Massage therapy involves the systematic application of specific techniques to the body's soft tissues-muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists work with clients to provide relaxation and stress relief, decrease muscular tension and fatigue, increase flexibility and help improve dysfunctional movement and postural patterns. Medical diagnoses and skeletal manipulations are outside the scope of massage therapy.
Over 200 different variations of massage, bodywork and somatic therapies are described in the massage therapy literature. Almost all of these variations can be categorized into one of five models:
Circulatory-increase flow of blood and lymph to the body's tissues; assist venous return.
-Swedish massage is an example-many US therapists practice this modality.
Neuromuscular-use the client's perception of dysfunction to reduce pain and tension; promote pain-free movement and function.
-Includes one of my specialties-trigger point therapy.
Structural-assess posture and body structure; restore pain-free movement by creating symmetrical structure.
-Rolfing® is a primary example.
Energetic-increase energy or qi flow to improve health and function.
-Numerous forms of acupressure use this principle.
Psychological-Create awareness of mental, emotional or spiritual states that are reflected in somatic
dysfunctions. Practitioners have additional training in counseling/talk therapies or
work in conjunction with a counselor.
-Rubenfeld Synergy and Somatic Experiencing are examples.
A good glossary of bodywork terms and styles is found at www.massagetherapy.com.
Many bodywork systems focus on one of these models and may incorporate principles of another one or two. The creators of these different bodywork systems developed the techniques to help heal their own injuries and dysfunctions or in response to the problems of a particular set of clients.
Most massage and bodywork practitioners incorporate multiple systems and use one or more of the models based on the needs of a particular client.
Credentials & Professional Organizations
Approximately 35 states, including Illinois, have a license or registration credential for massage therapists. Additional information on Illinois massage therapists is available at www.ildfpr.com.
Three major professional organizations are:
Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)