Soft Tissue Mobilization vs. Massage

A question I get a lot is “what is the difference between the soft tissue mobilization techniques you employ and what a massage therapist does?” Here is the answer:

  • Massage is defined as the rubbing and kneading of muscles and joints by the hands especially to relieve tension or relax.
  • Soft tissue mobilization is a specific assessment, evaluation, and treatment of soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, tendons, and fascia) for the purpose of creating beneficial effects on the nervous, musculoskeletal, lymph, and circulatory systems. Techniques include ART, FDM, Graston, Cupping..etc

Massage is an overarching technique that may be applied by massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and many other manual therapists.  Soft tissue mobilization is applied very specifically for the treatment of musculoskeletal, lymphatic, or neurological effects.  The intention and implementation technique is very different.  Massage is a general concept, but soft tissue mobilization is specific how and what.  Just like cardiovascular exercise is the overall concept but high-intensity interval training is the specific training technique that high-level coaches employ to get a specific, measurable result.

Being able to implement soft tissue mobilization techniques requires a significant amount of training in human anatomy and physiology and understand how manipulating the tissues will impact physical function.  Manual and Movement therapists like myself specialize in the evaluation, assessment, and treatment of movement function disorders.  Soft tissue mobilization is just one of the strategies that I use to help my patients get out of pain and back to functioning at high levels.

If you have any strains, sprains, or questions about the techniques that I use to help people get back to functioning, please hit me up at [email protected].  I would love to answer them.

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