Chiropractor vs. Masseuse

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Difference between Chiropractor and Masseuse

Treatments and techniques have been used throughout history to relieve bodily aches and pains as well as for providing a general state of relaxation and well-being. These techniques have been specialized over time, benefiting from knowledge gleaned on how the body responds to any number of manipulations or stimuli. Massage, in particular, has played a steady role in assisting those with the means to feel better. For those with more pain and less means, care givers with knowledge of how to manipulate the body in mysterious ways have been invaluable in relieving physically stressed bodies in seemingly magical ways.

Chiropractor and masseuse are two professions which use manipulation techniques. As of 2009, there are about 49,000 certified chiropractors in the United States and 90,000 certified masseuses.



Chiropractic practice was officially acknowledged in 1895. A chiropractor is a person certified to perform specific chiropractic treatment techniques such as manual therapy applied on the musculoskeletal system, spine, joints and other soft tissues. Chiropractic is a health care discipline which has the means to diagnose, treat and prevent mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

A masseuse is a professional certified to perform a manipulation of the superficial layers of muscle and connective tissues for relaxation and well-being purposes. Some disciplines of massage therapy include managing the body’s energy meridians in order to allow energy to flow more directly within the body, allowing the body to respond more naturally to any number of of internal or external stimuli.


Spinal manipulation is the main course of treatment applied by a chiropractor. This is a passive manual operation where a three joint complex system manipulation allows for a greater freedom of movement, but without dislocating the joints. For neck flexibility, a chiropractor will use high speed and short lever thrusts implying rotation outside the comfort zone of movement. To activate paraspinal muscle spindles, high speed and low spinal manipulation is required.

Other techniques include the activator technique where a spring loaded tool is used to make adjustments on the spine, the Thompson technique relying on a drop table, Gonstead technique, the cox/flexion distraction, sacro-occipital technique, Nimmo receptor tonus technique and applied kinesiology. In some case a chiropractor may use electronic stimulation devices to activate electrical energy systems within the body.

A masseuse performs many techniques including the following: Acupressure derived from acupuncture; Anma – a Japanese massage involving kneading and deep tissue work; Ayurvedic massage which incorporates yoga, the actual massage, herbal remedies and meditation; Balinese massage focusing on skin folding, kneading and stroking; Barefoot massage which uses the feet to activate pressure points; Bowen technique which uses rolling over fascia, muscles and ligaments; Breema technique which involves rhythmical leans and stretches; Hilot which is a typical healing technique used in the Philippines to relax muscles.


To engage in these practices professionally, a chiropractor or masseuse must receive a license in most states. A chiropractor must attend a chiropractic school where he would learn about various techniques. To become a masseuse, a person can become certified after completing any number of training programs.

Similarities and Differences

  • A chiropractor is a person certified to perform manual manipulation on the spine, joints and soft tissues. A masseuse is a professional certified to perform a manipulation of the superficial layers of muscle for relaxation purposes.
  • A chiropractor can perform techniques like spinal manipulation, Thompson technique, cox/flexion distraction, sacro-occipital technique. A masseuse is able to perform techniques like acupressure, Ayurvedic massage, barefoot massage and Bowen technique.
  • The chiropractic and massage professions are regulated in most states.


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