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Sam Boden

Skills in Manual Therapy – An Integral Part of Practice

Posted by Sam Boden on Tue, 25 Feb 2014

Massage being used for therapeutic reasons dates back as far as 500 BC with Roman, Greek, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese writings reporting its use within these civilisations. Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine, stated that “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing”!!

Physiotherapy itself also has very close ties with massage with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists evolving from a body known as the Society of trained Masseuses, and subsequently massage was an integral part in the work of these pioneers of the profession.

Now things have progressed within massage therapy from the ‘rubbing’ endorsed by Hippocrates to employing a wide variety of soft tissue techniques but the questions being raised are whether many therapists are maximising the opportunities afforded by manual therapy and whether these are being lost to other professions?

As a treatment method, Sports Massage has hugely grown in importance over the last 20 years with the watershed being in 1996 when for the first time Sports Massage was a core medical provision at the Atlanta Olympics. Subsequent to this in the UK every Premiership football club now employs a team of Sports Massage therapists who work alongside the core physiotherapy team.

Within an NHS setting with more rigorous research into massage, the NICE guidelines for Lower Back Pain state that an individual suffering from lower back pain should be considered for a course of manual therapy, which includes massage for a course of treatment with 9 sessions lasting a maximum of 12 weeks. Evidently there is an emerging voice saying that massage plays an important role in treating patients with various types of musculoskeletal pain.

The Scope of Practice, 2008 by the CSP states that massage is one of the key pillars of practice which are fundamental skills when working as a physiotherapist. These are as follows.

  1. Massage
  2. Exercise and Movement
  3. Electrotherapy
  4. Kindred Methods of Treatment

Of course soft tissue techniques aren’t a ‘cure all’ and should always be used as an adjunct alongside other forms of treatment and rehabilitation but it is a fundamental tool for undergraduate and post graduate physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors in acquiring life-long skills that are important throughout their careers as a therapist. With the huge breadth and depth of areas to cover in a 3-4 year degree program it simply isn’t feasible to gain as much hands on practice as students would like to so it is important that students seek opportunities to enhance these skills.

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