involves elements of physical therapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic care or any combination of the three. There are a number of benefits to combined treatment, including:

• Comprehensive Treatment – The body is a complex structure in which each element works together – bones, soft tissues, muscles, and other supporting structures. When therapy combines components of each type of care, it addresses all aspects of the body to treat the issue from all sides and restore health in its entirety. This comprehensive approach renders better results and often faster healing.

• Faster Recovery – In particular, the element of massage therapy that contributes to a combined approach is that it helps relax the muscles affected by the injury or surgery. In so doing, the patient is better able to do the exercises and other stretches necessary for treatment. Additionally, massage aids in faster recovery of the soft tissue following chiropractic adjustments as well.

• Smoother Adjustments – Massage is focused on relaxing the muscles to aid in range of motion and reduce pain. This also has the benefit of facilitating chiropractic treatments, as the body is looser and more limber to make adjustments easier and more comfortable.

• Increased Range of Motion – As massage loosens the muscles and reduces tension, it also impacts range of motion and can increase the efficacy of chiropractic care and physical treatment. Most individuals needing treatment experience a reduced range of motion; however, with massage the movement is increased, making physical treatment and chiropractic treatment easier and more beneficial. Massage therapy assists in increasing flexibility and movement of the muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue that has been impacted by the injury or illness.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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