Therapeutic Massage Therapy: Modalities

Now that you’ve made the decision to become a massage therapist, and pursue a career in the field of bodywork, you will need to decide what type of therapy to specialize in.  Many therapists choose to specialize in more than one area of massage therapy.  This opens up the door for more services you can provide (and also, more places where you can find employment, which translates into more money).  Each modality requires its own specialized training.  There are approximately 80 different specialties of massage but, we’ll only mention a few of the more popular ones here.

Swedish.  Swedish massage is the most common and best known type of massage in the US.  Swedish massage is based on the Western concepts of anatomy and physiology and was pioneered by Swedish physiologist Per Henrik Ling.  During your training to specialize in this modality, you will focus on five basic strokes, all which flow towards the heart.  This type of massage therapy is a great choice for beginners.  One of the beauties of this form of massage is that it can be performed slow and gentle or vigorous.  More often than not, a Swedish massage lasts between 50-60 minutes.  To perform this type of massage, you will use massage oil to help warm up the muscles.  Your client will generally be nude, underneath a towel or sheet.  As with other types of massage, Swedish massage helps to promote relaxation.

Deep Tissue Massage.  Deep tissue massage is a style of massage that focuses on working with the layers of the body to help relax, lengthen, and release holding patterns.  When you think about deep tissue massage, you probably think about the masseuse being extremely large and exerting and extreme amount of pressure.  However, this is an incorrect assumption.  In order to obtain the results of deep tissue massage, you will learn how to use your elbows and forearms to obtain deep results.  You will also learn how to change the angle of your touch to the body.  Deep tissue massage can be done without straining and requiring very little massage oil.  It’s all about proper technique, hence why it’s important to receive training in the areas of massage therapy for which you want to specialize.

 Sports Massage.  Because so many athletes push their bodies to the extreme, it’s no wonder that many of them could greatly benefit from the art of massage.  Sports massage is a style of bodywork that focuses on applying massage techniques and stretching exercises to help enhance athletic performance.  Massage can be provided before an event, after an event, and during times where the athlete is a state of maintenance work (such as an off-season break).  Sports massage is good for people with injuries and/or restricted range of motion.  When performing a sports massage, you will generally focus on a specific problem area, like the neck or shoulders.

Pregnancy Massage.  Pregnancy is a time where a woman’s body undergoes a number of changes.  Pregnancy massage aims to help a woman find balance as she goes through these changes.  Massage is tailored to the different trimesters, since the body changes drastically during all three of them.  During your training, you will learn the proper way to position a pregnant client on the massage table.  Pregnancy massage will help to reduce stress, improve circulation, and contribute to the overall wellness of the mom-to-be.  Some of the conditions you will help to alleviate include joint pain, sciatic nerve pain, and edema or swelling.  You will also learn about the anatomy and physiology  of the pregnant body, precautions to support healthy pregnancies, and emotional concerns of pregnant women.

Shiatsu Massage.  Shiatsu is a form of bodywork, specifically acupressure massage.  Shiatsu, in Japanese, means finger pressure and much of the foundation originates with Traditional Chinese Medicine and the concepts of energy pathways in the body.  You will usually perform Shiatsu massage on a floor mat but, you can learn how to perform it on a table or while a client is seated in a chair.  No oils or lotions are used and the client only removes their shoes.  Shiatsu massage helps to relieve stress, digestive discomfort, and headaches.  You will learn how to apply firm pressure to energy points, so that the flow of “chi” (life force) is restored.

This by no means describes all of the different modalities associated with massage therapy.  There are over 80 recognized massage modalities.  While you undergo your formal education and training, you will probably become adept at 2 or 3 different specialties of massage.  As you gain more experience during your career, you may begin to direct your focus to specific direction.  The better you are at a specialty, the more results you will get, leading to happier clients and more business for you.  You’re ultimate goal is to satisfy clients.  So, set out to learn about as many different modalities as possible, until you find the one that feels right to you as you journey towards becoming a massage therapist.