What is Medical Massage?

Assisted Healing Medical Massage & Reflexology Queen Creek and San Tan Valley, AZ
Assisted Healing Medical Massage & Reflexology Queen Creek and San Tan Valley, AZ

“Medical Massage” is a broad term that is used to describe several different types of therapeutic massage as opposed to being a single massage technique in and of itself.  Therapists who are certified in Medical Massage have many hours of advanced training for specific medical conditions, side effects of medications, and potential complications.  There are two general meanings of “Medical Massage”:  Outcome-based treatment and adaptive massage for medical conditions.

Outcome-Based Treatment

Outcome-Based Treatment is where Medical Massage becomes part of an integrated, comprehensive care plan to treat specific issues (pain due to injury, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, knee pain, arthritis, post-operative recovery, etc.)  The objective of Outcome-Based Treatment is to make your condition better in a way that is clearly measurable.  For example, if you have a stiff neck due to a car wreck, your pain and range of motion are assessed by a physician and a goal will be set to have a certain amount of improvement over a given amount of time with x number of massages.

Outcome-Based Treatment is often, but not always, prescribed by a physician.  You may have an old injury that is just acting up and you are no longer under the care of a physician.  You would also want to see a massage therapist certified in Medical Massage to take advantage of the expertise in injury treatment, but you may not consult your doctor before doing so.

On the other hand, if you were recently in a car wreck and you are having neck pain, it is critical that you first see your physician before seeking Medical Massage.  While Medical Massage therapists are well-trained in anatomy and physiology, they are not doctors and cannot diagnose your problem.  Your doctor must first do that to ensure that there are no underlying issues such as fractured vertebrae that the naked eye cannot see.  This protects your health and ensures that you are following the correct procedures in case there is an insurance claim.  Once your doctor has cleared you for Medical Massage, obtain a written script that states the frequency (how many times per week), the duration (in 15 minute intervals), and the number of weeks you should continue treatment.

Adaptive Massage for Medical Conditions

Another side of Medical Massage is specialized training in making adaptations for specific medical conditions.  Therapists certified in Medical Massage are trained in administering massage to people who have complications that would otherwise rule them out as candidates for standard massage.  Examples of this include people who have:

• Cancer

• Very high blood pressure

• Osteoporosis

• Advanced diabetes with peripheral neuropathy


Breast Cancer / Breast Surgery

• Scar tissue and/or adhesions

• Organ failure

• Advanced age

• Emphysema

• Auto-immune conditions

• Implanted medical devices (insulin pump, colostomy bag, ports, etc.)

• Declining health / End of life

Depending on the type and severity of the condition, it may be necessary to get a doctor’s clearance to administer massage.  For example, if you have an auto-immune disorder in which your organs are being heavily impacted or are in failure, you can still receive a massage but it is very important for the Medical Massage therapist to have guidance from the physician so that an appropriate treatment plan can be crafted and followed.

Assisted Healing Medical Massage & Reflexology provides detailed descriptions of the level of touch (pressure) that can be used along with suggestions for a proposed treatment plan based on the initial client interview.  This allows the physician to review the plan and add any additional cautions that should be taken into account.  These measures help to keep the client/patient safe and ensure that they are getting effective treatment that will address their specific needs.

On the other hand, if you have implanted medical devices that are functioning properly there is no need for a physician consult.  Medical massage therapists are trained to make the appropriate accommodations for these devices.  If you are in doubt, just give us a call and we can advise you.

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