Types of massage therapy

There are many many types of massage therapy, each with their own unique history. My list includes about 100 types but I will be revising and adding more to that. ABMP’s list of various types of massage includes 350.Many come from the same lines in history. Massage Magazine has a list of 350 but not sure if it is the same list as ABMP’s. When you start looking back, there are a few main streams of knowledge and expertise that are expanded upon and adopted as new methods. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have a thread. Chinese, Japanese have similar roots expanding into Acupressure, Shiatsu and many others. Esalen was a big part of the history of techniques, many of which draw from Freud.

When you look at the history of physical therapy, they often use the same historical events to describe their history. The same goes for Chiropractic and Osteopathic Doctors. So how do we choose a type of massage therapy to receive as a consumer, client, patient when there are so many? How will you know what is what? What about how to choose what to study as a massage therapist?

There are many traditional types of massage handed down in various cultures that lack evidence that shows how and why they work.

Some of these traditional types of massage are:

  • Ayurveda Massage therapy and methods
  • Craniosacral Massage
  • Energy Based types of massage
  • Hawaiian Massage Therapy
  • Lymphatic Drainage
  • Metaphysical types of massage
  • Reiki
  • Reflexology
  • Russian Massage Therapy
  • Types of Traditional Asian massage – Shiatsu, Anma, Amma, Acupressure

There are also many types of massage that embrace scientific evidence and research. It isn’t so much they type of massage that is done, but rather the messaging that is used when advertising and performing various types of therapies.

Choosing a type of massage to study

When it comes to CE and choosing a type of massage to study, the various methods help create a structure around learning what happens in the body and how to work with the body. It helps put the body into perspective and real life in a way that it can be used. The same could really be done just by studying anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology.

With so many variations to study and more coming all the time, the modality gurus have created followers who are sharing incorrect information like the idea that toxins are released, that posture matters, that cupping may or may not be based on scientific evidence, that their method is the only one that people should be studying at any one time. The massage CE system allows anything and everything just about. There is no screening of material taught or qualifications required of teachers. The NCBTMB does a bit of screening with their CE program, but not all states require NCBTMB certified classes and their methods of screening does not take out material that is not based on evidence or that is talked about in a way that does not have evidence to stand behind it.

Right now we are also in the middle of a CE Conundrum where two associations are working on CE — the NCBTMB have a CE approved program and the Federation of Massage State Boards is working on creating a CE registry and directory that would make it easier to report your CE to your state board. Neither offer a way to verify CE teachers qualifications, curriculum or methods.

I propose we start focusing on outcomes from sessions especially when it comes to marketing your massage business. I guess the modality craze can help when it comes to marketing as people are thinking they are getting something really special or different. What they are really getting is YOU though, and a little bit of your techniques.


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