What are the Different Types of Massage Therapy?

Published on July 6, 2020 by arothstein

Instructor in front of a class of massage therapy students discussing the different types of massage therapy.

Interested in learning more about massage therapy? Vocational schools offer massage therapy certificates in less than a year, for students attending full-time. Massage therapy offers you a flexible work schedule and an opportunity to work for yourself after initial experience working for a spa or resort. Does this all sound good but you’re wondering what the different types of massage therapy are and where you can work with a certificate in massage therapy? First, let’s start with the question, “What is massage therapy?”

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is a method of manual therapy using the hands and fingers to manipulate soft tissue and muscles. The treatments are primarily used to provide relief from:

Using a variety of modalities and strokes, a massage therapist can provide a patient with a significant amount of relief. Depending on the type of massage that’s administered, a typical session can last anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes.

What are the Different Types of Massage?

There are different types of massage that you will learn during a vocational school certificate program. The most common are Swedish massage, deep tissue, prenatal massage, Thai yoga, chair massage, trigger point massage, sports massage and myofascial release.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage is the most common type of treatment used by massage therapists. You will use tapping, rhythmic type strokes, and long, kneading motions on the top layer of muscles. Swedish massage is rejuvenating, and since it relieves tension in the muscles, it can be beneficial as a treatment after an injury. Swedish Massage differs from other forms of massage therapy because of the specific strokes used in the treatments.

Deep Tissue Massage Therapy

Deep tissue is a form of Swedish massage and used to treat a specific issue. This form of massage therapy utilizes slow, stroking motions, and firm pressure to reach the deepest layers of the muscles and the connecting tissue or fascia that surrounds the muscles.

The benefits of deep tissue massage are:

Deep tissue massage helps your patients with specific health issues, including Carpal Tunnel syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Sciatica, Osteoarthritis and Piriformis syndrome. Deep tissue massage breaks down muscle knots and adhesions to relieve pain. You can suggest that your clients drink water after a treatment to help flush metabolic waste from their system.

Prenatal Massage

Prenatal massage is a unique form of treatment used to relieve stress in expectant mothers. Cramps and pain in the neck and back are often associated with pregnancy, and OBGYN’s often recommend massage to alleviate discomfort. Prenatal treatment can benefit a pregnant woman that has poor circulation. The treatments can relieve depression, anxiety and nervous tension.

Thai Yoga Massage Therapy

Thai yoga massage therapy combines massage, yoga, mindfulness, and Metta. This form of massage therapy dates back more than 2,500 years. Yoga therapy is administered on the floor rather than on a table. Your client is to focus on their breathing while you guide them through a series of movements and yoga postures. You will use tapotement and deep pressure movements to the energy centers of the body. Aromatherapy or essential oils are sometimes part of the massage. The massage is structured to fit the needs of your client.

A client that has osteoporosis, a heart problem, or high blood pressure should ask their doctor if this type of treatment is appropriate for them. A different kind of massage therapy may be prescribed.

Chair Massage

Chair massage therapy differs from other forms of massage because it’s administered while your client is seated in a specially designed massage chair. Your client remains fully clothed and the treatment involves massaging the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and hands. You can perform chair massage anywhere your clients are looking for a massage, in office buildings, malls, retail outlets and conventions, to name a few.

Trigger Point Massage

Trigger point massage therapy is a unique treatment since it’s specifically used to treat trigger points in the body. Many people experience pain in their back, shoulders or neck in what’s known as trigger points. The trigger points are often responsible for causing pain elsewhere in the body and require massage treatment.

Sports Massage

Sports massage therapy helps athletes prevent injuries, to prepare the body for strenuous physical activity, and aid the body in recovering following a sports participation or injury. The three types of sports massage are:

Any type of muscle strain, stiffness or pain can benefit from this treatment. Athletes who have repeated bouts with Tendonitis or repeatedly strain muscles during workouts can benefit from sports massage therapy. Massage for sports injuries should always be used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment but should never replace it.

Pre-event treatment is administered shortly before an athlete is to work out or compete. The movements reduce the risk of tension in the muscles and keep muscles moving easily. As the treatment progresses, the pressure you use will increase the muscles ability to flex and move properly.

Post-event treatment consists of gentle movements so stressed muscles don’t suffer from further damage. A gentle touch helps blood vessels dilated from exercise return to a healthy state. Post-event treatment helps reduce muscle swelling and helps to remove toxic waste from the system.

Maintenance treatment should be administered at least once every week while an athlete is in training. This treatment helps to relax and tone knotted muscles, keeping an athlete in top performing shape.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial pain syndrome is a disorder that’s the result of tightness in trigger points. It’s sometimes difficult for a massage therapist to pinpoint precisely where the pain is originating, so the treatment involves focusing on a broad section of tissue and muscles to alleviate pain. The massage therapist uses a minimal amount of pressure to determine which areas are stiff or tight.

This form of treatment can help to alleviate tightness and pressure in muscles. You can repeat the process a few times on the same trigger points until the tension is released and pain subsides in your client.

Where Do Massage Therapists Work?

As a massage therapist, you can choose to work in a variety of settings, depending on your career goals and preferences. If you are new to the field, you can start off at a spa or resort. In this setting, you don’t usually have to advertise for your clients. The spa or resort handles the advertising.

In small clinics, you may provide treatments to clients experiencing pain from sore or stiff muscles or injuries. With more experience, you may become a staff mentor to the newest members of the team. In private practice, you are responsible for managing the practice and setting up appointments with your clients. You may hire others to work with you. In some private practices, you may schedule appointments at your client’s workplace or home.

In a health club, massage therapy is offered as an additional service to club members. You may work flexible hours on an as-needed basis or may work fulltime, depending on the club. Luxury resorts also need qualified massage therapists. Most guests are one-time visitors, so you won’t have a permanent clientele, but you may enjoy working in a luxurious setting.

What are the Overall Benefits of Massage?

At one time, the only people who had regular massage were those who had memberships at health clubs or visited luxury spas. Today, you can provide services to clients in their home, office, or in a clinic. Massage is an essential part of integrated medicine and many doctors prescribe massage as part of a medical treatment plan.

In addition to a beneficial form of treatment for stiff, sore muscles and chronic pain, you may treat anxiety and stress, digestive problems, headaches and fibromyalgia by using massage techniques. Patients who suffer from chronic lower back pain have found relief with treatment. Back pain sufferers prefer the hands-on approach to treating pain as an alternative to strong pain medications.

Certain types of massage are helpful for improving activity in the nervous system. Specific types of massage are also beneficial in increasing killer T cells that have the ability to recognize and kill cells infected with viruses. When the body experiences fewer incidents of stress, the immune system functions more effectively.

Many cancer patients have experienced less pain when massage is used in conjunction with other techniques for pain management that their oncologist prescribes. The anxiety that many patients with cancer experience is minimized when massage is part of their treatment plan.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a massage therapist is a rewarding career, helping others reduce pain and discomfort. With formal training from a vocational school and some experience, you can start your own massage practice. Whether opening up a spa or visiting the massage clients in their home or place of employment, massage therapy can offer you flexibility and a positive work/life balance.

Did learning about the different types of massage therapy interest you? Ready to start a program to become a massage therapist? Broadview University developed the Massage Therapy certificate program with your future in mind. The certificate program is designed to emphasize skills and knowledge for entry-level employment as a massage therapist. The Massage Therapy program at Broadview University prepares students to take the MBLEx licensing exam offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board (FSMTB). Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible for professional membership in such associations as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist.

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