What is massage therapy?

Massage therapy is the manipulation the muscles and other soft tissues of the body using hands, fingers, forearms and/or elbows. While massage can be used for relaxation, more importantly, it is used as part of a course of treatment for medical conditions. Massage Therapy encompasses many different massage techniques including but not limited to Swedish Massage, Remedial Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage and Thai Massage. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, an estimated 18 million U.S. adults and 700,000 children received massage therapy.

What type of education does a massage therapist receive?
Licensed massage therapists must meet the educational requirements of the jurisdiction (state, county, city) in which they practice. The requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another. Forty-four states, including the ones in which CHP does business, and the District of Columbia have licensure requirements for the practice of massage. Most states require at least 500 hours and up to 1,000 of instruction in supervised, in-class initial massage therapy training, which must include the study of anatomy and physiology, the theory and practice of massage therapy, and elective subjects.
What kind of license does my massage therapist have and what do they have to do to maintain it?
Requirements for obtaining and maintaining a license vary by jurisdiction, but most often involve proof of education and continuing education, demonstration of professionalism, and a background check. A summary of state massage therapy licensing laws is available here.
What can I expect at my first visit?
A quality massage therapist will conduct an intake interview to determine what your goals are in seeking massage therapy. For example, they might ask if you need help with a specific condition or injury or if massage going to be a part of your wellness program. The therapist will also determine if you have any conditions that would be of concern for massage. Expect the massage therapist to clearly explain the procedures, assess your comfort with removing clothing, and provide you with a safe and private environment for massage.
How long will I need to continue seeing my massage therapist?
The length and frequency of your massage therapy treatment program will depend on your goals for receiving massage therapy. Specific injuries or conditions may require a series of massage sessions over a number of weeks. Wellness or maintenance therapy may be at intervals of weeks to months apart. You and your therapist should collaborate on a treatment plan that is right for you.
What kinds of conditions does a massage therapist treat?
Patients seek massage therapy for a variety of reasons including recovery from acute injuries, stress reduction, pain management and general improvement in overall health. Surveys show that 90% of massage therapy clients report that massage can be effective in relieving pain. Recent clinical studies have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of massage in a number of conditions. The scopes of practice for massage providers vary by state, but some conditions that respond well to massage therapy include:

  • Cancer-related fatigue and pain
  • Low back pain
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Post-operative pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Discuss any current healthcare concerns with your provider before beginning treatment.