Orthopedic massage can easily be added to your massage practice to help treat your clients’ painful conditions that affect the soft tissues of their body. An orthopedic massage therapist specifically focuses on problems with the musculoskeletal system.

By treating the body’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, fascia, nerves and cartilage, orthopedic massage requires extensive training. If treated by an unskilled therapist, the results could be harmful to the client.

Using techniques that focus on soft-tissue manipulation, the orthopedic massage therapist can treat painful conditions caused by soft-tissue strain.

But first, the therapist must conduct a client assessment to determine if any serious preexisting medical conditions exist. A trained therapist needs to determine if soft-tissue pain could be the onset of a stroke or heart attack, both of which can present as muscle pain at first. Also, conditions like some types of cancer can be exacerbated by massage therapy.

Those techniques can be learned through orthopedic massage home-study courses, which closely examine the proper techniques to use when treating clients.

Some orthopedic massage home-study courses include topics that cover the treatment of subscapularis tendinitis, tennis elbow, lateral ankle sprain, patella tendinitis and Achilles tendinitis. The courses also delve into teaching about massage techniques and musculoskeletal disorders, along with thermal modalities, treatment aids and the physiological effects.

A recent case study measured the effectiveness of orthopedic massage in the rehabilitation of post anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).

In their treatment, massage therapists focused on lymphatic drainage, myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy including trigger point release, muscle energy techniques and cross-fiber friction, according to the 2008 study.

Orthopedic physical assessment tests were used on the female athlete subject to measure the effectiveness of the therapy. Therapists also relied on the woman’s reporting of pain level and function.

Ultimately, the results of this study showed a decrease in pain levels, hamstring flexion contracture and lateral tracking of the patella, the study said. Orthopedic massage was determined to be an effective complementary therapy.

Researchers noted that studies in the field are limited because finding a group of like subjects is difficult, as many injuries are unique.

Make sure you check with your national and state licensing bodies to make sure the courses your select are acceptable for your continuing-education credits. 

—Jeremy Maready