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What Do You Learn in Massage Therapy School?

Posted Monday, Jul 26, 2021 by Altierus

Interested in enrolling in massage therapy school? You’d be getting on the path to an in-demand career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 21% nationwide job growth for massage therapists over the 2019–2029 period.[1] Demand for massage therapists is likely being driven by the fact that more people recognize how massage can help relieve pain, reduce stress, and help with recovery from injuries.

If you’re wondering what skills and knowledge massage therapy students learn during their training programs, Altierus Career College can help. The nine-month massage therapy diploma program at our Tampa campus prepares students for licensure and professional practice in the field. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of what you can learn in massage therapy school.

Anatomy, Physiology, and Kinesiology

Massage therapists treat people’s bodies, so it’s essential for them to learn the fundamentals of how the body is structured and the way it functions. Our massage therapy students learn:

Anatomy—The parts of the body, with a focus on the location, insertion points, and functions of the muscles. An understanding of anatomy is the underpinning of what massage therapists do every day.

Physiology—How the systems of the body function together in healthy people and how massage therapy may affect these systems. Students also learn essential concepts in pathophysiology—that is, how the body functions when something is wrong, such as an injury or illness.

Kinesiology—How bodies and body parts move. Understanding kinesiology helps massage therapists determine whether a patient or client has full range of motion in a body part, which can help them tailor the treatment they provide.

At Altierus, students also learn how to recognize when clients are experiencing a medical emergency and complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

Massage Techniques

There are many different approaches to massage because there are many different applications for it. In massage therapy school, students learn a variety of techniques and approaches. These can include:

Swedish massage—Swedish massage is the most common massage modality. It combines long, gliding movements with kneading and friction to help improve blood circulation and release tension. Swedish massage generally uses light to moderate pressure plus brisk movement.

Deep-tissue massage—Deep-tissue massage uses firm pressure and slower movement to affect inner layers of muscle and connective tissue to relieve pain. Deep-tissue massage may help to break up scar tissue that forms after injuries.

Myofascial release—This technique focuses on stretching and manipulating body parts to release tension or tightness in the myofascial tissue which surrounds and supports muscles.

Trigger-point therapy—Trigger-point therapy involves applying firm pressure to relieve “knots” or areas of intense tension in muscles.

Sports massage—Sports massage borrows techniques from across other modalities to meet the needs of athletes, including helping them to recover from intensive workouts, maintain mobility, or recover from injury.

Special Population Needs

Our massage therapy students learn how to tailor treatments to clients across the lifespan. This means understanding how massage can affect clients at different stages of life. Our program covers techniques for these populations, including:

Pre- and post-natal massage—Massage therapists learn about the structural and physiological changes that happen in expectant mothers before and after birth, such as lower back pain or swollen feet and legs. They learn how to provide treatment that avoids direct pressure on a pregnant woman’s abdomen.

Babies and children—The International Association for Infant Massage reports that performing gentle massage on babies may help them relax and possibly improve digestive issues such as colic, though more research is needed.[2] Older children with growing pains, chronic pain or sports injuries can also benefit from massage therapy tailored to their smaller, less-developed frames.

Older adults—Clients over the age of 60 are more susceptible to arthritic pain and circulatory disorders that can cause musculoskeletal pain and swelling. Massage therapy can help with these issues. Research indicates that long-term massage therapy may also help stretch and relieve tension in muscles that help with posture and balance.[3]

Business Skills

According to the BLS, 35% of massage therapists in 2019 were self-employed.[4] That’s why our massage therapy program includes course content designed to introduce students to the business aspects of running a massage therapy practice. Students also learn customer service and professional communication skills employers want, including spas, clinics, hotels, cruise ships and care facilities. Finally, we help students prepare for the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), an essential step towards obtaining their massage therapy license.

How to Become a Massage Therapist

To become a massage therapist, you’ll need to complete a training program and obtain a license from the state. You can gain the knowledge and skills you need to pursue a massage therapy career in as few as eight months with Altierus Career College in Tampa. Contact us today to learn more about our massage therapy diploma program!


[1] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-6

[2] https://www.iaim.net/massage-your-baby/benefits/  

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3457720/

[4] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-3

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