Massage therapy is a form of integrative medicine that involves a certified and trained medical professional (massage therapist) manipulating the soft tissues of the body, such as muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments, and skin. Different degrees of pressure and movement are used to achieve the desired outcome. Massage therapy can be beneficial to anyone, but it has been found to help those with a variety of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stomach problems, and fibromyalgia. You don't need a full degree to work in this field; however, formal training for massage therapists usually takes the form of certification programs.
Some massages are performed with a specific goal in mind, such as treating an injury, while others are performed solely for relaxation and physical comfort. The U. S. National University of Medical Sciences offers a bachelor's degree in massage therapy (BSc MT), and community colleges offer associate degree programs in massage therapy.
The curriculum of an associate degree program in massage therapy may include courses on the underlying sciences and clinical practices of the field, such as anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, kinesiology, pathology, reflexology and clinical evaluation and treatment planning. Prospective massage students must also weigh factors such as what they want from their education (for example, the extent of the practical training they will receive and whether they will walk away with a college degree) and what they are willing to invest to earn the degree. Due to state and municipal laws and regulations, most massage therapists must obtain a professional credential issued by the government, such as a license or certification, in order to legally practice massage therapy. Even in massage therapy programs that offer fully online lectures and laboratory courses, you still need to gain hundreds of hours of practical experience performing massage techniques before you can qualify to work in this field.
A self-employed massage therapist has more control over their earning potential, but also assumes more financial risks and higher costs, such as providing their own equipment and materials, such as a massage bed and the pillows, sheets, and body lotion used in massage. Their workplace may vary, but many massage therapists find work in spas, fitness centers, hospitals, doctors' offices, and even in patients' homes. Because there are many different modalities of massage therapy, an aspiring massage therapist must be sure of the career path they want to pursue. In addition to completing a massage therapy program, learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), passing a background check and purchasing professional liability insurance, aspiring massage therapy professionals often have to pass a licensing exam. Your basic educational massage therapy program will prepare you for many jobs; however, to specialize in areas such as sports massage or palliative care you'll probably want to consider earning a specialty certificate.