Massage Therapy As a Complementary Treatment: Occupational Therapy

There’s no denying that receiving a massage feels great. Working kinks out of achy muscles is probably one of the best feelings in the world. Massage therapy is typically regarded as a luxury spa service, often accompanied by a body wrap and categorized as a spa or beauty service. Of course, the nature of a massage session – a dimly lit room with lovely music in the background – certainly plays in to this theory. And, of course, in a society where we associate taking care of bodies with torturous diets, rigorous workouts, and anxiety inducing doctor visits, it’s hard to imagine that something that feels as good as receiving massage does could actually be beneficial.

But it totally is! The benefits of receiving regular massage reach well beyond feeling good and working out kinks. Last year, through a series of blogs I call the “Body Systems Series,” I explored the benefits massage has for each system of your body. The more research that is done on the benefits of massage therapy, the more health care professionals begin to realize that massage therapy is an amazing form of complementary medicine (never to be confused with alternative medicine). So this year, through a series of blogs, I would like you to join me in the exploration of how massage therapists can work with other medical professionals. This month: occupational therapists!



Occupational therapists typically work with disabled children, but they may also work with adults or elderly people. They assist their patients with developmental progress, recovery from injury, and development of basic life skills.


Occupational therapists are responsible for:

  • Developing a treatment plan unique to each patient
  • Helping patients learn or relearn skills needed for everyday life
  • Demonstrating exercises to relieve chronic pain
  • Educate patient and his/her family about necessary accommodations and home care
  • Assess patient’s activities and record progress.



Image by Erie County Medical Center


This is only a short list of what occupational therapists do, but keep in mind that their work is more in depth. Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings; including hospitals, nursing homes, elementary schools, private offices with other health care professionals, and home health care settings.



Massage therapy can have the following effects on occupational therapy in the following ways:

  • Increases spatial awareness, which can be beneficial for patients trying to relearn life skills, such as walking or brushing their teeth.
  • Decreases muscular pain and breaks up scar tissue that may be preventing a client’s full range of motion, once again benefiting a patient’s ability to perform tasks.
  • Helps patients relax when they get worn out from their daily therapy.
  • Increases a person’s self-esteem, which can benefit their view on their progress.
  • Massage therapists may also recommend at-home massage techniques that will further help the client’s progress.



Image by Wise Geek


It is important to remember that massage therapy should not be considered an alternative form of health care. While receiving regular massage can have a vast impact on a person’s health, massage therapists cannot diagnose, treat, or cure any illnesses. Massage is only a complementary form of health care, and studies on its benefits are undeniable.



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Occupational Therapists,
on the Internet at (visited January 08, 2017).


Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Field, T., & Theakston, H. (1998). Multiple sclerosis patients benefit from massage therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2, 168-174.


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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