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What is massage?

Picture of a massage therapist giving a deep-tissue massage

Rubbing areas that hurt is a natural human response. Even other mammals do this. Massage is based on the same principle of rubbing and manipulating muscles.

Massage is found to be helpful both physically and emotionally. The rubbing soothes sore muscles and releases tension in the body and mind. 

Massage therapy has been found to be helpful in the treatment of:

  • Back pain

  • Anxiety

  • High blood pressure

  • Migraine headache

  • Carpal tunnel symptoms

  • Side effects of cancer and cancer therapy

Massaging muscles and soft tissue stimulates the nerves. It also increases blood flow and relieves stress in the muscles. Over the centuries, many massage techniques have developed including:

  • Swedish massage. This massage technique involves the use of long, smooth strokes. The strokes knead and compress, the muscles with deep circular movements, vibration and tapping.

  • Shiatsu. This Japanese form of massaging is a form of acupressure. It involves exerting pressure on certain key points of the body.

  • Thai massage. This massage technique also involves the use of yoga and certain Chinese traditional medicine methods.

Massages are usually given in a quiet room, with soothing background music. A person usually lies down on a massage table or in a massage chair. Massage uses a group of manual techniques, made up of both fixed and moveable pressure.

In 44 states and the District of Columbia massage therapy is regulated by law with specific guidelines. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has set up standards of practice and also gives a board certification exam. 

In 2013, the NCBTMB established Board Certification. This is the highest attainable credential for massage therapists today. 

The NCBTMB states that to become Board Certified, you must meet these requirements: 

  • Pass the Board Certification Exam

  • Complete 750 hours of education

  • Complete 250 hours of professional hands-on experience

  • Pass a thorough national background check

  • Maintain a current CPR certification

  • Agree to uphold NCBTMB Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics

  • Agree to oppose human trafficking