Main Differences Between A Massage and Chiropractic Adjustment


In the world of natural, non-invasive healing, there is often a crossover in the minds of patients when it comes to deciding between chiropractic care and massage therapy. While they both seem similar on the surface, they’re strikingly different in approach. Both focus on the back and provide pain relief without the use of medicine or invasive treatment, but the methods, solutions, and level of education of each type vary greatly.
There’s a time and place for everything, as is with massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments.

Treatments Are Different By Definition

While both of these practices focus primarily on the back and secondarily on the rest of the body, the approach and overall outcomes differ. Ultimately, massage therapy and chiropractic care differ by definition. For this instance, we look to Miriam-Webster dictionary to explain:
Massage: manipulation of tissues (as by rubbing, kneading, or tapping) with the hand or an instrument for relaxation or therapeutic purposes
Chiropractic: a system of noninvasive therapy which holds that certain musculoskeletal disorders result from nervous system dysfunction arising from misalignment of the spine and joints and that focuses treatment especially on the manual adjustment or manipulation of the spinal vertebrae
Though there is a wide variety of massage techniques, the overall focus is on stimulating the soft, muscular tissue to relieve tension, improve circulation, and encourage relaxation. While massages provide temporary relief and release of toxins, chiropractic care is a step in the direction towards overall, long-term wellness. A massage is often accompanied by low lighting, relaxing music, and essential oils to add to the relaxing experience. A massage can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half, but the longer the better!
Chiropractic care considers the combination of muscular and skeletal systems, with emphasis on the spine. Through techniques like spinal manipulation, or adjustments, doctors are able to help establish better movement in the spine, providing relief to strained joints and muscles. Where massage focuses on soft tissue, chiropractic care goes right to the source of the issue. Because of the focus on the skeletal system, it often takes less time to administer and for patients to begin to feel relief.

Education of the Practitioner

While both practices require a certain understanding of the human body, they vary in levels of schooling and certification. Receiving a Doctorate in Chiropractic Care often requires a deeper understanding of the human body and how its systems work together to build a happy, healthy person. While regulations vary from state to state, you can expect a chiropractor to have a minimum of 8 years of education, completion of residency, and to have passed several rounds of boards and certifications tests to be able to practice.
Most massage therapists only complete between 330-1,100 hours of training and complete a Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam to begin practicing. While their education includes knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology, the ultimate focus is on providing an environment of relaxation and relieving muscle tension points in the body.

Choosing the Right Method for Your Needs

When it comes down to it, the choice we can only ever advise is to do whatever heals your pain – so when deciding between massage therapy and chiropractic care, one should only consider the type of pain one is experiencing. If you feel that your pain is a source of muscle strain, massage therapy may be an easy choice. However, if you suspect there could be an underlying issue causing this muscle strain, it would be best to consult a chiropractor.

About the Writer


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