Medical massage is massage performed to address a specific medical condition, and typically prescribed by a doctor. It may even be offered in a medical office by a massage therapist who partners with a doctor to deliver services. As with any type of bodywork, medical massage should never be undertaken without consulting a doctor, to ensure that massage is not contraindicated and to confirm the diagnosis, ensuring that massage really is the most appropriate treatment for the issue.
Training for massage therapists is not standardized, which can pose significant problems when it comes to medical massage. Medical doctors train for years to learn to identify and treat specific conditions, while massage therapists rarely attend programs which last longer than a year, with many courses being confined to a series of weekends. The lack of standardization can make things difficult for clients, as many massage therapists may advertise medical massage services, but their training, qualifications, and skills may be quite varied.
Doctors prescribe medical massage to treat a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Medical massage may be used as part of a physical therapy program to build strength and increase flexibility, and it can also be used to treat sports injuries, muscle pains, edema, muscle cramps, migraines, pregnancy-related aches and pains, and a wide variety of other physical problems. Medical massage may also be offered as a complement to a psychotherapeutic program.
When a doctor prescribes medical massage, he or she writes up specific recommendations for the massage therapist, along with a brief patient history. The therapist will also typically discuss the situation with the client before starting the session. In cooperative medical practices where a massage therapist works out of a doctor's office, the doctor may discuss the situation directly with the massage therapist, and both may meet with the patient before the massage takes place.
Depending on the condition, the patient may have one or more massage sessions which are geared towards a specific outcome. The massage therapist can utilize a variety of massage techniques in medical massage, customizing the treatment to the patient to promote a beneficial outcome. Medical massage may also be accompanied with advice about regular stretching and other work which can be done at home to address the condition.
When massage is prescribed by a doctor, patients may want to ask for a recommendation or referral, to see if the doctor has a massage therapist he or she particularly likes. If no recommendation is offered, the listings of a medical massage trade organization can be consulted, and it can be a good idea to get a listing of approved therapists from an insurance company before making an appointment.