Massage Therapist

Around 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates documented the earliest known health benefits of “friction” in Western Civilization. Massage therapy is now used to treat painful ailments, rejuvenate stressed and overworked muscles, alleviate stress, help athletes recover from sports injuries, and improve overall health. Massage therapists complete these objectives by massaging soft tissue muscles to improve circulation and remove muscle waste products.

People utilize massage therapy to relax and improve their health. Massage therapy intended to improve health usually differs in duration and technique from massage therapy intended for relaxation. Therefore, massage therapist training depends on specialty, whether it is health or relaxation.

There are over 80 different types of massage treatments, known as modalities, massage therapists can specialize in, including neuromuscular, sports, acupressure, reflexology, deep tissue, and Swedish massage. The majority of massage therapists specialize in several modalities, requiring knowledge of different massage techniques. Therapists can use exaggerated strokes covering the length of the entire body, or cupped or closed hand, quick strokes. Massages can last 10 minutes to 2 hours. The type of massage performed depends on the physical condition of the patient since messages for the elderly and athletes or those seeking relaxation would differ. Some therapists specialize in message for specific age groups of types of people such as prenatal or infant massage.

Massage therapists perform massages after clients schedule appointments. After an appointment is scheduled, therapists interview patients to determine their medical history and reasons for seeking a massage. Therapists will also discuss which techniques could be beneficial or harmful to the client. Because most massage therapists specialize, they often refer clients to other therapists. After determining a client's medical history and desired results from a massage, the therapist will determine whether a massage would benefit the client. During the massage, therapists often alter their techniques to concentrate on problem areas.

Many massage therapists use creams, lotions, or massage oils while performing massages. Many massage therapists, especially those who run their own businesses, must provide massage tables, sheets, pillows, and oils. Many specific massage modalities require clients to be covered by a sheet or blanket, be undressed, or wear loose-fitting clothing. When a specific modality requires a client to be undressed, only the part of the body being massaged is exposed. However, many massages are performed without oils or lotions with the client fully-clothed.

Massage therapists must develop a professional relationship with their clients if they want to secure a clientele. Establishing a dedicated clientele is important for successful therapists since those who receive massages tend to make regular visits.

Work environment. Massage therapists work in a variety of public and private settings including private offices, studios, hospitals, fitness centers, etc. Some massage therapists visit clients in their homes. Many full-time massage therapists work in a variety of locations and settings.

Most massages are usually performed in dimly lit settings. Some therapists use candles or incense in their massage rooms. Many therapists play relaxing music in their massage rooms. Massage therapists use lighting, smells, and music to relax clients. Some massage therapists do not use these relaxation techniques since many clients do not like these techniques. Since massage therapy can be physically exhausting, therapists can be injured if they do not use proper technique, and many therapists stand for long periods of time and use massage techniques that can be tiring. Therapists who use proper technique, exercise regularly, and receive massages themselves can decrease fatigue associated with massage therapy.

Because physical therapy is physically demanding and there is time gaps between sessions, massage therapists usually spend fewer than 40 hours a week performing massages. Therapists who perform massages between 15-30 hours a week consider themselves to be full-time workers since they spend time with other administrative duties and traveling. In 2006, nearly 42 percent of massage therapists worked part time while 20 percent had inconsistent schedules.

Massage therapists usually establish private practices. Many treat patients part-time for additional income or because massage therapy is physically exhausting. On average, full-time massage therapists spend 15 hours weekly administering massage therapy. The remainder of their time is spend performing administrative duties, which could include maintaining records, scheduling appointments, marketing, and performing basic accounting.

Massage therapy hourly rates are great influenced by work environment, location, and level of experience. Massage therapists working at exclusive spas can earn up to $100 an hour while massage therapist running a private practice typically make from $50 to $80/hour. Massage therapists working in large cities typically earn the highest wages. Nationwide, the average hourly rate is about $60 an hour.

Career Training and Education

To begin a career in this field, you'll be required to graduate from an accredited massage therapy training program and complete supervised training. Most programs require students to complete 500 hours of classroom instruction and supervised training. The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) currently recognizes over 80 schools.

Many states require therapists to earn bachelor's degrees before practicing professionally. Students enrolled in massage therapy training programs will complete courses in pathology, kinesiology, physiology, and anatomy, in addition to massage therapy technique.

Each state has separate licensure requirements for massage therapists. Although not necessary, it's recommend to become nationally certified to enhance employment opportunities and qualify for insurance reimbursement.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) only certifies massage therapists who’ve completed recognized training programs and passed its certification examination.

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