What Does a Massage Therapist Do

By Jessica Fuller / March 28, 2016
what does a massage therapist do

Although the basis of what a massage is and how it’s performed is widely understood by most. The question, ‘what does a massage therapist do’, is still commonly asked.

There is a lot more to their job role than just the massage. There is also a lot of training and knowledge that’s required to become good at the role of therapist.

Massage therapy uses a series of techniques to work on a person’s soft-tissue in their body. The techniques are designed to treat a number of health issues. Such as muscle injuries, stress, decompressing muscles, and overall health.

The are a number of variations (or modalities) of massage therapies. Each one tailored to attend to different health concerns. With each therapy able to be tailored to a client’s specific needs.

What Does a Massage Therapist Do

A massage therapist treats clients with various health needs by massaging their muscles and soft-tissues all over their body. By the use of touch with the hands, a massage therapist can work out pains, relax the client, improve circulation, reduce stress and help improve a person’s overall well-being.

Massage Therapist Description

Through the method of touch, a massage therapist treats clients by working on the muscles and soft-tissues in their body. This helps to relieve physical pain, emotional and mental stress, heal injuries, relax the client, and improves all-round health and well-being.

Key Duties of a Massage Therapist

The key duties of a massage therapist will typically include:

  • Carrying out face-to-face consultations with clients to discuss their medical history and requirements
  • Evaluating a client to locate the areas that require massage work
  • Massage and manipulate soft tissues and muscles in a client’s body
  • Provide verbal advice and demonstrate how a client can improve their posture and reduce pain
  • Record progress from massage sessions and tailor future work

A massage therapist will primarily use their hands and fingers to carry out the strokes. Also using forearms, elbows and on occasions feet to work the soft tissues and muscles of a client.

Most techniques use oils or lotions to aid the fluidity of the strokes. The sessions can be brief, just a few minutes. Or they can be around an hour to work on a whole body.

While some therapists specialize in a particular modality, they may also be able to perform several different modalities. A modality is a form of therapy, for example; Swedish massage, sports massage, deep-tissue massage, and Shiatsu are all different modalities.

It’s the responsibility of a healthcare professional to advise a client on the best form of massage therapy. Different clients require different treatments, depending on their age, injury, health condition and more.

Work Environment of a Massage Therapist

Around 50% of massage therapists are self-employed. They work in various environments, such as private practices, hospitals, spas, fitness centers, and from their own premises.

Some therapists will travel to meet their clients and perform the therapy at their home or place of work. There are a few basic items needed to carry out most modalities, these include a table or chair, some sheets, pillows, and lotions.

Important Qualities of a Massage Therapist

Physical Stamina

It’s physical work, often requiring the therapist to be on their feet all day and using their hands to work hard into the tissue of their clients. It’s not easy at first, and if not done correctly or given enough time to relax can cause injuries.

Decision Making

There will be a lot of decisions to make throughout the process. From the initial consultation and deciding on the best form of treatment. To adjusting while carrying out the procedures to ensure the client’s best interests are met.

Communication Skills

There typically isn’t much verbal communication during the therapy. But the initial consultation is very important to carry out the correct treatment. Plus the non-verbal communication needs to be observed. If the client is uncomfortable, adjustments need to be made.

Personable Skills

A client needs to trust and believe in the treatment from their therapist. Being personable, trusting and giving service with a smile is incredibly important. Especially for clients new to massage, or those who are nervous.

Becoming Licensed, Registered, and Certified

In the US you need to be licensed to practice massage therapy legally across most states. Those that do not have official licensing often have their own regulations at a local level.

To practice in a state with regulations a therapist needs to obtain official certification or a license. This is obtained by graduating from an approved body and passing an exam. There are also background checks an ongoing training recommended to ensure the therapist is up-to-date with the latest practices.

Working on a client’s body and offering health advice comes with a high level of responsibility. Personal and professional development is important to operate to a high standard, and offer clients a high level service.

About the author

Jessica Fuller

I started studying and experimenting with alternative medicine, different massage techniques, and alternative therapies after graduating. I also love travelling and writing, so I found a way to combine all my loves - blogging!