A therapist who performs orthopedic massage focuses on problems with the client's musculoskeletal system. He or she may release tight muscles, help to stretch shortened muscles and tendons, and decompress joints. The goal is to normalize the soft tissues of the body, both to treat specific conditions and to keep clients generally healthy and fit. Because orthopedic massage is designed to treat medical conditions, it requires extensive training, as an unskilled therapist could harm a client by accident.
The first step in an orthopedic massage session is assessment, in which the therapist will talk to the client about the problem and examine the area of interest. If the massage therapist partners with a physician, he or she will also look over notes from the physician. Then, the therapist establishes a treatment plan which considers the physiological effects of various massage techniques. Orthopedic massage is very flexible, since it integrates a wide range of bodywork styles with the end goal of improving the client's condition.
Finally, the therapist works with the client on the table. By using various soft tissue manipulation techniques, the massage therapist can alleviate an assortment of painful conditions caused by soft tissue strain. Depending on the client's issue, the massage therapist may recommend multiple sessions to treat the problem, to ensure that it is eliminated and to build up strength and resistance in the affected area so that the condition does not recur.
Because many serious medical conditions can present with things like painful muscles and tendons, an orthopedic massage therapist needs extensive training to learn to differentiate between orthopedic problems like a strained shoulder and medical problems like strokes and heart attacks which can spark muscle pain at their onset. Some conditions can also be exacerbated by massage therapy; some experts argue that some cancers, for example, can be encouraged to spread with massage, or a therapist could unwittingly cause lymphedema in a patient with improperly applied massage techniques. If you are considering orthopedic massage, you may want to talk to a doctor first to make sure that it is the best treatment for you.