What's the Difference Between Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy Assisting?

Health science is an expanding career field, due to the aging Baby Boomer population. Massage therapy and physical therapy, two professions within this field, both have the same goal - to restore function and relieve pain. Both use exercises and soft tissue manipulation to help their patients, albeit in different ways. If you’re trying to choose between the two, don’t worry. Both can both be rewarding professions.

What does a Massage Therapist Do?

However, between the two occupations, there tends to be a different focus. A massage therapist works in a holistic way, specializing in certain treatments, but focusing on the entire mind and body. Most of their patients are relatively healthy people seeking to improve overall wellness and relieve stress. Some massage therapists work at spas, others specialize in helping older people. They often also give advice on posture, ergonomics, and ways to stay healthy.

What does a Physical Therapy Assistant Do?

Physical therapy, on the other hand, is more focused. Patients are generally recovering from an accident or injury and trying to get back to full function quickly. Physical therapist assistants work with people recovering from back or neck injuries, neurological conditions, etc. They often work in ambulatory care clinics and hospitals.

What are the Major Differences between Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy Assisting?

Massage therapists generally do not provide primary care after injuries, although they may help as part of an overall treatment plan. Another key difference is that massage therapists may work with a patient for their entire life, whilst physical therapy assistants are trying to get their patent "better" so they can move on.

This is reflected in their training. Massage therapists learn different techniques, designed to treat both the physical body and the mind - which is why massage therapy is a good treatment for stress and some forms of depression. Although they are trained in anatomy and physiology, it doesn't go as in depth as with a physical therapy assistant program.

Physical therapy assistants (and physical therapists, who have to have degrees) are taught how to fix a particular problem in a particular area of the body, such as the lower spine. Their goal is to restore function - to get a patient walking again or an athlete back onto the field as quickly as possible. Physical therapy also requires a doctor's prescription, while massage therapy does not.

Needless to say, many patients benefit from both, either at different times in their lives or in conjunction with each other.

What Should I Choose?

There are numerous opportunities in both fields. Massage therapy has become more and more popular in recent years, with more people learning about the health benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a 22% projected job growth for massage therapists. Physical therapist assistants are also in demand as the population ages. BLS shows their projected growth at a staggering 40%. So, the choice is really down to what you find more rewarding.

If you would prefer to work with healthy, or mostly healthy people trying to improve their lives, often in a relaxing spa environment, then you should consider massage therapy. Also, many massage therapists work for themselves, running their own small business. If that independence appeals to you, you should consider massage therapy.

If you find helping people get better to be rewarding, consider physical therapist assistant. You will work under the direction of a fully qualified physical therapist (and may work towards becoming one yourself), so this is also more suited for people who work better under guidance. You will have the more immediate reward of seeing people regain their mobility.

No matter where your interests are in the health science field, consider ECPI University. Our Associates of Applied Science in Massage Therapy could be your stepping stone to taking the licensing state board test and becoming a licensed professional massage therapist.

If you choose Physical Therapist Assistant, you could work in a sports training facility, hospital, school, or gym. You could earn an Associate of Science Degree in Health Science with a concentration in Physical Therapist Assisting. Contact ECPI University today to find out how our year-round programs can get you into one of these rewarding health science fields quickly.

It could be the Best Decision You Ever Make!

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