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What is Orthopedic Bodywork?

Updated: Feb 24

Written By: Jason Lee, Licensed Acupuncturist and Certified Massage Therapist at Healing Response

picture of Jason Lee, licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist

This is a fair question! You may also ask: “Why make a distinction between the two?” Massage therapy is a diverse field, most often used to address various health concerns and promote overall well-being. Orthopedic Massage, and the way I perform it, is what I like to call “therapeutic bodywork” that stands out as a specialized approach, distinguished by its focus on musculoskeletal issues, dysfunctional movement patterns, and mobility. It certainly falls under the broad umbrella of what everyone refers to as “Massage Therapy”, but it is a far more specialized approach to massage. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key differences between “therapeutic bodywork” vs. massage therapy, highlighting the unique benefits each modality brings to the table.

Understanding Orthopedic Massage & Therapeutic Bodywork:

Orthopedic Massage is a targeted and clinical form of massage therapy that concentrates on assessing and treating musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. Unlike some other massage techniques that primarily aim to relax or relieve stress, orthopedic massage employs a more structured approach. Practitioners in this field will have advanced training and a deep understanding of anatomy, biomechanics, and pathology. In my practice, in order to most effectively benefit my patient before the manual treatment is performed, I will guide patients through functional movements and complete range of motion testing to uncover the areas of the body that will benefit most from treatment and choose which tools and techniques that I think will most effectively address the situation.

Key Characteristics of Orthopedic Massage:

1. Range of Motion Evaluation and Treatment Plans: One of the hallmarks of orthopedic massage is the emphasis on thorough assessment. Practitioners conduct a detailed evaluation of the client’s condition, considering factors such as posture, range of motion, and specific areas of pain. Based on this assessment, a customized treatment plan is devised to target the root cause of the issue.

2. Goals: Understanding what the overall goal for a patient is in the long-term helps me to decide upon the shorter-term goals for each appointment. Reaching the overall goal of care may take several sessions, so it is typical to return weekly as I continue to work through the issues that contribute to a patient’s concerns.

3. Multi-Modality Integration: Orthopedic massage is often integrated into a broader healthcare plan. Practitioners may collaborate with acupuncturists, surgeons, chiropractic physicians, physical therapists, and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive approach to the client’s well-being. It is common for me to see areas of weakness vs areas of overcompensation as the body adapts to pain or repetitive movement over time, so being referred to another practitioner for strengthening and stretching or other types of exercise may be included in a treatment plan.

4. Condition-Specific Focus: Orthopedic massage is particularly effective for addressing conditions such as chronic pain, motor vehicle or sports injuries, and postural imbalances. It aims to alleviate pain, improve function and performance, and enhance overall mobility.

  1. Tools: Specific to me and my practice, with the multitude of other trainings I have completed since 2003, I use more then just my hands depending on the job. I also employ kinesio taping, acupuncture, cupping, electro-stimulation, Chinese herbal medicine, and Gua Sha – a form of working the muscles with a specific set of tools.

Comparing Orthopedic Massage with Other Types of Massage Therapy:

1. Swedish Massage:– Purpose: Primarily designed for relaxation and stress relief.– Techniques: Light and gentle, long, flowing strokes, kneading, and circular movements.– Focus: General well-being and relaxation.

2. Deep Tissue Massage:– Purpose: Targets deeper layers of muscles to release chronic tension.– Techniques: Firm pressure, slow strokes, and friction.– Focus: Alleviating muscle tightness and knots.

3. Sports Massage:– Purpose: Geared towards athletes for performance enhancement and injury prevention.– Techniques: Combines elements of Swedish and deep tissue massage.– Focus: Addressing muscle soreness, enhancing flexibility, and preventing injuries.

Some of the conditions I commonly treat are:

  • Neck Pain, Headaches, & Migraines

  • Concussion & TBI Recovery

  • Shoulder & Back Pain

  • Foot & Ankle Pain

  • Knee Pain & Patellar Tracking

  • Hip Flexor Imbalance, Hip Bursitis

  • Calf Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Tendonitis & Tendonosis

  • Sports & Injury Recovery

  • Joint Replacement Recovery


While various types of massage therapy share the goal of promoting health and well-being, orthopedic massage and therapeutic bodywork stands out for its clinical and targeted approach to musculoskeletal issues. I’m trained in many other modalities as well, so the treatments I perform will always be in combination with other advanced approaches. Whether you seek relaxation, relief from acute or chronic pain, or improved athletic performance, knowing how each modality compares to one another empowers you to choose the most suitable option for your unique needs. Orthopedic bodywork in combination with the other approaches I’ve studied will help get you to your health care goals quickly and effectively. Make an appointment today by calling us at 651-323-0005 or scheduling online by clicking the Book Appointment button at the top of the page!

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