If you jump onto Google and search back pain, a plethora of links will pop up to various therapies and potential miracle cures. It is overwhelming and difficult for anyone to initially decide or determine what therapy, treatment or advice to take.
One of the most common questions I receive from patients is: "What’s the difference between chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy and even massage?" To be honest, the best person to ask this question would be the diligent, studious, perhaps crazy person who has painstakingly studied and become qualified in all four disciplines. And unfortunately I know no one of such degree. So instead we all try and interpret what each discipline is doing without really having a thorough understanding or appreciation of each other’s expertise.
What is my take on the difference? I believe there are good and bad therapists in all of these professions, like there are in any profession. I believe we all in some shape or form treat and work with the musculoskeletal system. We very broadly aim to reduce pain and increase movement, and perhaps those of us that have a more holistic approach will also address movement patterns, relax or release the tense and tight, strengthen weaknesses and activate what is not activating.
What does this mean for you as the patient? It means that potentially any or all of these therapies could help your problem. It means that it’s about finding what works best for you and unfortunately this may require a few trials and tribulations or if you’re lucky you may find the perfect practitioner on your first consultation.
My bias, experience and education are in chiropractic and sport science. I have spent much of my life overindulging in the addictive endorphin release of sport and exercise. This has led me to experience and trial many types of therapies and for myself the combination of massage and chiropractic is what I always come back to.
A “good” chiropractor will address the area of pain but also look for the source of the problem; these are not always the same thing. Chiropractors are primarily taught to adjust or manipulate joints, both spinal and peripheral, i.e. shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Restoring movement to a joint is the main goal and this can be aided by various soft tissue techniques. Addressing the overactive, tight or hypertonic muscles is as important as strengthening a weak muscle. And this is where the remedial massage therapist steps in.
Combining remedial massage and chiropractic treatment is like the perfect symbiosis. I am not sure which comes first: a tight muscle and then a restricted joint: or the joint is restricted and so the surrounding muscles get tight and sore? Either way, it depends on the individual; but addressing both issues is the important part.
This is an integrated treatment, when a patient can see the chiropractor, get adjusted and improve the movement in the joint structures. Then move on to the remedial massage therapist to work on releasing & relaxing the muscular and tendinous structures. The two therapies do not have to occur on the same day consecutively, alternating therapy sessions may be more suitable depending on an individuals specific needs and treatment program.
Is Chiropractic and Remedial Massage really a match made in heaven? That is for you to find out!
Dr Natalie Legge