Different Branches of Massage to Specialise In
Your level 3 Massage Qualification is a gateway for you to practice several different massage styles adding to your skills, making you far more attractive to employers and clients alike.
The level 3 massage qualification is a starting benchmark that you need to be able to go on to other massage courses and it is rare that you would find any course that doesn’t require a massage qualification as a pre requisite to join.
With this in mind I have put together different styles of massage courses and what is involved as there are so many branches and uses for massage i.e. relaxation, sports massage at a physiotherapy / chiropractic clinic, spas/ salons, hospices, mobile work to name a few.
DEEP TISSUE/ HANDS FREE MASSAGE
This style of massage is vital for those of you doing a lot of massage, at spas for example. You need to be able to deal with whatever walks through the door and this could be a six foot male client or a sporty female client and often you will be asked to perform a massage with deep pressure. This is expected in a lot of establishments and if you are doing several treatments a day could you do this without struggling?
The answer is often not, so deep tissue massage is a must for your skills set. It is an extremely popular treatment and will put you head and shoulders above therapists without this skill and guarantees return business.
There are several one day courses that are fully insurable and will give you a good start to deep tissue massage, usually with this being a one day course there are no case studies to complete and it is called a CPD course or continuing development course and a certificate of attendance is issued at the end of the day that allows you to add this skill to your insurance and practice with immediate effect.
You may also see them advertised as advanced massage techniques or hands free massage, they are all based on similar techniques and give you a great opportunity to start becoming confident in applying deeper pressure and saving your hands by using your body correctly during treatment, you will learn to use your fists, forearms and elbows to apply specific pressure.
This modality will elevate you in confidence and improve your anatomy knowledge which in turn will make your treatment far more comprehensive. There are longer courses with international qualifications such as ITEC but you will usually find them as part of a bigger course such as sports massage or a remedial massage course.
I would suggest for a relatively small investment of around £120-£160 you can add this skill, get insurance and be practising within a few days so your investment will return very quickly.
The secret to being a good deep tissue practitioner is practice so once you have got your certificate get practicing on friends and perhaps think of offering deep tissue at an offer price to encourage a whole new type of clientele.
From experience new clients are always telling me how difficult they find it to secure a knowledgeable deep tissue treatment/ therapist so as a result I have a large following with this treatment.
SPORTS MASSAGE/ REMEDIAL MASSAGE
Sports massage is a fabulous therapy and isn’t just for sports people! It is a therapy used to rehabilitate clients and also used for clients who prefer deep work in their massage.
It is a big undertaking with a lot of study commitment needed on your part. There will be a lot of case studies required and your anatomy knowledge will expand hugely. This course isn’t for the faint hearted but is a big income bringer and will put you in the ranks of a real specialist with the ability to work alongside chiropractors, Osteopaths, physiotherapists and rehab specialists such as Pilates teachers.
Courses vary from a level 3 to a level 5 qualification (degree level) and can be awarded by ITEC/ BTEC or a private college. If you are looking at working abroad make sure you have invested in an internationally recognised qualification, such as ITEC.
There are 1 and 2 day introductory courses for those of you that do not know if you are ready for the commitment of a full course, these are a great way to sample sports massage without the commitment to full training which can be thousands of pounds. Some trainers do work in conjunction with banks to offer career development loans to help you achieve your training.
This is a truly brilliant therapy that will bring you many repeat clients and also enable you to work at an elite level with elite athletes; but expect long hours, continued study and being available at short notice for events. It is a really rewarding therapy and seeing your skills getting a client back on their feet is fantastic and you will never get bored with the different techniques you will have in your tool kit, such as Muscle Energy Techniques, Specific Stretching, Soft Tissue Release and deep massage techniques.
PREGNANCY MASSAGE/ BABY MASSAGE
This is a hugely popular treatment in spas and salons and gives prospective mothers a real chance to be free of heavy legs and aching backs. It is a very profound treatment for both mother and therapist and creates a beautiful environment in the treatment room with a real sense of bonding between mother and baby adapting classic Swedish techniques with lots of lymph drainage and specific techniques applicable to the Pregnant lady. It combines well with pregnancy spa wraps and maternity Reflexology making the pregnancy experience joyful for the new mum.
Baby massage is usually the therapist actually instructing a class of parents on how to apply techniques to baby to aid colic, improve bonding and baby development so is good for a therapist with some prior teaching experience who is confident in front of people and able to direct a class full of wriggling little ones! Although it is sometimes challenging it is also great fun and fabulous to see the parents and carers bonding.
Training is usually a day or two and sometimes may require case studies. You may also need a CRB check if you want to perform baby massage instruction so that your parents are confident in your skill and background.
This is an ancient therapy based on the use of the essential oil of plants. There are 2 routes you can go with Aromatherapy these days. One is to complete a course that gives you Aromatherapy massage techniques which tend to be much lighter than Swedish Massage and combines lots of Lymphatic Drainage to clear the body of toxin. This can be combined with using PRE BLENDED OILS (mixed by a person or company qualified to use aroma oils). This is usually a one / two day course and can be added to your insurance easily.
To become an Aromatherapist is a much larger commitment with many hours of study and case studies to complete. You will learn how to blend oils yourself and the different applications of oil to produce a positive effect on the nervous system. Aromatherapy is very scientific with its base in Chemistry due to the makeup of plant oils and how we extract them to use.
Again choose an internationally recognised qualification if you think you may be working abroad or in establishments that may want a reliable qualification.
Although a big commitment Aromatherapy is massively recognised in the industry and is an incredibly rewarding treatment. I cannot imagine my career without the creativity of blending my own bespoke oils for my fabulous clients!
HOT/COLD STONE THERAPY
This is an extremely popular course within salons/ spas offering a truly relaxing experience but still offering a deep tissue and comprehensive treatment.
Heated Basalt stones are applied to the skin with massage bringing an incredibly soothing experience for the client but helping the therapist massively with regard to warming the muscles ready for deeper work. It is believed that 1 stroke with the stone is equal to 10 manually, saving the therapists hands greatly!
Cold marble stones can also be used on areas of inflammation and also for use in facial massage to soothe skin.
This treatment lends itself to so many forms of application with the most popular being with crystals to deepen relaxation perfect for the spa or for deep tissue work making it great for remedial therapists.
Study is usually 1 or 2 days and doesn’t usually require case studies to complete making it popular with therapists and employers as it can be insured immediately after course attendance and therapists can treat their waiting clientele straight away. This is always a popular gift voucher option and this treatment is so versatile that it is now incorporated in manicures/ pedicures and facials making it an absolute staple for every therapist. It boosts takings as it is marketed as a specialist treatment therefore allowing the spa to charge more for this service.
Although this service has its roots in history with stones being used for warmth (heated on fires), shelter, cooking and spirituality (it is often believed in history that stones can hold energy) it was brought into mainstream spa therapy in the 1990’s and still holds its popularity against other heat treatments really well today.
As a word of caution as with any heat treatment, make sure that you research your trainer well as there is a rise in clients being burnt by heat treatments. This is usually caused by therapists having inadequate training and leaving stones on the skin too long. These days it is usually taught that the stones are to be kept moving or stone placements to go over a towel. Don’t be put off by this caution as stone therapy done well is heavenly!
Stone massage is even possible for mobile therapists these days with the invention of heated bags that keep your stones warm between clients making this an incredibly important part of your treatment menu.
CHAIR MASSAGE/ ACCUPRESSURE
Again this treatment can usually be accomplished with a 1 or 2 day course that can be easily added to your insurance making it a good development course that allows you to practice quickly.
This is a great treatment for mobile therapists who attend a lot of events such as festivals; and the rise of high street salons offering walk in massage is apparent. It is ideal as it doesn’t require the client to undress so is very popular in city centres where busy clientele can grab a 10/ 20 minute massage to rejuvenate them in their lunch break.
This therapy is often seen in shopping centres and airports. It is perfect for promoting your therapy or place of work as it can be set up anywhere easily.
It is popular with people wanting their neck and shoulders treated. It is also very much a whole body, re energising treatment with movements being adapted for arms and legs also.
In this economic climate it is great for clients on a budget and equally can be taken to luxury and VIP events.
HOT THAI COMPRESS MASSAGE
This Massage has its roots in eastern massage and has been adapted beautifully for the spa setting. Warmed muslin compresses/dumplings filled with a variety of healing herbs that usually include Kaffir Lime leaves, Lemongrass and other herbs great for their warming/ soothing properties are heated in a hot cabbi or steamer then applied to the skin in a variety of Thai massage techniques including, rolling, tapping and compressing, allowing the muscles to be released and stretched perfectly.
This is an incredibly comprehensive treatment including massage, stretches and healing aromas and works long after the treatment has finished due to the skin absorbing all the nourishment of herbs within the compress.
It is a popular treatment for very holistic centres and therapists. It is great if you have other eastern therapies such as Thai Massage or Thai foot treatments on your menu or are trying to market your business in a very “spa” way. You do need to make sure that your clients don’t have allergies to any of the compresses ingredients but you can also make your own muslin compresses making it very popular with product houses making their own compresses.
With this being a heat treatment it wouldn’t be suitable for heat sensitive skins or clients with high blood pressure issues but would be perfect for clients wanting a deep tissue massage combined with the allure of the east!
Again it is a specialist modality so make sure you charge well for this high end treatment.
Training can usually be obtained on a one day course or even through your spa product house if it is offered in their treatments.
MANUAL LYMPH DRAINAGE
This is an amazingly light treatment often used in cases of medical Oedema (swelling) as it is extremely effective, especially in post operative cases such as Breast cancers where Lymph Node removal may have occurred.
It is a very specialist form of treatment and aims to clear toxins from the body by targeting the Lymphatic system, hence it’s light application.
It is also very useful for treating chronic fatigue syndromes and heavy, swollen limbs due to its clearing nature. This is perfect for your clients who prefer a much lighter treatment.
Training can be a basic 1 day course which is enough to treat your existing clientele or if you resonate well with this therapy there are longer more in depth courses should you wish to specialise.
It is a specialist therapy and not common place in every spa so make sure you charge well for the training you have undergone.
WARM SHELL MASSAGE
This is another variety of heated massage. Large shells are filled with 2 products that when combined create heat. There is a stopper in the shell and the shell is used to massage with, the heat stays active for the time you are massaging so there is no need to worry about the shell cooling. There are also cool shell options making this a useful option for facial work again.
Currently this is quite a new therapy in the UK but is gaining popularity quickly.
TUI NA/ THAI MASSAGE
This Eastern treatment is gaining popularity in spas, especially those with an eastern influence and is sometimes used in conjunction with Acupuncture. It is gaining respect in the sports massage world for its depth of treatment and effectiveness. It uses Traditional Chinese Massage techniques to roll, press and knead space between joints aiming to balance Chi (energy).
This is still quite a specialist therapy in the UK so you may have to research trainers but it is already a very popular treatment in the US. Training will vary but is usually a few days at least with case studies required.
Is a Hawaiian massage therapy meaning massage therapist, with the word Lomi meaning to rub or squeeze. This is another therapy currently gaining popularity in the UK.
It is a very spiritual ritual making it perfect for holistic practitioners and training is usually several days long with case studies required.
Most practices today are adapted from the original to be able to be used within the spa setting as traditional Lomi is practiced with a Hawaiian elder for many years.
I hope this article has been useful to you in deciding which therapy may be of use and in what order to train. It is a truly magical experience to apply massage and you will always feel privileged to treat with any massage modality. Make sure that you pick a therapy that you completely resonate with so that you can provide a completely blissful holistic experience for your client and a massively rewarding experience for you every time you treat.
View our latest spa job vacancies
Visit the career hub for more spa qualifications and training