The field of manual therapy has come a long way in the past century; it now offers many completely non-invasive, drug-free treatment options for musculoskeletal issues. Myotherapy (a specialised form of massage therapy) and physiotherapy (physical therapy), are the two main modalities within the field of manual therapy.
A common question we get asked is “what is the difference between physiotherapy and myotherapy? If you Google this you will find many different answers, trust me I’ve tried.
Myotherapy and physiotherapy are similar in many ways but quite different in others. If you want to know which treatment option is right for you, you need to first understand the differences between Myotherapy and Physiotherapy.
A friendly warning before I go on, I am going to use many generalisations about these modalities and I am talking specifically about them in Melbourne, Australia. Titles can vary a lot in different locations.
What is the difference between Myotherapy and Physiotherapy?
Having worked in the physical health industry for over 20 years I have personally received treatment from countless myotherapists and physiotherapists. Some of them work almost exactly the same, however there are some overall differences you may experience.
The formal industry body definition of Myotherapy is as follows:
“Myotherapy is a branch of manual therapy that involves evidence-based assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of ‘myofascial’ pain, injury, and dysfunction.”
Western medical principles including biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology are the foundations of myotherapy. Myotherapists believe that many physical pain issues originate from soft tissues / muscles. The orthodox medical community didn’t fully embrace the idea of “muscular pain” until recent neurophysiologic research show that pain from a muscular origin is quite common.
Myotherapy Treatment Approach:
Myotherapy is focused on the management and treatment of neuromusculoskeletalpain including muscles, joints, and nerves. Myotherapy can also assist and aid in prevention, early intervention, and rehabilitation of a wide range of musculoskeletal pain and injuries. In plain and simple terms, Myotherapy helps people in pain get out of pain.
Before starting any treatment, Myotherapists usually take a comprehensive case history and conduct a detailed physical examination in order to find out the root cause of the problem and to create a treatment plan to minimise the chances of the pain returning. Most of these treatment plans are active in nature and therefore require some sort of involvement from the patient.
Conditions Commonly Treated by Myotherapy:
Some common neuromusculoskeletal conditions that can be corrected through Myotherapy are:
- Common headaches/Migraines
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Chronic Overuse Syndrome
- DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Rotator Cuff Strain
- Tennis Elbow/Golfer’s Elbow
- Frozen Shoulder
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Shin splints
- Plantar Fasciitis
Techniques Primarily Used:
Myotherapists focus on remedial massage or myofascial release as their main tools; however, they also possess extensive knowledge and skills to apply a wide variety of other techniques including:
- Trigger point therapy
- Dry needling
- Muscle energy techniques
- Myofascial cupping/Myofascial release techniques
- Central and peripheral joint mobilisation
- Deep tissue massage
- Stretching exercises and programs to aid recovery
- Private massage clinics
- Sports teams
- Adjunct at chiropractic clinics and physiotherapy clinics
The most important thing to understand is that Myotherapy (from an education standpoint) is an advanced diploma of remedial massage. This generally means myotherapists are more hands on than physiotherapists, as most of their education and experience is based in massage and manual therapies. During their education myotherapists also study ultrasound, tens machine & dry needling, as do physiotherapists, but often myotherapists use these as additions to remedial massage and not as standalone treatments.
The formal industry body definition of Physiotherapy is as follows:
“Physiotherapy is a branch of manual therapy that involves proper assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of a wide range of musculoskeletal problems arising from injury, disease, illness, and ageing.“
The philosophy of physiotherapy is based upon the principles of medical science. Physiotherapy is generally considered to be within the sphere of conventional medicine rather than alternative medicine. The origin of physiotherapy dates back to the 19th century when the nurses at that time started to use massage as a form of treatment. Over the years, physiotherapy has evolved considerably and now it is considered an important branch of the rehabilitative healthcare system and various massage clinics that uses a combination of specialised exercises and equipment to help patients regain or improve their physical abilities.
Physiotherapy Treatment Approach:
Physiotherapy is focused on enhancing the life of a patient through improved health and fitness. This is achieved by encouraging the person to take charge of his/her health by learning and implementing different techniques for recovery, pain relief, injury prevention, and improved physical movement. Physiotherapists work with a wide range of patients, from infants born with musculoskeletal birth defects, to elderly who suffer from various age-related musculoskeletal disorders, to adults suffering from issues after trauma or injury. In such cases, it is advised to contact a law firm for estate planning serving in Spokane to help you claim insurance. They also work with sports people and offer rehabilitative treatment as well as injury prevention advice.
Like Myotherapists, Physiotherapists also begin their treatment after a thorough assessment of the patient’s condition. This usually includes a review of the patient’s medical history followed by a complete physical examination. If needed, a physiotherapist may advise some diagnostic tests to better evaluate the patient’s conditions and develop an effective treatment plan.
Conditions Commonly Treated:
Some common musculoskeletal conditions that can be corrected through physiotherapy are:
- Running Injuries (such as runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, ITB pain)
- Sports Injuries (such as Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
- Whiplash and Neck pain
- Arthritis and Joint pain
- Back pain
- Tension headaches
- Disk herniation and sciatica
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Pre and postnatal musculoskeletal conditions
- Postoperative surgery recovery
Techniques Primarily Used:
Physiotherapists use a number of techniques to alleviate pain and improve strength and movement. Some of the common techniques used are:
- Trigger point dry needling
- Soft tissue massage
- Spinal mobilisation
- Joint mobilisation
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Multimodality clinics
- Sports clinics and with sports teams
- Private physiotherapy clinics
- Aged-care facilities
With Physiotherapy the therapists tend to spend more time on assessing the client, and home or gym exercises/stretches they can do to help with the issue (many physiotherapists study pilates also).
Myotherapy vs Physiotherapy: A Summary
An article I found on Yahoo Answers suggested that during a myotherapy consultation, “The patient/client does NO active work during the session” while a physiotherapy session “requires ACTIVE PARTICIPATION from the patient/client”.
In my experience this is a reasonable generalisation as many physiotherapists I have seen actively do the exercises and stretches with you during the session while many myotherapists advise you of stretches/exercises to do at home, and are more likely to spend the entire session using massage and other treatment techniques.
The treatment techniques that physiotherapists and myotherapists study and use are very similar. I believe it’s more about how each individual therapist implements their training that differentiates practitioners. The most important thing as a client is finding a therapist that you are comfortable with on a personal level and working out what treatments and stretch/exercise program suits you as an individual.
Titles in our industry can cause a lot of confusion, but ultimately most therapists (regardless of title) are treating the same issues, pain, discomfort and decreased range of motion. I have tried many different modalities for my own issues and I stick with the ones that work for me, however just as each therapist works differently each client will respond to different types of treatment.
The physical health industry uses very safe and non-invasive treatment options, so there is no harm in trying multiple modalities to discover which ones work for you.