Therapeutic massage techniques are now used for so much more than simple stress relief and relaxation. Massage therapy is used to aid recovery from injury and often forms an essential part of a patient’s rehabilitation regime as well as being widely used in the treatment of pain and illness and post-surgery recovery.
With further rapid growth predicted for the massage therapy sector there has never been a better time to train as a massage therapist. A massage practitioner will generally attend college for between one and two years to qualify in their profession during which time they will learn a variety of different techniques and how to use them as well as gaining a general understanding of the human body and how it works. They will treat clients by using touch to manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to help relieve pain and discomfort, facilitate healing, relieve stress and anxiety and promote general wellbeing.
Once qualified a massage therapist will then have to decide which types of massage they wish to specialise in. There are many different options available all of which take the core skills and techniques learned at college and adapt and expand them ready for practice in some of the many disciplines on offer.
Upon first glance the massage therapy market may appear overwhelming but all of the specialisms within it can essentially be divided into three main categories for ease of reference. Here we take a closer look at each one in more detail.
Clinical/ Medical Massage Therapy
Massage therapy in a clinical environment uses massage techniques for the treatment of a variety of physical injuries and conditions. Therapeutic massage in medicine has been proven to help relieve muscular aches and pains, reduce stiffness and stimulate circulation. In addition massage can help to alleviate joint related pressure and increase mobility making it particularly valuable for recovery from motion injuries and, as such, an integral part of many post-injury and post-surgery rehabilitation programmes. A therapist in this field will work with patients to restore function and mobility through the use of movement and manipulation.
Working in a clinical environment as a massage therapist is very different to working in the calm, relaxed spa settings that you are probably more used to. Hospital departments will be busy, brightly lit and almost certainly loud and full of patients, staff and constant background noise. Here you will work alongside other healthcare professionals not just massage therapists. There are many different environments in the clinical/ medical genre including hospitals, physiotherapy clinics, chiropratic clinics, hospices and rehabilitation centres, all of which now routinely use massage therapy as an essential part of the services that they provide.
Fitness/ Sports Massage Therapy
The sports massage and fitness sector is in fact the fastest growing area of massage therapy. The realisation that, when applied correctly, massage can dramatically help to reduce recovery times marked one of the earliest advances in massage therapy to date and massage therapy was soon integrated into the regimes of athletes and sports teams alike.
Massage therapists in the sports and fitness industry tend to focus on soft tissue areas of the body to both treat and prevent painful muscle and ligament strains often through the use of stretching and deep compression massage.
With massage therapy on hand throughout their training, athletes are able to train more efficiently, and compete more frequently and at a higher level thanks to reduced recovery times between events.
A sports massage therapist needs to be in good physical shape themselves as many of the techniques involved often require aggressive hands on therapy and as such can be very physically demanding. In addition they will need to study and expand their knowledge base to include a greater and more in depth understanding of physiology (the way in which the body functions), anatomy (the structure of the human body) and kinesiology (study of the body’s movement).
Spa/Salon Massage Therapy
The spa or salon sector is the largest and certainly most popular of the industry today with many specialisms within it. For example, there is reflexology whereby the therapist uses their fingers to apply pressure to various areas of the body (especially the feet) in a bid to relieve nervous tension and achieve balance. Another popular specialism is aromatherapy massage which uses fragranced oils and lotions during the massage process to affect the client’s mood and promote general well-being. Then there is hydrotherapy (use of water to assist healing), reiki (the transfer of vital energy through hands), myofascial release (aka trigger point therapy) and so the list goes on. In short, the opportunities for a therapist in this sector are endless and exciting.
Of course there are some negatives which we all should bear in mind. Working hours are likely to be unsociable at times with spas and salons enjoying their busiest periods during evenings and weekends. So take heed, if you are looking for a regular 9-5 job then this might not be for you. Pay in this sector will be lower as high end beauty premises, particularly those in affluent areas, will often command equally high overheads and work schedules can become stressful under the pressure of sales targets.
On the positive side however, therapists get to practice their skills in the relaxed surroundings of some amazing spa locations. A good salon will have a vibrant social scene and a diverse clientelle should keep the job fresh and exciting.
In conclusion, you can clearly see just how many opportunities exist in today’s massage marketplace. Whether medical, sports or beauty based, massage therapists continue to prove themselves as an invaluable asset in the workplace and so as the industry continues to grow all you have to do as a therapist is to decide specialism to choose.
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