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Massage Therapist Terminology: A Study Sheet for the MBLEx

Woman studying for the MBLEx exam

Ready to become a licensed massage therapist? Did you know that you must graduate from a massage therapy program before you can take the MBLEx exam? This massage therapy program will give you all the knowledge and skills needed to take The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) and prepare you for your first day on the job. The MBLEx is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

What is Covered on the MBLEx Exam?

The MBLEx licensing exam focuses on the curriculum that you will learn during an accredited massage therapy program. This includes, but is not limited to, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, sanitation, CPR, first aid, massage therapy theory and technique, professional standards, business practices and ethics, and clinical lab work in a supervised environment.

MBLEx Study Sheet

If you are interested in learning more about massage therapy terminology and need to prepare for the MBLEx exam, here is a study sheet with many of the common terms that you will encounter on the job. This terminology will also help you understand what you will learn during a massage therapy program at a vocational school.

Body Structures and Functions Terms

Our bodies are made up of different structures that allow our bodies to manage oxygen, water, nutrients and other substances in the blood. These structures also help our entire body to function properly and move. During the MBLEx test, you will be tested on the following structure terminology and their functions:

Anatomy – the study of the human body structure. A person’s anatomy is made up of 12 organ systems. You will learn about the different terminology that makes up these organ systems as they relate to massage.

Physiology – the study of how the structures in the human body work.

Kinesiology – studies the mechanics of human movement and how it impacts our health and wellbeing.

11 Body Systems (Pathology)

The body systems are a group of organs and tissue that work together to keep the body alive with both voluntary and involuntary movement. Although there are 12 body systems, the MBLEx only focuses on the 11 that related directly to massage therapy.

Lymphatic System – makes cells that combat invaders and returns fluid to the blood vessels.

Integumentary System – comprised of the body’s skin, hair and nails that protects the body from the sun, helps regulate the body’s temperature and keeps out germs and bacteria.

Digestive System – organs where ingested foods are broken down into nutrient molecules and absorbed by the blood. Whereas non digestible food is disposed of by the body.

Cardiovascular System – also known as the circulatory system. This system is made up of the heart and blood vessels. Blood vessels travel to organs and deliver oxygen and remove waste.

Immune System – protects the cells, tissues and organs from pathogens.

Respiratory System – our lungs help to bring in oxygen and expel out carbon dioxide that is carried in the blood system.

Endocrine System – coordinates the metabolism of body cells with the nervous system. Glands produce hormones released into the bloodstream to different locations in the body.

Excretory System – moves liquid waster out of the body, removing toxins and returning the clean liquids back to the blood.

Musculoskeletal System – includes the body’s bones, cartilage and ligaments to hold in place organs and tissues.

Nervous System – network of cells, tissues and organs that coordinate the body’s response to internal and external information

Massage Therapy Terminology

There are many different types of massage therapy, each with their own benefits. During the MBLEx exam, you will be tested on massage terminology for the strokes, techniques and benefits for clients.

Swedish Massage’– helps promote relaxation and release muscle tension. As a massage therapist, you will use long strokes, and knead muscles with both deep circular movements and passive joint movements. This helps a client relax, increase blood circulation and drain toxins.

Chair Massage – a massage technique that focuses on the upper body including neck, back, shoulders, arms and hands. A client sits backwards in a specialized chair and the massage therapist helps release tension from being sedentary.

Trigger Point Massage – focuses on identifying and releasing trigger points in skeletal muscles. Trigger point massage can help relieve headaches, joint pain and lower back pain.

Deep Tissue Massage – similar to Swedish massage but uses more intense strokes. Deep tissue targets the muscles, tendons and fascia.

Sports Massage – the manual manipulation of the muscles to help active individuals improve flexibility and range of motion. Sports massage typically focuses on minor and chronic injuries that happen from exercise or sports activities.

Prenatal Massage – massage that helps mothers-to-be manage pain and stress during pregnancy. Prenatal massage can help relieve pain, reduce swelling, improve sleep, increase relaxation and reduce stress.

Hot Stone Massage – massage that uses smooth, heated stones to relax muscles and allow a massage therapist to apply deep pressure to reduce anxiety, improve back pain, relieve depression and improve insomnia.

Aromatherapy – a holistic healing treatment that uses essential oils in conjunction with massage techniques to manage pain, improve sleep, reduce stress and improve headaches.

Reflexology – a massage technique that involves the application of pressure to feet, hands and ears. Reflexology theorizes that different body parts are connected to certain organs and body systems.

Massage Stroke Terminology

There are different massage strokes that each massage technique will employ and those taking the MBLEx exam will need to know the names and how they differentiate from one another.

Effleurage – a gliding stroke that improves relaxation, blood circulation and lymph flow. With effleurage, a massage therapist will use light pressure using their fingers and flat hands.

Petrissage – a kneading stroke that uses deep pressure applied to tissue and the underlying muscle by treating knots and spasms. Petrissage helps improve blood circulation and relax muscles.

Friction – a massage technique that helps increase circulation around joints within muscles and tendons.

Tapotement – the percussion stroke, that uses rapid, rhythmic movements with the hands, briskly striking the body. This massage stroke helps relax and reduce stress.

Vibration/Shaking – a massage stroke that uses a shaking motion to offer a tingling sensation causing muscle contractions. Vibration massage helps blood flow and improve soreness/

Muscular Disorders

Some muscular disorders can cause pain, tension and discomfort. Massage therapy can help improve the symptoms of these muscle disorders. Some of the disorders that massage can help with include:

Fibromyalgia – causes widespread muscles pain, joint pain and fatigue. A client that has fibromyalgia may experience muscle pain, burning, tightness, insomnia, nervousness and depression.

Muscular Dystrophy – a disease in the muscles that is caused by a mutation in a person’s genes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, muscular dystrophy can cause muscle weakness and decreased mobility.

Tenosynovitis – inflammation of the tendon and the encompassing sheath caused by inflammatory disease, infection, injury, overuse or strain.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – caused by pressure on the median nerve. When compressed, the side of the hand can become numb, tingle or weak. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is typically caused by repetitive hand motions.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know more about the MBLEx exam, it is time to start your massage therapy program. You will learn everything you will need to take the exam and start on day one as a licensed massage therapist. Take the time to properly prepare for the MBLEx exam and start a new chapter in your life.

Do you still need to graduate from a massage therapy program so you can take the MBLEx licensing exam? Want to learn more about our massage therapy program? 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 you to take the MBLEx licensing exam offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board (FSMTB). Upon completion of the program, you 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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