By Logan Klahn, LMT, BCTMB
Let this blog post be a guide to figuring out what you want to accomplish through massage therapy and how to find qualified practitioners. Before starting your search it is important to remember that all forms of massage therapy do NOT accomplish the same thing.
Massage therapy is defined by the Indiana State Board of Massage Therapy as the application of massage techniques on the human body. The definition is broad and open ended, as is the field of massage therapy. Once a massage therapist receives their Indiana Massage License they are free to practice any form of massage as long as it fall under the state board’s guidelines. This puts all massage therapists into a single licensing category but leaves a huge amount of variability in the type of massage you might receive. One therapist might be performing treatments for specific painful musculoskeletal conditions and another might be providing general relaxation massages in a spa. Two radically different services falling into a single definition of massage therapy. The point I’m trying to make is that the word massage leaves itself open to personal interpretation for both practitioner and patient. This can make things difficult for practitioners trying to meet client expectations. Therefore, it is important for practitioners to clearly define the type of services they provide and for clients to understand their own treatment goals and seek out a practitioner for that reason.
For simplicity I have broken down massage therapy into three general categories. Each category has general information about the type of massage, why you would seek this type of treatment, and what the results should be from your session.
Three commonly encountered categories of massage therapy
- Relaxation and Stress Relief
- Relaxation massages incorporate long gliding strokes and gentle kneading of muscle tissue
- The whole body is massaged with general techniques
- Treatment and can also include things like essential oils and soft music to help relax the senses
- It is very common for individuals to fall asleep during these treatments
- Swedish Massage, Spa Treatments, Relaxation Massage
- Reduce emotional stress and promote a sense of well being
- Improve blood and lymph circulation
- Tune out the world and relax for an hour
- Therapeutic Maintenance
- Therapeutic massages incorporate deeper pressure and place emphasis on releasing areas of tension
- These types of massage focus on trouble areas as requested by the client rather than treating the body as a whole
- This type of massage is more physically engaging, as you will feel the deeper pressures
- Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage, Therapeutic Massage
- Relief from minor aches and pains
- Aid muscles in recovery from daily use at work, gym, home, etc.
- Improve blood and lymph flow in areas of tension
- Enhance physical performance & endurance
- Specific Pain Relief
- Specific massages for pain relief require an initial assessment to detect imbalances in movement, structure and range of motion
- Massage techniques are then used to target muscles that are causing your current pain complaints
- These massages typically require multiple sessions to achieve lasting pain relief
- Neuromuscular Therapy, Rolfing, Active Release Technique
- Lasting relief from chronic and acute pain patterns
- Correction of improper biomechanical movement and faulty postures
Below are ways to find qualified practitioners in your area. There are three directories provided, and each will give you slightly different results. If you live in Northwest Indiana, East Wind Acupuncture provides all three of the previously listed therapies. Just be sure to specify what type of massage you’re looking for when you make an appointment.
- National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
- American Massage Therapy Association
- Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals
Things to remember while searching
- There are literally hundreds of subcategories in the field of massage therapy.
- If you find a therapist and don’t understand the services they have listed, please refer to ABMP’s Massage Glossary
- Or call a practitioner to ask about their services
- Choose your therapist based on your personal goals
- Try out multiple massage therapists to find one you like
- All practitioners are slightly different even if they are practicing the same type of massage