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Orthopedic Massage Certification

Approved for 8 Online Continuing Education Units/Credits (CEU's) for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists

Receive Your 8 CEU's Now

Approved for 8 Online CEU's for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists. Cost $100.00 / Certificates Awarded Upon Completion.

Please allow time for your purchase to process. We will contact you via email with instructions to access the online course as soon as your payment is complete. Please make sure your email address is correct. Thank you for your patience. 


Orthopedic massage is a relatively new concept in the massage therapy field, and its use has increased over just the last 10 years. Practitioners and educators use the term orthopedic massage to refer to a divergent set of treatment systems and techniques. In the most general sense, this approach simply encompasses the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, which are defined as injury to or dysfunction of locomotor tissues of the musculoskeletal system. The lack of a standard for what comprises orthopedic massage has left the field open to interpretation. On the surface it appears that orthopedic massage has a defined set of components, and in the broadest sense this is true. However, orthopedic massage remains mostly an overarching approach with unique interpretations by a few key educators—not a modality or technique in the true sense of those terms.

Massage therapy for treatment of musculoskeletal disorders is on the rise. In part this is due to the popularization of massage, but it also reflects a reaction to the overuse of surgery and other invasive treatments for conditions that could reasonably be resolved with noninvasive methods. In many cases, massage is proving to be more effective than other modalities for treating certain conditions. In a study that looked at the effectiveness of alternative therapies for back pain, Cherkin and colleagues found “preliminary evidence suggest[ing] that massage . . . may reduce the costs of care after an initial course of therapy” and be more effective than the other alternative therapies studied.1 Other studies have also supported the growing use of massage for treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.2

In this chapter, the general elements that are usually part of an orthopedic massage approach are covered. These include orthopedic assessment, advanced understanding of musculoskeletal conditions, and a variety of treatment modalities. Some additional components of my system are included as well, which I believe are necessary for truly effective treatment of complex and challenging conditions. It is not possible within the confines of this one chapter to include thorough descriptions of all of the orthopedic massage approaches available today. Students interested in this approach are encouraged to use the information in the chapter as a guide for researching their options for certification and training.

Massage therapy in sports set the stage for an interest in massage as a treatment modality outside of that environment in the early 1980s. Expanded applications by key practitioners outside of sports performance led to advanced massage treatment for non–sports-related conditions. During this time, practitioners such as Ida Rolf, James Cyriax, and Janet Travell were beginning to experiment and integrate advanced protocols into therapeutic massage applications. Recognizing that there were extensive applications for advanced massage beyond the field of athletics, a number of practitioners began looking for ways to refer to this broader application of soft tissue treatment. Terms other than orthopedic have frequently 202been used, including clinical, therapeutic, rehabilitative, and, increasingly, medical massage.

Over 20 years ago, Benny Vaughn, Tom Hendrickson, and I independently started using the term orthopedic massage to refer to our own systems. Hendrickson and I have published texts using orthopedic massage as the key referent as well, although our systems, as well as that of Benny Vaughn, are significantly different. Since then, other educators who traditionally taught sports massage, such as Ben Benjamin, James Waslaski, and numerous others, have moved to using the term orthopedic massage instead of sports massage because it more appropriately refers to treatment of all musculoskeletal conditions, regardless of the circumstances of injury. Semantically, orthopedic massage seems a natural fit to refer to massage treatment of soft tissue pain and injury conditions because orthopedics is the field that deals with locomotor tissues (those associated with creating or limiting movement).

Orthopedic massage addresses pain, injury, or dysfunction in general, including conditions associated with occupation, sports, daily living, hobbies, or virtually any activity or setting to which the human body is exposed—that is, everything else as well as sports injuries. Yet today there are no fully agreed-upon detailed standards for orthopedic massage. Each educator’s version reflects that person’s history, knowledge, and expertise. Current educators may or may not incorporate the systems of other earlier educators who initiated the use of the term and developed training programs. However, because both Hendrickson’s and my texts are used in schools, graduating students might understand the approach as a particular system depending on whose system they learned in school. It just happens that those who have published textbooks, written extensively, and taught many training programs tend to have the key elements of their systems adopted by those in the profession, as if these elements were some kind of standard. Yet there are other educators in the profession now who have developed their own systems.

At its heart, orthopedic massage is a broad category of massage that applies advanced orthopedic assessment and treatment to musculoskeletal conditions; it is not a specific set of techniques, but an approach. Today there can be significant variations in how orthopedic massage is taught and practiced. The discussion below highlights the most general elements of this broad, overarching approach, plus some key components from my own system.

This chapter has explored the general orthopedic massage approach. Unlike other modalities discussed in this book, orthopedic massage is not really a technique but rather an organized approach for treating musculoskeletal conditions. It incorporates proper assessment and evaluation, clinical decision making, skill in the use of a variety of treatment protocols, and a solid foundation in the sciences that ground this type of rehabilitative work. Some systems of orthopedic massage provide practitioners with a comprehensive and systematic approach to pain and injury treatment. Others focus more on the specific techniques needed for treating these conditions. There are advantages to both. The general approach emphasizes the importance of being flexible and adapting to the particular needs of the client. This flexibility allows numerous treatment methods or techniques to be integrated into an orthopedic massage session or practice. Orthopedic massage offers practitioners a viable and effective means of meeting clients’ increased need for noninvasive solutions to musculoskeletal disorders.

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Receive Your 8 CEU's Now

Approved for 8 Online CEU's for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists. Cost $100.00 / Certificates Awarded Upon Completion.

Please allow time for your purchase to process. We will contact you via email with instructions to access the online course as soon as your payment is complete. Please make sure your email address is correct. Thank you for your patience.