Are you suffering from muscle aches and pains or other muscular soft tissue conditions because of accidents, illnesses or poor posture? Have you been suffering from these conditions long term and tried many different forms of therapy, including massage, but with less than desired results? If so, then maybe it is time to try a form of bodywork that combines the best of many different massage therapies for addressing your muscle and soft tissue concerns.

This form of massage is called Orthopedic Massage or some people refer to it as Medical Massage. Now do not be misled by the titles as this form of massage does not mean the therapist is diagnosing medical conditions or curing disease. Even some massage therapists are confused and in disagreement about use of these terms. So, it is important for me to briefly define these terms briefly to avoid confusion, otherwise many people may never try a form of bodywork that is growing in popularity for its effectiveness in treating muscle and soft tissue conditions. Likewise, many massage therapists may be missing an opportunity for provide a valuable service to their clients who need this type of work.

Orthopedic Massage refers to a clinical approach to performing massage therapy. It starts with detailed client intake and assessment activities, evaluation of muscle and soft tissue conditions, and selection of the best combination of massage techniques and tools for the session. The therapist must also have skills to adapt and choose different combinations of massage techniques based on progress response of the client to therapy. Finally, Orthopedic Massage therapists must be able to effectively network and partner with other healthcare providers.

The term Medical Massage has many of the same characteristics as described in Orthopedic Massage, but a short definition as written in an article by James Waslaski, author and teacher of Orthopedic massage best describes it is as follows: “Medical Massage is performed with the intent of improving conditions or pathologies that have been diagnosed by a physician”.

The number of sessions required depends of the nature of muscle and soft tissue condition being addressed. This can range from a few as 3 sessions for very minor conditions to 10 or more for very serious long term chronic problems.

Now what does all of this mean to you as a consumer who is looking for the right type of massage therapy for your health and wellness program when there are so many different types of massage being marketed? If you are looking for relief of chronic muscle and soft tissue conditions, relaxation or Spa type, and energy based massage techniques alone, may not give the results you seek. This is not a criticism of relaxation, Spa type massage, or energy based only techniques. These are very effective in relieving general tension and sore muscles, improving circulation, elevating mood, and reducing overall stress. However, these techniques are usually not enough to correct a very specific muscle and/soft tissue imbalance.

One principal reason for this is that Medical and Orthopedic massage approach uses many varieties of massage modalities (as many as 12 or more distinct massage and energetic bodywork techniques). This provides the therapist with more tools and options for adapting to changing muscle soft tissue conditions and progress by the client.

As with many occupations, the therapist must be skilled and competent and there must be a good fit between therapist and client. Also, not all massage therapist posses the skills, training, have the desire or preference, or even agree on the need for this type of massage therapy. Those of us who do, are finding we are providing a “missing link” for providing effective therapy for those who need relief from acute and chronic, often painful muscle and soft tissue conditions. This field is growing in popularity and increasingly healthcare providers are seeking qualified massage and bodywork therapist who can provide consistent results.

For those reading this who have “hit the wall” in your therapy, you owe yourself to find a qualified therapist to whom you can relate and give Orthopedic and Medical massage and bodywork an opportunity to help improve your condition.


James Waslaski, Massage Today, June 2004, Volume 04, issue 6.

Author's Bio: 

Luther Lockard, NCTMB, CMT, BBA owns and practice Orthopedic and Medical massage at Corporate Massage Therapies-advanced Treatment Center in Medford NJ and Bioenergetic Bodywork at Prasad Yoga in Southampton, Pa. Learn more by visiting and