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Massage Time: What You Knead to Know to Become a Massage Therapist

Clients often ask me, "What did you have to do to become a massage therapist? You have to go to school for that kind of thing?" I, being the puckish lass that I am, usually reply with a long story somewhere on the level of the twelve labors of Hercules. Sometimes, ninjas are mentioned. After we've both had a good laugh, they'll ask again, "No, really. What did you have to do?" So I tell them, and they're usually surprised at the amount of schooling required to be licensed and certified. And that doesn't include what I have to do to keep same.

It's a time consuming and costly endeavor to become an MT. You have to know all the muscles in the body, where they're located, and what they do, but that's just the start. You also need to know when you can or cannot work on a client (contraindications). You need to take an ethics class, probably because most people equate massage with quotation marks around the word. As I've mentioned before, I don't do "massage". I do massage. Don't EVER get the two confused if you ever want to receive a massage from me.

Those are just a few of the things I had to learn in school, and that doesn't include my yearly continuing education classes (12 units every year). So, just in case you were wondering, here's a list of the classes I had to take for Delgado Community College's Massage Therapy Certification program. Remember this the next time you tip your therapist a mesely two bucks. You bastard:

Introduction to Therapeutic Massage

History and development of therapeutic massage. Includes medical terminology, ethics, hygiene, safety, body mechanics, SOAP notes, and Heart Saver CPR Certification.

Foundation for Swedish Techniques 

Full-body Swedish massage. Massages performed on student clients. Includes anatomy, draping, body mechanics, indications and contraindications, and development of care/ treatment plan.

Muscle/Skeletal Anatomy and Palpation Skills

Comprehensive study of skeletal and muscular systems. Focuses on recognition and palpation of bony landmarks and on origins, insertions, actions, and palpation of muscles.

Sports Massage

Concepts and practice of sports massage. Includes pertinent anatomy and physiology, tissue response to stimulation, and application of sports massage techniques. Emphasizes major stress points and contraindications.

Neuromuscular/Deep Tissue Therapy

Concepts and practice of neuromuscular/deep tissue therapy. Includes postural evaluation, tissue evaluation, and trigger point palpation; discusses nerve compression and entrapments, ischemia, and stages of rehabilitation.

Fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Concepts and techniques of traditional Chinese medicine. Includes 12 meridians, yin and yang, chi energy, the five elements, shiatsu, and acupressure.

Pathology for Massage Therapy

Recognition of human diseases. Develops practical understanding of when bodywork is indicated. Includes infirmities to which bodywork should not be applied.

Business/Ethics/Law in Massage Therapy Practice

Basic information necessary for massage practice. Discusses self-employment, target clientele, management, professional ethics, and business structure. Communicates state law relating to the practice of massage.

Topics for Special Populations

Current issues in massage therapy. Topics include the abused client, infant and child massage, the physically and/or psychologically challenged client, reflexology, aromatherapy, healing touch, hydrotherapy, and the elderly client.

Massage Therapy Clinical I - III

Application of massage techniques on public clientele. Setting appointments, professional appearance, draping techniques, recordkeeping are included under instructor’s supervision.

Human Anatomy and Physiology I - II

Systemic survey of human body. Emphasizes structure, function, and chemical mechanisms.

Human Anatomy and Physiology Laboratory I - II

Hands-on experience in microscopy. Dissection required.


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