A career in massage therapy offers flexibility not found in many traditional professions. But how do you choose the best massage therapy courses? A student should consider individual interests and intended career paths. Accreditations, such as by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as well as COMTA, the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation, should be the first requirement, as these accreditations assure the quality of both the education and the educators.
Most massage therapy training programs offer a general education in such things as anatomy and physiology, massage theory, techniques and contraindications, or situations when massage is likely to cause adverse reactions, and pathology. Education also involves such things as kinesiology or the study of movement, and standard massage practices. But just like electives found in other post secondary schools, students can choose a direction of interest.
Massage therapy courses offer a lot of flexibility, as does the career itself. When choosing massage therapy courses, the student should have at least a rough idea of their intended career path. Many massage therapists decide to work in salons, spas and hotels. In all likelihood, the clients in these settings prefer a standard relaxation massage. The student’s focus, in this event, would be Swedish techniques and possibly spa-related techniques such as stone massage and aromatherapy.
A student wishing to work in a healthcare setting, on the other hand, would need to place his or her focus on more specific techniques such as trigger points and deep tissue work. Specialty work is also available in a healthcare setting. Massage therapists are now being employed at places such as nursing homes or cancer centers, which require an extensive knowledge of specific disease processes and specialized massage techniques to avoid harm.
Students opting for a health/fitness club or sports team therapist position will need more studies in sports medicine. This allows them to understand the sport-specific movements required and how to treat the injuries or pain symptoms that may be associated with it. A general knowledge of acute injuries is also a good idea with this career direction.
Other branches of massage therapy include things such as myofascial release, specialized techniques to release the fascia or the thin covering surrounding muscles, organs and other internal structures. Craniosacral and somatoemotional release are other specialized techniques used to release muscle and pent-up stress tension. Therapeutic touch and Reiki use touch to release tension and get the “life force energy” to flow more efficiently.
So when choosing massage therapy courses, do your homework. Figure out your career goals and research different programs that may offer the specialty techniques you are most interested in. Keep in mind continuing education studies are necessary to maintain your professional credentials, so you can always study basic massage to get working then decide where you would like to specialize.