Massage Therapist

Bodywork Therapist, Certified Massage Therapist (CMT), Clinical Massage Therapist   More Names
Deep Tissue Massage Therapist, Integrated Deep Tissue Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Practitioner (LMP), Licensed Massage Therapist, Massage Operator, Massage Therapist, Massage Therapists, Masseur, Masseuse, Massotherapist, Mechanotherapist, Medical Massage Therapist, Registered Massage Therapist, Rolfer, Swedish Masseuse, Therapeutic Massage Technician

Massage and work muscles and soft tissues of the body to provide treatment for medical conditions, injuries, or wellness maintenance. Offer clients guidance on techniques for stretching, strengthening, and relaxation. Confer with clients about their medical histories and problems with stress or pain to determine how massage will be most helpful.

Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, both private and public. These include hospitals, nursing homes, fitness centers, sports medicine facilities, private offices, studios, and other locations. Some also travel to clients' homes or offices to provide a massage. It is common for full-time massage therapists to divide their time among several different settings, depending on the clients and locations scheduled. This occupation includes a large percentage of part-time and self-employed workers.

Massage therapists use their hands to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. They apply finger and hand pressure to specific parts of the body. This is done for a variety of reasons, including treating painful ailments, decompressing tired and overworked muscles, reducing stress, rehabilitating sports injuries, and promoting general health. Clients often seek massage for both its medical benefit and for relaxation purposes, and there are a wide range of massage treatments available.

Massage therapists can specialize in more than eighty different types of massage, called "modalities." Swedish massage, deep-tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure, sports massage, and neuromuscular massage are just a few of the many approaches to massage therapy. Most massage therapists specialize in several modalities, which require different techniques. Some use exaggerated strokes ranging the length of a body part, while others use quick, percussion-like strokes with a cupped or closed hand. A massage can be as long as two hours or as short as five to ten minutes.

Usually, the type of massage given depends on the client's needs and physical condition. For example, therapists may use special techniques for elderly clients that they would not use for athletes, and they would use approaches for clients with injuries that would not be appropriate for clients seeking relaxation. Also, some forms of massage are given solely to one type of client, such as prenatal massage which is given to pregnant women.

Massage therapists work by appointment. Before beginning a massage therapy session, therapists conduct an informal interview with the client to learn the person's medical history and desired results from the massage. This interview gives therapists a chance to discuss which techniques could be beneficial to the client and which could be harmful. Because massage therapists tend to specialize in only a few areas of massage, customers may be referred to or seek a therapist with a certain type of massage in mind.

Based on the person's goals, ailments, medical history, and stress-related or pain-related problem areas, a massage therapist will conclude whether a massage would be harmful and if not, move forward with the session. While giving the massage, therapists alter their approach or concentrate on areas of particular discomfort as necessary. As required, they will use aids, such as infrared lamps, wet compresses, ice, or whirlpool baths to promote clients' recovery, relaxation, and well-being. They also keep records of client treatment plans and outcomes, and refer clients to other types of therapists, such as physical therapists or occupational therapists, when necessary.

Strong communication skills and a friendly, empathetic personality are very helpful personal qualities for massage therapists to have in order to build trusting client relationships and to expand the business. For some clients, massage therapy may be a delicate issue and therefore making clients feel comfortable is a very important asset for a massage therapist.

Due to the nature of the massage therapy business, opportunities for advancement may be limited. With increased experience and an increasing client base, however, there are possibilities for massage therapists to increase client fees and their income. Therapists also may become managers of the office in which they work and may teach in a training program. In addition, those who are well organized and have an entrepreneurial spirit may go into business for themselves. Self-employed massage therapists with a large client base tend to have the highest earnings.

Credentials Needed: The majority of states and the District of Columbia have laws licensing or regulating massage therapy in some way. Most of the state boards governing massage therapy require practicing massage therapists to complete a formal education program and pass an examination. As of 2009, states without licensure requirements for massage therapists included Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Wyoming. In these states, massage therapy sometimes was regulated at the local level.

In states with massage therapy licensing and regulations, a massage therapist usually must obtain a license after graduating from a training program and prior to practicing massage. Passage of a licensing examination is usually required. This examination may be solely a state exam or one of two nationally recognized tests: the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) sponsored by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork  and the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

Massage therapy licensure boards decide which certifications and tests to accept on a state-by-state basis. Therefore, those wishing to practice massage therapy should look into legal requirements for the state and locality in which they intend to practice. A fee and periodic renewal of licensure also may be required.

Since licensing requirements do vary from state-to-state and are updated periodically, it is a good idea to check with your state when beginning your studies to see what current requirements they may have to work as a massage therapist. Often a state's department of health and mental hygiene is a good starting point to search for this kind of information.

There are a number of voluntary industry-based skill certifications that may be useful for a massage therapist.

Some Key Things to Remember: Massage therapists work muscles and soft tissues of the body to provide treatment for medical conditions, injuries, or wellness maintenance. They provide clients with guidance and information about techniques for postural improvement and stretching, strengthening, relaxation, and rehabilitative exercises. Training standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state and locality. The majority of states and the District of Columbia have laws licensing or regulating massage therapy in some way.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
22% - Much faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $27,230 - $57,120    Hourly: $13 - $27
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
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Percent Job Growth:

22% - Much faster than average
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Typical Wages:

Annual: $27,230 - $57,120

Hourly: $13 - $27