Perhaps the first and most important thing to know before applying to massage school in Miami is know what massage actually is. The word massage is borrowed from French and it literally means "friction of kneading," which was visually similar to how bakers kneaded dough (for our many Spanish speakers-think of the word for dough-massa).
This also feels good when done on your back
While the word describes a particular action, massage is actually a form of medicine. And you're considering becoming a massage therapist, you need to view massage as a medical practice. After all, healing is why patients will seek your services.
However, massage is different than most forms of medicine; it's much more natural and rooted in something inherent to humans: touch and compassion.
If you have kids, you’ve done this before.
It's 6 o’clock and you’ve finished preparing dinner. You call your children to come eat and the youngest one, as usual, comes running at full-speed to the kitchen, when all of a sudden, she trips and hurts her knee. Without thinking, your motherly instincts already know what to do.
You calmly go over and comfort her as she’s crying. You then examine her knee to make sure it’s not a serious injury. After seeing it’s only a bump, you gently rub her sore spot to soothe her pain, which helps calm her down. For good measure, you give her an ice pack and then go onto being the same awesome mom you always are.
Massage Develops into Medicine
While your heroic actions may not seem like big deal to you or anyone else (except of course, to your daughter), you have just demonstrated a non-technical proficiency in the earliest known form of medicine: massage. Even though massage is not often thought of as an integral aspect of medicine, it is actually the oldest and most popular medical practice in human history.
It is easy to see how massage developed into medicine; since it’s natural to apply pressure to sore areas, pre-modern healers, whom we can think of as primitive medical doctors, developed practices that utilized manual pressure to treat a variety of sprains, bruises, and other injuries. This act of applying manual pressure as a medical or therapeutic practice is what we now think of as “massage.”
Even though medical knowledge has varied greatly throughout history, every culture and civilization has utilized massage as a medical practice.
For example, the ancient Chinese physicians of the Han Dynasty practiced a form of massage we now refer to as Tuina, which means “to push and to life and squeeze.” Since the ancient Chinese believed that illness was caused by an imbalance of qi or vital life force of the body, tuina’s stroking and kneading techniques were aimed at stimulating particular points (acupoints) across a patient's body that would restore the flow of qi in the body.
Two-thousand years after the Han Dynasty, Dr. Janet G. Travell, the personal physician to President John F. Kennedy, led medical research efforts that eventually concluded that Myofascial Trigger Points were a leading cause of musculoskeletal referred pain. Based on this new anatomical knowledge, a new form of massage arose known as Trigger Point Therapy. Like Tuina, Trigger Point Therapy focuses on massaging particular points on the body (trigger points), which stimulate the natural tissue repair mechanisms of the muscles being massaged.
As you can see, even though the scientific theories behind these two massage styles are completely different, their actual application is fairly comparable.
While science, medicine, and technology have changed throughout history, the human body remains as delicate now as it was 2,000 years ago, and as such, massage will continue to be an effective means of healing hurt and injured people.
By now, you should see the connection between human touch and massage as a therapeutic and medical practice. However, you may have noticed that I have not used the phrase “massage therapy” yet. This was done intentionally and the term massage therapy warrants its own discussion. What exactly is massage therapy? If you were to go to massage therapist, how would you know if she was going to give you a Tunia or Trigger Point massage? Is there a standard definition for massage therapy? In the next article, we will discuss what massage therapy is.