Massage started to be popular in the U.S. in the mid-1800s, and it was based on techniques that had been developed in Sweden. After a decrease in popularity, its influence started growing again in the 1970s and it is currently an industry in continuous growth. Until the 1960s and 1970s, it was performed by nurses, aiming to alleviate patients’ pain and to help them sleep.
Currently, a therapist deals with putting into practice different techniques of kneading muscles and soft tissue, such as pressing and rubbing. Therapists will touch and manipulate the muscles and tissue most often with their hands and fingers, but they may also use their forearms, elbows and feet.
Job OverviewThe massage therapist usually deals with the following:
- Discussing with the clients about their experienced symptoms, medical history and therapy expectations
- Evaluating clients in order to identify painful or tense areas of the body
- Manipulating muscles and other soft tissue of the body using various techniques
- Offering guidance to clients on how posture can be improved, on stretching and strengthening the body and on relaxation methods
For their tasks, the therapists may use items such as lotions and oils, massage tables or chairs, dry-water massage beds, body rocks, bamboo and rosewood tools, a Vichy shower, medical heating lamps and other helpful equipment and tools. Therapists may also inform their clients on what techniques they can practice themselves in between sessions.
There are different types of massage in which massage therapists can specialize. Such massage types, called modalities, are the Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, barefoot deep tissue massage, sports massage, lymphatic drainage massage, postural integration and many others. A therapist is usually specialized in more than one modality. The type of massage used on each client will depend on the individual client’s needs. For example, techniques that are appropriate for athletes might not be used on the elderly.
SalaryAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay of a massage therapist for 2010 was of $34,900 per year and $16.78 per hour. There were 153,700 such jobs in the U.S. in 2010 and the job outlook until 2020 predicts a 20 percent increase, which is considered to be faster than average.
TrainingThe entry-level education requirement consists in post-secondary non-degree award. Typically, a massage therapist has to complete 500 hours or more of study and experience during the post-secondary education program. Standards vary greatly from state to state, though.
In order to enter the program in the existing private or public post-secondary institutions, a high school diploma or equivalent degree is commonly requested for admission.
The subjects covered during the education program may include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, ethics, business management, massage techniques, practice hours and others.
A license or certificate are commonly required to be obtained at the end of the training, by passing an exam. Massage therapy was regulated, in 2011, by 43 states and the District of Colombia. Not all states license massage therapy, but regulations may be in place at the local level.
Reviews & AdviceIn order to be a good massage technician, communication skills, decision-making skills, empathy, physical stamina, strength and dexterity are needed.
The therapist must be able to ask appropriate questions and listen carefully in order to understand the needs of the patient. Based on the evaluation made of the patient’s ailments and needs, the therapist must be able to choose the best treatment for each particular case.
Empathy is needed, as therapists must build a relationship of trust with their clients and patients and offer them a positive experience.
Given the long hours spent standing, the pressure needed to be exerted as part of the chosen techniques and the variety of movements involved in the therapy process, the therapist must be physically fit and strong.