What Is Musculoskeletal Therapy?

Rebecca Harkin

Musculoskeletal therapy deals with the connection between the muscles, joints, the skeleton, and how these body parts work together to keep a patient healthy and feeling well. The idea is that when one of these components is damaged by overuse, tension, inflexibility, immune deficiency, or toxicity, the entire musculoskeletal system suffers and the patient can develop an overall sickness. Healing of the damaged area brings health to the whole musculoskeletal system and a sense of well-being.

A musculoskeletal therapy session.
A musculoskeletal therapy session.

This therapy involves several steps. First, the patient is evaluated by a musculoskeletal therapist to assess the patient’s posture, flexibility, pain, and the health history. Second, a treatment plan is developed which will include the best technique to manually manipulate the damaged or tense muscles and joints. The plan will be based on the musculoskeletal problems and the evaluation made by the musculoskeletal therapist. Third, the musculoskeletal therapist will develop an at-home regiment of stretching and exercises to increase flexibility and strength, and dietary and supplement advice may be given to further relieve the symptoms and promote healing.

Some swear by the ancient practice of cupping as musculoskeletal therapy.
Some swear by the ancient practice of cupping as musculoskeletal therapy.

Musculoskeletal therapy involves both standard massage as well as a variety of unique techniques, some of which include cupping, myofascial release, and lymphatic massage therapy. Cupping uses a gentle suction over a problem area to draw toxins and excess fluids from the site, soften connective tissue, and promote blood flow to the area. Myofascial release uses delicate touch to relax and soften the fascia surrounding the muscles and nerves. Lymphatic massage therapy uses mild touch and pumping pressure to help conduct lymphatic fluid away from injured areas, reducing swelling and tightness.

There are a number of medical issues that can be addressed using musculoskeletal therapy. This form of therapy can help disorders such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis. It can also relieve musculoskeletal injuries caused by sports and repetitive or overuse of the muscles and joints. Tension and stress related problems, such as neck, shoulder, and back pain and tightness as well as headaches or migraines, can also be addressed with musculoskeletal therapy. This form of therapy is also believed to relieve problems with the immune system and toxicity of the body.

Musculoskeletal therapy is different from massage therapy. Most musculoskeletal therapists have advanced training beyond the standard training to be a massage therapist. This training includes injury assessment, posture evaluation, some physical therapy techniques, highly specialized massage therapies, and the use of diet and supplements to promote healing. Musculoskeletal therapy goes beyond a standard massage to address all areas of recovery.

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