Massage Therapy vs. Physical Therapy

Although they are similar fields in many ways, there is a big difference between massage therapy and physical therapy. These two heath-related careers have very different educational requirements, responsibilities and expectations.


As a massage therapist your educational requirements will vary depending on what state you live in. Every state requires at least 100 hours of massage therapy training, some as many as 500 hours or more.

As a physical therapist, on the other hand, you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s or doctorate degree, which will take about seven years in all. Both jobs also require certification.


Massage therapists may play a number of roles for their clients. Some people get massages to relax or relieve stress, and others are looking for relief from back pain or other conditions. Massage therapists do not offer medical advice. However, some massage therapists may provide spiritual advice. Others work on specific types of clients, such as marathon runners or professional athletes.

Physical therapists are more like doctors. They create treatment plans for their patients that are injured or suffering from various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or the affects of a stroke. Massage might be included in this treatment plan as well as other things, like adaptive devices, functional training, manual therapy and therapeutic exercise.

Expectations of the Job

As a massage therapist, you may work in a spa, cruise ship, hospital, private practice, resort or in conjunction with an acupuncturist or chiropractor. Some massage therapists even work with private clients in their homes or offices or even at the massage therapist’s house. Physical therapists, on the other hand, work in physical therapy centers, hospitals or private practices.

Both of these health professionals might be expected to work nights and weekends to accommodate their clients, while other times, the schedule might actually be up to the therapist. Many massage therapists work part time, while most physical therapists work full time. In fact, many massage therapists consider 20-30 hours to be full-time work.

As you can see, there is quite a difference between massage therapy and physical therapy. There are quite a few similarities, as well. Both of these are caring professions, requiring good bedside manner. Both help make people’s lives better, by relieving pain and stress, and both involve a lot of human touch. As professions, though, they are still opposites in many ways.

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