Job Description (What the job involves)
Massage therapists usually work in health/hotel spas or large salons, where there is a high demand for massage requested by clients. Before commencing a massage the therapist must do a thorough consultation, which includes checking the medical history of the client.
The masseuse will begin the treatment using oils and her/his hands, thumbs, forearm and elbows. The therapist will first glide their oiled hands over the part of the body that is being treated in a slow, but quiet firm pressure. This movement is called effleurage. After a few of these effleurage movements the masseuse should then check the pressure is firm enough for the client and check the comfort of the client. During the massage session the therapist combines a selection of movements which also includes petrissage, friction and tapotement which is a basis for all massages. Client comfort and attention to detail enhances the treatment and client satisfaction, for example the lighting should be dim or candle lit, aromas should be burning, the room should be comfortably warm and the towels fresh and clean. The masseuse uses draping techniques so that only the area being worked on is exposed.
As a massage therapist you will also be required to hold other qualifications in at least 2 or more of the following; Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Deep tissue, Sports massage, Indian head massage, Lomi Lomi massage, reiki, shiatsu and lymphatic drainage massage to name a few.
- Aromatherapy is the art of treating an ailment or condition using essential oils. An aroma therapist will create a blend and use this to massage the client using more stroking and draining techniques to enable the essential oils to be absorbed quickly.
- Reflexology is the ancient Chinese art of treating ailments and condition, using pressure and massage on the reflexes of the foot. Highlighting the weak areas of the body and helps to restore the body natural balance and detoxifies.
- Deep tissue requires firm pressure working deep into the muscle to alleviate chronic muscle aches and knots.
- Sports massage is massage on a sports injury (ie; pulled muscles etc...) or the massage of a sports man/woman to prevent an injury during their physical activity.
- Indian Head massage is massage of the scalp, neck and shoulders to prevent and ease tensions of the head and was developed in India, many employers have a mobile therapist visit their office to offer staff 20 minutes Indian head massage, during their working day. This has proved most successful as it increases productivity for the business.
- Lomi Lomi, a Hawaiian form of massage is a restorative and healing massage used in Hawaiian communities from children to chief, has spiritual and physical healing benefits. Traditionally performed on a hand woven mat, practitioners will work with the body - sometimes movements will be slow and light and then become faster and firmer depending how the body responds.
Upsides and Downsides
Choosing a career as a massage therapist is very rewarding, every day you will be helping clients to eliminate their aches and tensions, reduce their stress by relaxing the mind and the body and creating a 'wellbeing' feeling. It is also hard work, it's physically demanding and draining, so as a masseur or masseuse you need to have physical stamina and be able to maintain energy throughout the day.
During a busy working day a massage therapist may get up to 8 massages, so to develop your massage technique to use your elbows and fore arm will greatly reduce 'therapist burn out', and prevent (RSI) repetitive strain injury, as well as giving a deeper massage to the client. Working in a spa environment also gives the massage therapist the opportunity to learn new body skills and be trained in wraps which will give a 'break' to a busy massage schedule.
Contracts/Agreements should include maximum hours of massage, as some businesses like to push their employees but it is important to put you first and not to let yourself be overworked.
Working regularly with essential oils can lead to nausea as the oils can penetrate into the therapist's skin too, and if you have a selection of relaxing, energising and detoxifying oils can really put you out of sorts.
Preventing burnout- get a good 8 hours sleep, eat a healthy balanced diet, eat light during working hours, bring snacks to work in case you need something in between clients, Alexander technique; which is a lifestyle that can be learned to maintain balance in the mind and body therefore maintaining stamina and preventing tensions in the body.
Employers will look for one of the following nationally recognised qualifications; NVQ, VTCT, ITEC, CIBTAC, CIDESCO. These are professional massage qualifications which show that you have a practical and theoretical knowledge of the subject matter. During a massage course you will learn human anatomy and physiology, massage practical sessions, as well as contra indications to massage. These courses are available throughout the UK at local colleges of Further Education.
Opportunities and Progression
Massage therapists will find opportunities at larger establishments like health spas or hotel spas where massage is in high demand. Cruise ships, hospitals, hospices or self employed are all options for the masseuse. Hospices could be a place to start even if it's a voluntary basis just to get the experience.
© Zara Priestley
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Potential Salary and Benefits
Newly qualified £10K - £13K depending on location
Experienced £13K - £16K
Management £15K - £25K +