massage therapist working

What does a Massage Therapist do?

A massage therapist helps a person relieve stress, increase relaxation, improve circulation and gain relief from pain by massaging and manipulating the soft muscle tissues in the body. They help rehabilitate injuries through touch and aid in the general wellness of a patient.

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How to Become a Massage Therapist

To become a massage therapist, an associate’s degree is usually preferred with the course work in physiology, anatomy, pathology, ethics and body and motion mechanics. You must earn a certificate and be licensed in your state of practice with a hands-on training of massage techniques of up to or more than 500 hours.

Job Description of a Massage Therapist

A massage therapist lends general wellness to a client through therapeutic massage to the joints and soft tissue muscles of the body. They help give relief from pain, rehabilitate injuries, improve poor circulation and teach relaxation techniques, as well as, helping to reduce stress through massage therapy. They determine the treatment of a client by obtaining medical history and pain or stress problems. They develop a course of action to aid in the healing of the injury or problem area based on the collected information and keep records of all progress or adjustments to the treatment through massage therapy.

He or she would identify specific areas of the body to apply hand and finger pressure. They evaluate a patient’s muscle strength, function, and joint ability, range of motion and condition of soft tissue, in order to give them information and assistance about helpful techniques, such as, stretching, rehabilitative exercises, postural improvement and/or relaxation.

A massage therapist would consult other health care professionals, like, chiropractors, physicians, psychologists or physiotherapists to aid in a patient’s successful treatment and give the client a referral, if necessary, to a specialized health professional. They use tools to aid in therapy, such as, balance beams or boards, rockers, bolsters and hydrotherapy equipment, such as, in baths or tanks. They use treatment tables, both stationary and portable, as well as, mats, heat lamps, massage stone sets, cold and hot packs and other equipment.

They need to have knowledge of psychology, medicine, biology and customer and personal service. They need the skill of speaking clearly to others and to listen attentively to what is being communicated to them. They need to be able to gather and sort information and maintain accurate documents or records. They should be able to make decisions and solve problems among other skills and abilities. They need dynamic strength, arm-hand steadiness, manual dexterity and trunk strength in this occupation. A massage therapist can be found working in private homes, offices, hospitals, spas and fitness centers.

Massage Therapist Career Video Transcript

Whether a patient calls for a relaxing treat or help to recover from an injury, massage therapists provide an important part of their wellness care. While massage is popular now due to the natural health movement and interest in prevention, massage therapy has its roots in ancient health care practices.

Massage therapists massage and knead patients’ soft tissues to treat medical conditions, injuries, or to maintain health. Using their knowledge of basic anatomy, they may assess range of motion and tissue condition to determine the best techniques to use. Talking with patients beforehand about their symptoms is as important as maintaining communication throughout the massage and keeping health records afterward. Massage therapists learn particular techniques, like sports massage, reflexology, or deep tissue massage. They may work for themselves, in a rehabilitation practice, a massage clinic, at a spa, or even for a sports team.

Massage therapists must typically complete a training program, typically between 500-1000 hours of study, to develop these specialized skills. Most states also have licensure and practice requirements. Becoming a massage therapist can be the first step in a health care career. Many health care providers understand the benefits of massage, and include these services in their treatment plans. Whichever setting these professionals choose, their skills are a welcome addition to their patients’ care.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Massage Therapists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 31-9011.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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