Medical Massage On The Upswing

medical massage on the upswingBy Gary Eaton, LMT

Most people think of massage as a way for people to relieve stress and relax.  Although that is true, the benefits of massage go far beyond just relaxation.  As a result of this outdated belief, the medical community has been slow to recognize massage as a legitimate form of treatment for patients with injuries and disease.

Lately, however, massage and its many benefits have caught the attention of the medical field.  Thanks to research studies performed over the last decade, massage is starting to be accepted by doctors as a legitimate and effective option for their patients.

As a result, massage schools are starting to respond by offering medical massage curriculum, and there are more continuing education classes available that train massage therapists in medical massage.  But the big question most people have is, “what is medical massage?”

I personally would classify myself as a medical massage practitioner.  But what people need to understand is that medical massage is not a massage technique.  Medical massage is really a unique approach to massage.

Medical massage combines advanced soft-tissue techniques with patient-specific treatment plans.  It isn’t relaxation massage, it isn’t about reducing stress, and it rarely includes a full-body treatments.  Medical massage is region-specific in that we focus on patient complaint areas that are specific to injury or disease.  Sessions are rarely more than one hour, and many ar as short as 15 or 30 minutes.

The goal of medical massage is to treat specific injuries, such as whiplash, or specific regions, such as the lumbar-pelvic region.  In short, medical massage is really just a term to distinguish advanced, condition or injury specific massage from general relaxation massage.

Medical massage can be performed anywhere.  It isn’t exclusive to a hospital or doctors office.  What separates medical massage from relaxation massage is that it isn’t just a one-size-fits-all body treatment that is choreographed.  Rather, it is a treatment massage that is specifically created for each individual patient based on their injury, pain or condition.

As such, medical massage requires more preparation.  The massage therapist must have a complete case history of the patient.  It also requires the therapist to perform postural and movement assessments in addition to soft tissue assessment.  After this initial assessment, a treatment plan is designed and implemented, and there are regular reevaluations and adjustment to the treatment plan.

What makes medical massage different from other forms of massage is the uniqueness of each patient.  Unlike general relaxation massage that may be the same procedure day after day, medical massage is different with every patient.  This requires a better knowledge of the body, but provides much more diversity and variety.  There is no chance of getting bored performing medical massage.

If you are looking to become a massage therapist and are interested in medical massage, be sure to check with your prospective massage schools to find out if they offer medical massage in their curriculum.  More and more massage schools are adding this as an additional option for massage students and as demand grows it is a great career option for new massage therapists.

Gary Eaton is a licensed massage therapist and writer living and working in Portland, Oregon. He manages a thriving therapeutic massage practice and is a featured writer for Massage Schools Guide.

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