Massage therapists vs physiotherapists, what’s the difference

Massage therapists vs physiotherapists, what’s the difference?

Massage therapists and physiotherapists both have experience in manipulating the body to help with pain and injuries.  But, beyond this, these two professionals differ considerably in their end goals and objectives for treatments.

To help you tell the two apart, we’ve prepared a guide detailing the differences between massage therapists and physiotherapists.  In addition, we’ve also provided resources pertaining to doctors, podiatrists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other related topics.

The Differences Between Massage Therapists and Physiotherapists

The Differences Between Massage Therapists and Physiotherapists


To reiterate, physical therapy and massage therapy both rely on physical manipulation of the body to produce certain benefits.  The biggest difference lies in the fact that massage therapy is better suited to short-term problems such as muscle soreness, stiffness, and tension.

Alternatively, physiotherapy is better suited to severe long-term injuries such as sprains, breaks, and muscle tears.  As a general rule of thumb, physiotherapy is considerably better for serious injuries while massage therapy is better for light soreness and recovery.

If you have doubts as to which would be best for your particular situation, it may help to consult a doctor or general physician.


Since they pursue different goals, massage therapists and physiotherapists also differ in the clients they work with.  Most massage therapists will end up working with 9 to 5 office personnel and fitness buffs looking to improve their recovery.

Physical therapists, on the other hand, will almost always end up working with athletes and professionals in the fitness industry.  This is due to the fact that these professionals are the most likely to suffer injuries that require physical treatments. 


Beyond their clients and goals, these two professionals also carry extremely different qualifications.  While massage therapists will usually be equipped with a general certification or diploma, physiotherapists will often have a much more thorough degree from a program.

In general, physical therapists must attend school for several years before they are fully qualified.  This stark contrast in qualifications is due to the specific education needed to safely treat broken bones and torn ligaments.


Last but certainly not least, massage therapists and physical therapists employ unique methods when treating clients.  Massage therapists often rely solely on their hands to manipulate soft tissue and knead muscle fibers.  

Physical therapists on the other hand will combine hand massage techniques with various rehabilitation tools such as massage guns and resistance bands.  This allows them to deal with a wider variety of issues arising from physical injuries.

Additionally, the use of equipment in conjunction with manual massages also increases the effectiveness of rehabilitation for clients with particularly severe injuries.  In case a physical therapist is unable to handle a specific issue they may also work with other professionals.

With the basic differences between massage therapists and physical therapists covered, we hope you’ll find it easier to decide who to consult for your needs.  In case you need to seek out other similar services, we’d recommend keeping this article in your back pocket for future reference.