Physical Therapy is Massage?

Even though they use the same techniques, massage therapy and physical therapy are not the same. Massage therapists and physical therapists represent different careers. You need different educational and licensing requirements to qualify for either vocation. Not to mention, the two occupations have different income brackets and work settings to boot. They have little in common with each other save for the use of massage and exercise technique education. To be more specific, they teach patients which exercises to use for rehab, like stretching and the like. Both also require physical stamina and empathy.

Differences and Similarities

  • Massage Therapists: A massage therapist relieves the patients’ pain and stress by manipulating the body’s soft tissues and muscles. They also don’t like being called masseuses or masseurs because of these words’ negative connotations. You need to complete a certificate program instead of a degree to get this job. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every state has different education requirements to become a massage therapist. However, according to the BLS, most programs for massage therapists require 500 hours of hands-on experience and study. Massage techniques and info on anatomy and physiology are also included.
  • Physical Therapists: These highly educated healthcare professionals help manage patient pain as well as promote better movement. Unlike a massage therapist, a physical therapist has authority to diagnose dysfunctional movements. They can also assess the progress of the patient and develop the right treatment plan for their rehab. Upon completion of his physical therapy doctorate, They must be licensed in all states in the U.S. so says BLS. Aside from having courses in neuroscience, pharmacology, and physiology, they should also complete clinical practice rotations. They can also opt to get additional training in residency or internship a la a physician. 
  • Differences: Aside from differences in licensing and educational requirements, there are also differences in income. According to the BLS, the annual average salary for massage therapy back in 2012 was $40,350. Meanwhile, physical therapists earn an average of $81,110 in 2012. The state with the lowest-paying rate for massage therapy, Mississippi, gives them about $24,560 annually. The state with the highest-paying rate of massage therapy, Alaska, gives them about $84,120. Meanwhile, the top-paying state for physical therapy, Nevada, gives them $110,670. As for the lowest-paying state, South Dakota, they give them $64,350.


Massage therapists earn less than physical therapists. This is because massage therapy only requires a certificate program in order to get a license there. Meanwhile, physical therapy requires a doctorate and licensing in all states. A physical therapist also has to shoulder bigger responsibilities, like assessing the patient’s health, condition, and the right treatment plan for his rehabilitation. All the same, massage therapy can still earn someone quite a lot even though on average physical therapy has about double their salary.


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