The Massage Therapist’s Body and Brain

The human body is an amazingly complex system, and the massage therapist has to know it well.

The human body has over 650 muscles, more than 200 bones and uncounted connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and more tying them all together. Though the therapist doesn’t have to memorize every single one, he or she has to be familiar – both intellectually and physically – with a great many of them.

Add to that the knowledge of physiology required – not just the names of parts but how they work and interact – and you have a formidable hurdle to overcome on the way to becoming a massage therapist. As if that weren’t enough, the massage therapist has to understand and detect directly with the hands, arms and feet what is happening with a particular client in a particular session.

The therapist has to go beyond even this when specializing. There are a dozen different forms of massage – Swedish, Shiatsu, Deep Tissue and others. There are combinations of styles, such as sports massage.

Proper stance, pressure, alignment and much more is required in order to deliver a quality massage. To achieve that the massage therapist has to recognize which muscles are affected by what kind of activity. He or she has to know how to work them to remove knots, achieve relaxation, improve circulation and more.

A knowledge of possible injury during the session is necessary, as is recognizing when not to massage. Deep tissue techniques in particular can cause more problems than it solves. A client who comes in with pain may be just suffering from the usual ache that prompted the desire for a session in the first place. Or they may have a medical condition that means no session should be performed.

To do this hour after hour, day after day, without injuring his or her own body is a perpetual challenge of the practice. A therapist’s body can also become sore from effort – the effort involved in the practice. Techniques are taught in massage schools to preserve thumbs, ease hands, shelter the back and knees – all parts easily stressed by an active therapy practice.

Then there is the proper equipment. Sometimes a simple mat, or even a towel-covered floor is enough. Other styles require a table that has to be judged properly. Chair or corporate massage requires a specially designed and built chair for clients. Recognizing quality is important, both for client safety and to avoid losing money on bad investments.

All those aren’t simply business decisions, since they affect the effectiveness of the massage delivered. Poor equipment, lack of knowledge, poor technique can all make even the most skilled massage artisan a less than complete success.

That sums up to a considerable amount of theory and practical knowledge, and experience needed to be an effective massage therapist. And you thought, perhaps, that all they did was rub oil around?

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