• Chris Steffanoni

Remedial Massage, Myotherapy and Sports Therapy. What's the Difference?

With various types of manual therapists practising, it can be challenging for patients and healthcare practitioners to grasp the differences between therapists and select the appropriate practitioner. Here are a few differences between sports therapists, myotherapists and remedial massage therapists.


Remedial massage therapists usually hold a one-year diploma in remedial massage. They train to treat minor soft tissue injuries, provide a range of massage styles and treat general aches and pains. Remedial massage therapists have excellent hands-on skills and often incorporate stretching, heat, and ice therapies into treatments. Aptly trained remedial massage therapists are usually registered with a professional association like The Australian Natural Therapists Association. In addition, they can register as providers with private health insurers like Medibank or BUPA. Health insurance provider numbers are the easiest way to distinguish well-trained massage therapists from the vast number of massage therapists working with little or no formal training.


On the other hand, most myotherapists hold a two-year advanced diploma in remedial massage, qualifying them to assess and treat a broader range of conditions. In addition, myotherapists have extensive training in dry needling and myofascial cupping. Some myos now complete a three-year Bachelor of Health Science and may use the title "Clinical Myotherapist" to distinguish their advanced level of qualification. A myotherapist will likely spend more time assessing your body before developing a treatment plan than remedial massage therapists.

Myotherapists may use electrotherapies during treatments and often prescribe corrective exercises.

Health insurance provider numbers are the easiest way to distinguish well-trained massage therapists from therapists with little or no formal training.

Sports therapists differ slightly from myotherapists. Although often training alongside myotherapists, most sports therapists are qualified with an extended three-year advanced diploma. The main difference between sports and myotherapists is that in addition to soft tissue injuries and chronic pain conditions, sports therapists specialise in working with athletes and sports teams. Most sports therapists hold additional certifications in strength & conditioning and sports training.

Like most allied health practitioners, sports therapists have to undertake further training to practise dry needling. In addition, sports therapists are qualified to incorporate strapping & taping, nutrition and basic biomechanics assessments into their treatment sessions.



"Soft Tissue Therapist" and "Musculoskeletal Therapist" are two other titles that you may come across in the manual therapy world. These practitioners are usually qualified with an advanced diploma or bachelor's degree. Their scope of practice and skill set is similar to sports therapists and myotherapists.

The main difference between sports and myotherapists is... sports therapists specialise in working with athletes and sports teams.

In practice, there are more similarities than differences between these therapists. All specialise in musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction and have a strong foundation in hands-on treatment.

Sports, musculoskeletal, soft-tissue and myotherapists have a broader scope of practice and more modalities than remedial massage therapists. They assess and treat more complex musculoskeletal conditions. Furthermore, those practitioners with a health science degree should better understand the science and complexities associated with musculoskeletal injury and chronic pain management. Moreover, degree-qualified therapists should also understand the principles of evidence-based practice and use the process to guide clinical decision-making.

In practice, there are more similarities than differences between therapists.

When seeking treatment, a good rule is to ensure your therapist has a private health provider number. This number indicates the practitioner is diploma qualified at a minimum. For more complex issues, seek practitioners with more advanced qualifications.


 

I believe standardising professional titles would help relieve some confusion related to non-AHPRA registered manual therapists. For example, expanding the title "Myotherapist" to all therapists holding diplomas or above would help clarify the therapist's standing in the health industry as a qualified and skilled practitioner. In addition, it would allow patients and health providers to differentiate professionally registered therapists from massage therapists with little or no training.


Below is a table outlining the professional titles currently in use and my proposed streamlining of titles.

Current Title

Qualification

Proposed Simplified Title

Current Health Insurance Recognition

Proposed Simplified Health Insurance Recognition

Massage Therapist

​Certificate or less (<0.5yr)

Massage Therapist

No Recognition

No Recognition

Remedial Massage Therapist

Diploma (1yr)

​Associate Myotherapist

Remedial Massage

Myotherapy

Soft Tissue Therapist

Advanced Diploma (2yrs)

​Accredited Myotherapist

Remedial Massage

Myotherapy

Myotherapist

Advanced Diploma (2yrs)

Accredited Myotherapist

Myotherapy

Myotherapy

Sports Therapist

Advanced Diploma (3yrs)

Accredited Myotherapist

Remedial Massage

Myotherapy

Clinical Myotherapist

Bachelor's Degree (3yrs)

​Clinical Myotherapist

Myotherapy

Myotherapy

Musculoskeletal Therapist

Bachelor's Degree (3yrs)

​Clinical Myotherapist

Remedial Massage

Myotherapy

There you have it, clear as mud.


 

Chris Steffanoni is a Sports Therapist with a Bachelor of Health Science and Advanced Diploma of Sports Therapy.


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