Orthopedic Massage is assessment and treatment massage matching the physiological needs of healing and applied at a very high level of skill. Orthopedic Massage is treatment-oriented massage, as opposed to massage for relaxation and stress relief. 

Successful treatment massage which includes effective, long-term solutions to pain and/or injury conditions requires knowing what tissues are at fault or involved, and how. The practitioner must then be able to treat the affected tissues effectively. According to my teacher, Whitney Lowe, this is the “how, where, when, and why” or Orthopedic Massage.

From Mr. Lowe's OMERI web site:

This level of treatment requires critical (or clinical) thinking skills, which are rarely taught in school or other CE courses. Also required is an adequate understanding of the principles of kinesiology and a solid grounding in anatomy and physiology. A working knowledge, i.e. being able to identify tissues accurately and immediately in the clinic, takes continued learning after graduation and clinical experience. ~http://www.omeri.com/massage/

Four Primary Components of Orthopedic Massage

  1. Orthopedic Assessment
  2. Matching the Physiology of the Injury With the Physiological Effects of Treatment
  3. Treatment Adaptability
  4. Understanding the Rehabilitation Protocol

Orthopedic Assessment

The assessment phase of Orthopedic Massage is about discovery. We assess the soft tissues to find what is involved, and to what extent. Assessment is done using a variety of tools at our disposal: movement, verbal intake, tests which give signs and symptoms, and others. We want to know what tissues are causing your pain and why.

Matching The Physiology of the Injury with the Physiological Effects of Treatment

This is one of the most critical steps in an Orthopedic Massage treatment. We match the effects of our treatment to the physiology of the injury and to its healing requirements. There are certain massage modalities which are contraindicated for injury, and some which are very beneficial. Using the wrong one at the wrong location on the body or at the wrong time during the healing cycle can be at best not helpful, and at worst it can be damaging. For these reasons Orthopedic Massage is often also called Medical Massage.

Treatment Adaptability

Treatment Adaptability means that the therapist must constantly adapt his/her methods to the current physiology of the client's present state of healing. Above all, this means not using massage "recipes", but adapting the massage in every moment to the client's needs. It means thinking on my feet and applying deep and broad knowledge and critical thinking skills to your specific case.

Understanding the Rehabilitation Protocol

Understanding the rehabilitation protocol means having a thorough knowledge of what happens as the body heals, and what it needs at each stage. Is your inflammation in an acute, sub-acute, or chronic phase? Does it need gentle work, deep work, heat, cold, stretching, or muscle energy techniques? 

The orthopedic massage practitioner is knowledgeable and skilled in their understanding of pain and injury conditions and massage treatment techniques. They are also skillful critical thinkers. This combination of expertise provides for the most effective treatment of soft tissue pain and injury conditions using massage therapy – and a very successful career for those who choose to challenge themselves with this approach.

The success that massage therapists experience after learning this approach comes from their ability to treat their clients’ problems as unique. Being able to think creatively and apply skillful analysis for excellent treatment results is the hallmark of a great clinical massage therapist.  ~http://www.omeri.com/massage/

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Jeffrey Rich, LMT 656, is a practitioner and educator in the healing arts living and working in Huntsville, AL. A Licensed Massage Therapist, he is certified in Orthopedic Massage by OMERI, Certified Systemic and Family Constellations Facilitator. Jeffrey is a Shamanic Practitioner and teacher who studies and practices the Andean Cosmology and Core Shamanism.
Being a true Gemini, he has two websites,
www.shining-mountain.com and www.waterwillowmoon.com
He owns waaay too many books for his own good.