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[alt.backrubs] Frequently Asked Questions (FAQL), (4/5)

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Archive-name: backrubs/faq/part4
Last-modified: 25 October 2002
Maintainer: J. Blustein <>
Copyright: (c) 1994-2002 J. Blustein. All rights reserved. See question 0.7 for details.

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Section 4 -- Professional Massage

   This posting contains answers to the following questions:
    4.1)  What about licencing, certification and professional training?
    4.2)  Professional issues (table suppliers, organizations, etc.)
    4.3)  Finding a good professional massage
    4.4)  Advice for a recipient of professional massage
    4.5)  How much will it cost?  Should I tip?  Can I get it cheaper?
    4.6)  I've got the following symptoms.  What do you advise?

        The complete lists of subparts of all questions is in part 0 of
this FAQ list.

        Each question begins with `Subject:' on a line of its own.  Users
with suitably equipped newsreaders can automatically skip to the start of
the next question, e.g. trn will display the start of the question when you
press ^G (control-G).  Of course if your newsreader doesn't do this
automatically, you can still use a search command to find the next
        To find the answer to question 4.2 search for a line beginning with
`Q4.2)', there will be only one.


        Your suggestions for changes to these articles are welcome.  Please
see section 0 (entitled Administrivia and Acknowledgements) in the earlier
posting for information about whom to contact and what changes are planned.

        The questions are divided into the following general sections.
Questions from each section are answered in articles of their own.  A list
of all questions appears in the first article (section 0).
        Section 0  Administrivia and Acknowledgements
        Section 1  General Questions
        Section 2  Basics of Massage
        Section 3  Novice Questions
        Section 4  Professional Massage
        Section 5  Other Sources of Information


Section 4 -- Professional Massage

Subject: What about licencing, certification and professional training?  
Q4.1)    Licencing is, of course, only relevant if you are looking to charge
for giving massages.  The restrictions and regulations differ from state to
state in the USA and province to province in Canada.  If you have
information about regulation in other countries, please post it to the
        Some jurisdictions have no restrictions, some provide two-tier
regulation (distinguishing between so-called technicians or bodyworkers and
therapists), some just want to make sure massage is not being used as a
cover for prostitution.  Some even require a level of training level
equivalent to what a physical therapist would have.  
       The rest of this question is in two parts: the first part is about
various resource guides that are available; the second part is about the
two major organizations that are frequently discussed in alt.backrubs.

a) Books, magazines and other resource guides
        Two books have been mentioned in alt.backrubs: _Massage: a career
at your fingertips_ and _International Massage & Bodywork Resource Guide_.
        Martin Ashley's book _Massage: A Career At Your Fingertips_
(published by Station Hill Press with ISBN 0-88268-135-4 in 1992) used to
be recommended often in alt.backrubs.  It provides a thorough overview of
career choices for bodyworkers and massage therapists and a career-planning
guide.  The extensive section about legal requirements, schools and
equipment may be out of date by now.  A Table of Contents (for the first
edition) is in the archive's `getting.registered' file.  Information
about the second editon is available on the WWW at
        According to Keith Grant, the _International Massage & Bodywork
Resource Guide_ compiled by Robert Calvert and Noel Abildgaard and
published by Noah Press (with ISBNs 1-879933-04-7 and 1-879933-03-9 in
1991) contains more than 520 listings of schools, associations, seminars
and laws related to the healing arts of massage, bodywork and holistic
health along with tips on choosing a school, a glossary of techniques and a
book review section.
        Massage magazine (also published by Noah Press, with ISSN
1057-378-X) contains a section for paid advertisements about massage
schools and training centres.  Because they only accept paid ads I can't
tell how complete the listings are.  It seems that Massage is aimed
primarily at American markets.  The magazine publishes a brief list of the
most basic regulations for registered massage therapists in each of the
United States of America.  The list includes telephone numbers for
additional information.  Noah Publishing's address is
   P.O. Box 1500, 
   Davis, CA 95617
They can be reached by telephone at +1(800) 872-4263 or +1(916) 757-6033.
The magazine has e-mail address <>.  Their webpage is at
        Informative postings about massage schools may be found in the
archive's `mas.schools' and `esalen' files.  More information, and much
discussion, is available in part b) below and in the archive (see the
category about certification; information about the archive appears in
question 5.1.2). 
        The AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association), the ABMP
(Associated Massage and Bodywork Professionals) and the COMTAA
(Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval in the USA) often
come up in discussions of massage schools in alt.backrubs.  For that reason
only, the following address and telephone numbers are included here.  They
were extracted from the archive's `mas.schools' file.  If you have more
accurate information please tell the archive maintainer.
  American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
  820 Davis Street, Suite 100, 
  Evanston, IL 60201-4444
  +1(847) 864-0123
  +1(312) 761-2682  (for a list of COMTAA schools)
  The AMTA's web page is at <URL:>.
N.B.: inclusion of this information does not imply approval (or
disapproval) of the AMTA, the COMTAA, the USA or any other organization,
their policies employees, fashion sense, etc.  It is here because it is
part of an answer to a frequently asked question.


b) What are the ABMP and the AMTA?
        Before you decide to join any organization you should read part a)
above and possibly the relevant archive files.  If you want to know what
the various abbreviations used in alt.backrubs mean then you should be
reading question 1.3.
        In the USA and Canada, the AMTA (American Massage Therapy
Association) and the ABMP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals)
are major organizations offering malpractice insurance and forms of
professional accreditation.  It is entirely possible that these
organizations also offer these services in other countries, but those are
the only ones of which I am aware.  If someone from those organizations
will supply more information then it will be used to update this
document.  See question 0.2 for information about whom to contact.
        The AMTA and the ABMP are competing organizations with different
approaches to massage, massage and bodywork regulation and many other
issues near and dear to the hearts of professional MTs.  If you are
thinking of getting certified (within or without the USA and Canada) then
you might find the discussions in the files in the archive's certification
category helpful.  The archive and its categories are the subject of
question 5.1.2. 
        Please feel free to submit an unbiased summary of the posts in the
archive files relevant to this question.  If such a summary is received it,
or some version of it, will replace this answer.  
        The AMTA's web page is at <URL:>.
        The ABMP's web page is at <URL:>.

Subject: Professional issues Q4.2) a) The alt.backrubs newsgroup has had many discussions of issues related to massage as a profession and tools and techniques for massage professionals. Copies of many posts on these topics are available in the alt.backrubs archive (see question 5.1.2). For example, the archive contains information about massage tables, professional organizations, exams and draping standards. The BODYWORK mailing-list aims to be for discussion amongst bodywork practitioners. If you are a professional MT or studying to be one then you might be interested in the list. Question 5.2.4 b) has details about the list and how to subscribe. ------------------------------ b) Emotional response considerations Keith Grant, a massage instructor (amongst many other things), has submitted the following notes about emotional response considerations in professional massage. More information about this topic is available in the archive file `emot.release' (see question 5.1.2 for information about the archive). EMOTIONAL RESPONSE CONSIDERATIONS As a massage professional you should be aware that some clients might suffer strong emotional release during massage. You need to be able to recognize signs of such sublimated emotions and to know how deal with such issues when they arise in your massage practice. Background Unresolved emotions can become anchored in the body as a result of physical and emotional traumas. One can think of the body as maintaining `physical memories' of such emotions in the tension of muscles. The condition is especially common with those who suffered physical or sexual abuse as children. It can be that over time, the body becomes habituated to the unbalanced muscle tensions. Eventually, patterns of body usage and posture are changed in an unconscious attempt to compensate. Massage can bring anchored emotions and associated memories back to conscious awareness. Indeed some psychotherapies involve forms of bodywork intended to focus the patients attention on tension in their body (more information is available in the `mas.vs.psychotherapy' file in the archive, which is the subject of question 5.1.2). While the re-awakening of emotions is a process that can contribute greatly to re-integration and healing, it is important as a massage practitioner not to assume the role of emotional therapist or become caught up in listening to verbal stories. Indications It is equally important, however, to bring your focus and awareness to bodywork sessions. A massage professional should be aware of their client's overall way of inhabiting their body. Watch how they hold themselves, walk and gesture. Projections of being overly rigid, collapsed, or inanimate/dissociated can be indications of past abuse. Abuse survivors can have trouble `owning' their bodies. They may feel loss of breath or voice. If their physical memories are triggered, such clients may remove all of their conscious awareness from their body. Not feeling able to `own' parts of their body can lead to discernible splits in the use and vitality of their body, e.g. left/right or upper/lower. Be aware that a client may verbally agree to a technique while disagreeing with their body language. An example could be saying yes while shaking their head or retreating slightly from your hand. Such incongruence in presentation is a subtle indicator of the incongruence between their conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings. Try to be attentive to subtle changes in breathing, tension level and small movements, that might be early indicators of emotional responses during a session. How you should react In the event that one of your clients has a strong emotional response to deep tissue work, you may need to forego further work planned for the session. Keep your own centre, stay calm, and remember that your goal is neither to `fix' the problem nor to add your own emotional reaction to the client's process. Instead assume a role of offering the quiet acceptance and support that will enable the client to reach an acceptable level of equilibrium by the end of the session. This may include gentle grounding work around the head, neck, shoulders, or feet and ankles. Remind the client to breathe. Often the most important thing you can do is to quietly convey to the client a sense of connectedness and support. Aside: The words people use Although many people do refer to storage of memories in the body I tend to avoid referring too literally to this as a mechanism. I prefer to think of memories, not necessarily available via conscious cognitive paths being indexed (hence my phrase `bookmark') or reached by the more primitive and unconscious sensory paths from touch. It's not necessary to understand the mechanism or location of memory storage for the metaphor to useful. I've come to this view, partly from some training I've had in Ericksonion trancework. In a similar vein, I try to avoid limiting the bodily causes to habitual tension. The interactions are complex. The original abuse could have been any (or all) of: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. The abuse or neglect survivor often loses both their voice (in the physical and metaphorical senses) and possession of parts of their body. Many times they lose all conscious sensation in parts of their body. The physical outcomes can include tension, disruptions in movement, breathing and speech. However you should not assume that these symptoms are necessarily a direct result of tension. One of the outcomes can be muscular collapse that leads to a lack of normal tonality or tension. On the emotional level, the ability to establish normal boundaries may be lost or never learned. Incongruence between verbal and nonverbal responses (e.g. saying yes and shaking the head no) often indicates the resulting conscious/unconscious split.
Subject: Finding a good professional massage Q4.3) In many jurisdictions, people may advertise as giving massage when do not provide a good massage. Some provide substandard services and others provide sexual services under the guise of massage. Many people post to alt.backrubs seeking advice about how to tell where they can get a skilled massage before they have paid for the services. Three questions are answered here: (a) how can I find someone who will give me a massage, or other bodywork treatment, rather than some sexual service; (b) how can I tell if they are any good before I pay them; and (c) what referral services can I call upon for recommendations? If you are not sure what to expect from a professional massage you might find some of the information in the archive (question 5.1.2) of interest. The files in the professional category and the `' and `what.price' files should be of especial interest. If you'd like to summarize that information for inclusion here, please see questions 0.3 and 4.4. ------------------------------ a) Either way typical advice is to get a referral from a trusted friend, physician or other health care professional, local massage school, health food store or Chamber of Commerce. Steve Brooks <> suggested (in article <3eco5n$>) that major hotel chains that cater to Japanese tourists should be able to refer you to reputable Japanese style massage therapists. How you're supposed to locate such hotels is left as an exercise to the reader. Some people like to search advertisements in the telephone book and so-called New Age or Holistic Health stores and publications. Other people say this is a terrible way to find a MT. I suppose it depends on where you live and what your local publications are like. If all you care about is whether you are going to get a professional massage or sexual services then ask. Be aware however that if they are using massage as a cover for sexual services then they probably won't answer direct questions about whether or not they offer sexual services. Many of the suggestions in this answer come from the `finding.a.MT' file in the archive. The archive is the topic of question 5.1.2. Someone suggested some questions that might help you detect whether the prospective masseur offers such services as `relief massage' (often a codeword for masturbation). You might also ask what professional organizations they belong to as members of the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) and ABMP (Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals) are strictly forbidden from sexual involvement with their clients. Not all professional MTs belong to either of these organizations -- you can read some of the arguments in the archive (see question 5.1.2) if you're really interested. Those arguments appear in the `certification' file. The `medical.model' and other files in the Professional category may also be of particular interest. ------------------------------ b) When you're satisfied that you have found an above board MT you should try to find out if they will be suitable for the type of treatment you want. Be clear about what your needs are and tell the MT. Perhaps you want massage for relaxation or you have a specific area that needs attention, for example. A good MT will help you pinpoint what it is you want from the session, often just by talking about it with you. If you are at all uncomfortable with the thought of being unclothed, then discuss draping with the MT before the massage begins. Absolutely no professional MT will demand a client remove any clothing that the client is not comfortable removing regardless of what impact this will have on the massage. Are you comfortable with a male (or female) MT, or would you prefer a MT of the other sex? Please note however that just because a MT graduated from a professional school they aren't necessarily going to give you a great massage. It has been said many times in alt.backrubs that some MTs have the technical knowledge of what to do but lack the sensitivity to detect what clients really need. Corrina Perrone has written that, in her experience, it almost always takes at least two years of practice after graduation for MTs to a develop a truly professional calibre of massage. Once you have a short list of MTs you want to consider, then you should ask questions to determine what services these unknown massagers really provide, and how skilled they are in the type of massage you want (see question 2.1). You could ask about their professional education, e.g. how many hours of training have they had (this varies from about 250 to 2000), which massage school did they attend, what their favourite course was and what types of massage they prefer. Corrina Perrone <> recommends: If you still have doubts about the qualifications ask direct questions about the types of bodywork they do -- and expect some technical answers [such as those in question 2.2]. Ask them to describe these techniques, and how they use them in a session. You'll get a lot of `it depends' answers, but a good therapist will be able to give you an example, such as, `I warm the muscle tissue up using mostly Swedish massage strokes, and then use deep tissue techniques to work out tightness. If there is limited movement I might use NMT [neuromuscular massage therapy] work on the muscle attachments, and some Trager techniques to integrate the work.' Find out how long they have been in practice. If you are screening the therapists by phone, look for qualities that indicate they would be a good person with whom to work: Do they listen to what you are saying and respond to it? Do they ask questions about your needs? Do they impress you as professional? Do you feel like you are being listened to, or do you feel like you are getting a lecture in physiology? Take some time to consider those questions strategically. You want something from the bodywork, and you are picking the best partner to help you achieve that goal. You should also be clear in your mind about what you want. The MT's answers will tell you something about them and their massage practice. ------------------------------ c) In the `finding.a.MT' file mentioned above Brother Bernard Seif <> noted that the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) offer a free referral service. To use the service call +1(800) 862-7724. Please note that the inclusion of information about a commercial organization (the ABMP in this case) does not indicate in any way approval or disapproval of the organization in any way by anyone responsible for this document. The information is included because it is deemed useful to the readers of alt.backrubs and is part of the answer to a frequently asked question. If you have corrections to the telephone number or additions (e.g., the number of another referral service) then please inform the FAQL maintainer.
Subject: Advice for a recipient of professional massage Q4.4) Much information about what you should expect as a massage client is available in the archive file `'. The archive is the subject of question 5.1.2. In addition, Corrina Perrone <> recommends: If you aren't comfortable with the MT touching you the treatment isn't going to help you regardless what techniques they use. Be sure to tell them if something makes you uncomfortable, and feel free to ask questions about anything they do. You should feel respected and honoured, and the session should provide opportunities for you to relax and get back in touch with yourself. Remember that any MT needs to know if you are seeing another practitioner, in order to make sure the massage won't interfere. Many people don't know for instance that if they are taking drugs, even for chronic illnesses, their dosages will often need to be decreased if they regularly receive bodywork treatments. What follows is adapted from some advice that MayaWay <> posted the following advice for the Maine Massage Guild: How To Enhance Your Treatment Experience - You'll feel more comfortable if you don't eat for two hours before your session. - Draping will be employed for traditional massage. For other therapies wear loose fitting comfortable clothing. - Let your therapist know if you have any medical or physical conditions which might contraindicate certain types of treatment. (See also part b) of question 4.3, about finding a capable MT, above). - Remove any unnecessary jewelry that could cause scratching or interfere with having a smooth massage. - If you wear glasses or contact lenses, consider removing them. It may add to your relaxing experience. - If you're concerned about getting oil on your hair, inform your therapist. You won't want to miss out on a head massage! - Quieting yourself will allow you to tune in to your experience and relax more deeply. Do give your therapist feedback regarding your experience and feel free to ask any questions you'd like. - Breathe deeply and regularly, stressing your exhalation. Imagine your body becoming heavy and sinking into the table or mat. As the therapist locates areas of tension, consciously allow yourself to breath and relax into those areas. - Sometimes during a massage or other type of treatment emotions will surface. It may be of great benefit to release and work through them if you feel comfortable doing so. (See the archive and question 4.2 for related information. Information about the archive appears in question 5.1.2.) Additionally many MTs recommend that you drink water (about 250 ml = 1 cup = 8 oz.) after your massage.
Subject: How much will it cost? Should I tip? Can I get it cheaper? Q4.5) There are no definite answers to the first two questions. The answers vary by location and culture. The `what.price' file in the archive (see question 5.1.2) contains a record of some of the discussion of these points that has taken place in alt.backrubs. That file also has suggestions for where to seek less expensive professional massage than usual. Some of that advice is presented here, but is not meant to replace a thoughtful reading of that file. Some MTs will accept trades of good and services in place of money. Some are listed in the exchange file (see question 5.1.1). MTs-in-training often need to practice :) -- local massage schools can often put you in contact with the trainees. Question 3.2 is about where to find people to give (and receive) massage.
Subject: I've got the following symptoms. What do you advise? Q4.6) The symptoms could be the result of something serious. A health care professional should be consulted for a diagnosis. This newsgroup is read by many people with great talent, however none of them can diagnose or treat ailments or injuries solely over a network connection. If there is a serious problem then it should be dealt with promptly by a health care professional. Richard Karasik advises: If you insist on asking for advice then you'll have to provide some details. For example, have you ever been diagnosed with any osseous deformities, e.g. 6 fingers on one hand, arthritis or any ligamentous tears? Do you exercise regularly? If so, what exercises do you do? When was the first time you noticed the pain, what were you doing in the 24 hours prior to that. Do you have headaches associated with the pain? Describe the pain in detail -- is it sharp, radiating or local? The description you give may suggest muscle tests you can do yourself to isolate the areas of dysfunction -- the causality you will have to puzzle out further than that -- but even isolating the muscle groups affected and determining how they are affected will help you when you consult (in person) with a health care professional. Terry Norman advises: Soft tissue massage may be only one of several types of modalities necessary to bring about a complete rehabilitation of an injury. You can't tell exactly what the appropriate therapy is to pursue without a complete physical exam by a competent physician. It's not always a waste of time and money to consult one before starting on a course of physical rehabilitation. If you are seeking advice about treatment not diagnosis then you might find useful information in the archive. At the time of this writing (April 1995) there are files about: back pain, fibromyalgia, wrist and hand pain, massaging bruises and knots, neck aches, scoliosis, massage as an adjunct to cancer treatments, headaches and chronic pain. There may be much more by now. Information about the archive is in question 5.1.2. -- Jamie Blustein `No trees were destroyed to make this post' <> The disclaimer is the subject of question 0.6 See also This document is archived in

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