Integrating Fitness into Massage Therapy Practice Part 1

Our Work as massage therapists helps millions of people.  By integrating exercise into their treatment plans, we can take their healing an important step further.  All exercise programs should start with a thorough assessment.

There are two types of assessments that are important to getting your client well and keeping them that way.  The first is an injury assessment, which we have discussed many times in this column.  The second is a movement or exercise assessment–and here is where we move into new territory.  Very few massage therapists are skilled at assessing movement and prescribing exercise.  This is unfortunate because movement assessments can provide valuable information about why your client was injured by identifying predisposing factors.

Clients are often in pain because of an underlying weakness, instability, lack of mobility, and a poor understanding of how to move properly.  For example, lets say a client is experiencing lower back pain.  Normally, a massage therapist would perform soft tissue work around the hips, lower back, and perhaps the psoas muscle and then sent the client on their way.  A few days may go by with minimal pain until suddenly the person begins to feel the same symptoms that initially let them to seek treatment. 

In contrast, if the therapist had the ability to perform an exercise assessment, they could design a specific mobilization and stretching program (based on a range-of-motion assessment), teach the client how to execute a proper bend, squat, and/or lunge pattern, then teach them how to condition their body to support the demands of their work and/or sport environment.