Becoming a massage therapist

Hi! I’m Kate, a licensed massage therapist in Texas. I have my own website about massage therapy and a part-time massage therapy practice. I use both table and chair in my practice, helping people relax and feel better. It is very rewarding! My practice consists of outcalls to people’s homes and businesses.

How to become a massage therapist? My personal experience

If you would like to become a massage therapist, let me encourage you but at the same time let me be honest with you. There is a lot of study and hard work involved. Lots of anatomy and physiology. I used to stay up until midnight studying for my weekly tests.

You also have to have a lot of time to practice the clinical portion, which means actually massaging family and friends. Over and over and over until you have graduated. They will get tired of it after a while as they do have lives! It did not take long for my family to hide when I got home from school. They loved having a full-body massage as I learned more and more but when I had to practice just a portion many times for a test, and they could not move from my table, they got bored.

Once I finished and got my school certification, I felt wonderful inside. When my instructor gave me my final grades, I was elated–on cloud nine for days!

Taking the Texas State Board Exam

Four months later, I had to take the Texas State Board Exam. Many more hours of studying and practicing went on during those four months. Then two long weeks of waiting to find out whether or not I passed. I did! I am proud to say that I am now a Licensed Massage Therapist!

If you are thinking about a career in massage, this site will be helpful to you in making your decision.

Choosing a massage school

Choosing a massage school requires some research on your part. First, are there any schools in your town? You can look in the yellow pages or go online and search for schools in your area. I chose the online method to search for a massage school and discovered that there was one a mile from my house. In fact, I passed it every day and never noticed it before!

The steps on choosing the right massage school

After you have found some schools (the more, the better) go online and look at their websites. Some have virtual tours where you can see the facilities. Read about their programs and check out the prices and course descriptions. Next, call and make an appointment at each school you are interested in attending. Take a tour and have the school rep tell you about their massage program.

Make sure the massage school is accredited by your state’s vocational training or education agency. ¬†Also, make sure the classes and the number of hours offered will meet the licensing requirements in your state.

See if the school offers financial aid or if they have a tuition payment plan where you can pay so much each month. Find out how long the school has existed. If it is a new school, you will want to check with the state licensing agency or the Better Business Bureau to make sure it is a reputable school. Ask if the school offers part-time or night classes if you work during the day.

Find out if the school has a strong business portion of the massage education program so that you can learn about the business side of massage therapy, such as accounting and marketing. Massage schools give discounted massages performed by student interns. A lot of students have never had a massage prior to school. If you have not had one, consider scheduling a massage with an intern or two. Casually ask how they like the school and note the similarities and differences in their massage techniques.

Final recommendations when choosing a massage schools

During the school day, as a student, you will team up with another student and be the massage therapist and then switch and you will be the client so be prepared to change into a hospital gown and be massaged. Any qualms about your body appearance need to disappear quickly and by all means, if you are female, shave your legs every day! Another thing to consider, if you do not want your own massage therapy business, is to see if the school has a job placement program.

Find out the lengths of the different programs they have so you can determine how long it will be until you are certified by your school so you can apply for your license. As a massage therapist, you will need CEU’s to keep your massage license and to learn new techniques. For more information on becoming a massage therapy student, please check this out.


Massage therapist employment

In most cities, massage therapist employment pretty much means working in a spa, unless you open your own business. Massage therapy franchises, you know, massage in a box type places, are popping up all over the country now, so this may be an option for you.

In some cities, hospitals hire massage therapists, but these jobs are few and far between. Chiropractors also hire massage therapists, but usually they need additional training, such as deep tissue, before they are eligible for massage therapist employment by a chiropractor.

One other option may be to get a job with a massage therapy school, either answering phones, being a secretary/assistant, or actually teaching massage classes.

The spa inferno

Working at a spa or a massage therapy franchise is a great way for brand new therapists to get a lot of experience while earning a paycheck. The problem with this type of job is burnout. Spas and franchises care about their paying customers and want to please them at the expense of their “dime a dozen” new employees.

You will earn $8 to $15 an hour and you will work long and hard with very few breaks. You will be overworked and underpaid and you will have to sacrifice time with your children as you will most likely work when they are at home–nights and weekends are when spas and franchises need you the most.

Massage therapist employment alternatives

If you need a steady paycheck while building your own massage therapy practice, get a customer service job answering phones for the same amount of money and save your body from overuse, injury, and sheer physical exhaustion. Then, when you are not working, you can start building your own practice, one client at a time.

Your clientele will become your main focus and you will not experience burnout, get unnecessary injuries, or become physically exhausted while earning money for a company who will chew you up and spit you out when you can no longer earn money for them.

The customer service job is just a temporary solution to paying bills while you build a successful business of yoour own. This is truly the best way to go. Customer service jobs are everywhere these days. Some of the calls can get a little rough, but most are just answering routine questions.

If you seek massage therapist employment at a spa or a franchise, by the time you get to go home, you will be exhausted. You will have no energy left over to build a successful practice. Massage therapist employment at these places will become a way of life, one that you will come to dread, even hate, soon.

Quite a few classmates and other massage acquaintances have told me this. They have gone to several area spas and franchises and regret it to this day. They do not stay at these places for very long and regret ever starting their massage therapist employment with them. Some moved on to other places, hoping for something better, but it was the same story. I have not yet heard any of them give me one happy report about working at a spa or a franchise. Don’t let this happen to you.

My advice? Don’t do it. If you need money, get a customer service phone job and save your energy for building your own practice. Good luck! You can do this. Just believe in yourself and the abilities that God has given you.


Massage therapy for diabetes

Massage therapy for diabetes is beneficial for the diabetic client. The American Diabetes Association says that 20.8 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. 6.2 million of them do not even know it. It is estimated that another 41 million people are in the pre-diabetic stages with elevated blood sugar. Chances are good that you know someone with diabetes.

What exactly is diabetes?

Simply put, it is when the pancreas does not make enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin is necessary to convert food (mostly carbohydrates) into energy. Insulin allows glucose to move from the bloodstream into the cells to nourish them.

The most common symptoms of this illness are fatigue, frequent urination, and excessive thirst.

Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus occurs in 10% of diabetics. Insulin is taken, usually by injection. It is genetic and usually develops at a younger age than Type 2. It can be triggered by physical or emotional stress.

Type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus occurs in 90% of diabetics. In Type 2, the pancreas makes insulin but the cells that use it are resistant to it. Type 2 diabetics can take oral medications that decrease insulin resistance or that enhance the cells’ sensitivity to it. They can also use injectable insulin and now the newer inhaled insulin, depending on what their physicians order.

Losing weight and exercising can improve the efficiency of insulin. In some cases, insulin is no longer needed when weight is lost. Always go by what your physician orders. Do not stop taking insulin or other medication without physician approval.

Diabetics monitor their blood glucose or blood sugar levels throughout the day. Test strips and monitors are used for this purpose. The normal range of blood glucose is from 80mg to 120 mg.

If the blood sugar is low, something sugary, like juice, is needed to quickly bring the blood sugar back up. If high, an injection of insulin or whatever type of medication the client is taking is needed.

Hypoglycemia is what occurs when the blood sugar level goes below 70mg. The client becomes disoriented and feels faint. Blood sugar levels can drop suddenly. This is why it is important for the client to test his/her blood glucose level prior to massage.

If it is low, the client can drink some juice prior to the massage. Juice should be kept handy during the massage just in case this happens.

Signs of hypoglycemia are:

  • Excess sweating.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Inability to wake up.
  • Speaking incoherently.
  • Personality changes.
  • Rapid heartbeat.

If this happens to a client while on the massage table or chair, give the client juice fast so the blood sugar can go back up.

Massage therapy for patients with diabetes

Massage therapy for diabetes is very beneficial for the diabetic. Relaxation is the best benefit that massage can bring to someone with diabetes. Having this condition is stressful.

The client must constantly monitor blood sugar, weigh and measure food, practice good nutrition, and exercise. Worrying about it all adds to the stress level. Massage decreases the production of stress hormones which can potentially help to lower blood glucose levels.

Massage therapy for diabetes is also great for increasing the circulation of blood and lymph. This allows the cells in the body to be nourished. Nourishing the cells promotes healing of wounds more quickly.

Massage therapy for diabetics loosens layers of fascia, allowing greater mobility for the client. Stretching helps with flexibility.

Because connective tissue in diabetics is so thick, it is best to work slow and deep. Let your fingers sink down into the muscles. Use compression with your full hands. Constantly ask the client about how your pressure is and if the technique you are using feels good as you work.

How can massage therapy for diabetes help? Some diabetics have peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to motor nerves. This causes pain, tenderness, and numbness in the feet. Pressure causes discomfort. Slow, broad compression of the feet will feel good. If the pressure is too light or too fast, it will be irritating and ticklish.

As always, in massage therapy for diabetes and for all conditions, avoid areas of bruising and any open wounds. Warm full hand contact soothes and relieves stiffness for the diabetic.


All you need to know about massage therapy lubricants

Massage therapy lubricants are called massage media. Their function is to reduce the friction between the therapist’s hands and the client’s skin. If the therapist does not use enough, the client will feel as though his/her skin is burning. If too much is used, the therapist cannot get a good grip on the soft tissue and, therefore, cannot perform his/her job correctly.

The amount of massage therapy lubricant used depends on several things: how softening it is in nature, how dry the client’s skin is, how much body hair the client has, and the type of massage being performed.

There are several types of massage therapy lubricants. Oil, cream and lotion are popular choices and are used most often. Powder, cocoa butter, and liniment may be used, too.

Swedish massage takes quite a bit as the therapist’s hands glide across most of the client’s body. Deep tissue massage does not require as much because the therapist must grasp skin and underlying tissue and move it.

You should beware of skin sensitivities and allergies. It is a good idea to ask the client about skin allergies. I use a good hypoallergenic cream for most of my massages. It is a bit more expensive, but my clients are worth it!

Cream does not stain the sheets like oil does and it absorbs into the skin so the client does not feel greasy. Avoid using anything with rubbing alcohol or mineral oil. These are not good for the skin and can clog pores. Mineral oil is a cancer-causing agent. Definitely not good for the client!

To prevent contamination to your large container of media, take out enough for one client with a clean spatula. I put my cream into small plastic salad dressing containers, like you get with take-out salad. I buy them inexpensively at Sam’s and place the lid on until the client is ready for the massage. Then, just toss the leftover, if any. Never mix it back and contaminate the large container. During the massage, place the container on the table or in your scrub pocket for easy access.

If you are using oil, pour enough into a small clean bottle for your pocket or put in a bottle that will fit into a holster around your waist and pump it out.

Never apply massage therapy lubricants directly to the client’s skin. Always apply it to your clean hands and rub them together to warm the lubricant so it will be pleasing to the client’s skin.

Massage oil is the most common and most widely-used lubricant in Swedish massage. The type made from nuts and seeds are best since they have the most nutritional value for the skin.

massage oil

Some massage therapists that I know use vegetable or olive oil. Personally, I find this method to be too greasy and I do not like for my clients to smell like food! They say they use it as it is cheap.

This media stains linens and once they are stained, you cannot use them anymore. If you do, the clients will think the sheets are not sanitary. If you choose to use this massage media, let the client know ahead of time so they can wear old clothes and not take the chance of staining their nice clothes. Remember, the client should come first.

Do not use mineral oil as it is a cancer-causing agent. There are some nice-smelling commercial ones on the market that can be used if this is your preference.

Lotion is good for deep tissue work. It does not allow much glide and won’t leave the skin greasy. It quickly absorbs into the skin so you use more but it costs less than cream.

For me cream is the best massage therapy lubricant. It has such a smooth feel and is more softening to the skin than lotion. It is not greasy like oil. It is less messy and there are less stains. It lasts longer on the client’s skin than lotion and almost as long as massage oil. It does cost a little more, but I don’t mind pleasing my clients. I use a wonderful hypoallergenic brand that glides on the skin and works so well with Swedish massage.

Massage powder is another acceptable massage therapy lubricant. Any type, like baby, cornstarch, or talc will work. Friction reduction with this method of massage media is not as good as cream or oil. It works best for manual lymphatic drainage.

If you choose this as a massage therapy lubricant, be careful with where you sprinkle it. The particles can enter the nose of the client and the therapist and cause coughing and lots of sneezing.

Cocoa Butter Sticks or smooth cocoa butter in a tin are great for deep tissue massage. They allow more control over the tissues and the skin absorbs it well. The client’s body temperature melts it so a little goes a long way. It is rare for someone to be allergic to cocoa butter.

Liniment can be used as a massage therapy lubricant, primarily if the client is in pain. It contains alcohol and oil which creates a sense of heat on the skin.

Do not use it on the client’s hands or near the mucous membranes. Liniment works by irritating the skin and then it dilates blood vessels so there is more blood supplied to the skin surface. They produce an analgesic feeling for the client, relieving muscle aches and pains during the massage therapy session.

Massage powder is good when you don’t want to slip and slide around but you need a small amount of massage therapy lubricant to avoid friction, such as when you want to release a trigger point.


Foot massage therapy routine

The foot massage therapy routine will be a favorite with your clients, especially those who are on their feet all day. Teachers, nurses, and sales people, cooks, waitresses, and cashiers all love having foot massages. Who doesn’t?

This will not be something you can do in a massage chair. You must use your massage table so that you, the massage therapist, are comfortable. Remember that the aim is to keep you healthy so that your career can last for years. Too many massage therapists do stupid things to injure themselves and have to quit after a few years in the business.

Always work smart on foot massage therapy

I have received e-mails telling me the foot massage therapy routine can be done in a massage chair after I have written that it cannot. Please do yourself a favor and do not listen to those who say it can be done in a massage chair. Yes, anything can be done, but why would you do it and risk injury to yourself by stretching and bending in an unsafe manner? Does this make sense to you? They will find out for themselves after a while.

Recommendation to do this massage therapy

  • You will use a lubricant with this foot massage therapy routine. Apply cream on the top and bottom of the foot, moving towards the heart. Use a drain stroke once the cream has been applied.
  • Start with your digitals moving in a circle on the ankle bones, five to ten times. Then glide with the sides of your thumbs under the ankle bones.
  • Use small-handed kneading with one hand to the heel and then palmar glide the bottom and top of the foot.
  • Follow with thumb digital to top and then bottom of foot.
  • Now for the toes. If the client is a female, start the foot massage therapy with the pinky toe and move towards the big toe. For a male, start with the big toe and move towards the little toe. I learned that order in massage school. Not exactly sure why, but that is what was taught to our class. Digital knead to each toe and then give a gentle pull with a twist all at once. Do not cause pain. Work digitally between each toe.
  • Apply thumbs to ball of foot, both up and down and side to side. This may tickle so do not do lightly. Then do the same to the middle of the foot. Do not push hard or you may cause pain to the tendons. Then lift the foot and use palmar kneading on the heel.
  • Step to the side of the table and grab the ankle in one hand and knuckle the bottom and top of foot with the other hand. Then place hands on both sides of the foot and roll foot with your palms. Do not roll the toes in this kind of foot massage therapy.

To end the foot massage therapy routine, do palmar drain stroke on bottom and top towards the heart.


Find a massage therapist in your city

If you want a massage, have you ever wondered how to find a massage therapist, one who will give you the treatment you deserve?

First, ask your family, friends, coworkers, and church or club members if they get massages. If so, try one of their therapists. Word of mouth advertising is the way a lot of new therapists build their practice. What better way to advertise than happy clients who refer others?

Go to the streets for a massage therapist

If you love to shop at the mall, chances are you have seen therapists there, giving chair massage to weary shoppers. You can try one of them out and see if you like them. If so, they may also do table massage when they are through at the mall. If you are happy with chair massage, you can just keep going back to the mall therapist.

You will also find a massage therapist in unlikely places such as the airport, the beauty parlor, a health foods store, in your dentist’s or chiropractor’s office, and in your office at work. I have seen them in all of these places here in San Antonio.

They also can be found at conventions, fairs, and sporting events, giving free or low-cost chair massage while passing out their business cards. Try out their chair massage and if you like them, take a business card and give them a call to set up a table massage. If you have never before had table massage, it is incredible, especially the back portion.

You should go online too

Another way to find a massage therapist is to go online and do a search in google. Go to google and type in “massage therapist + your city.” But actually put the name of your city where I put “your city.” Example, just in case you are new to the internet and googling:

Massage Therapist + San Antonio

You should get quite a selection. Look at the addresses to find some in your area of town. Visit their web sites and see if you like what you read. If so, call them and set up an appointment. Ask any questions that you may have.

Most will be happy to answer your questions regarding massage therapy and they will be pleased to have your business. If not, move on to the next one.

Going to spas in your area

Another way to find a massage therapist is to go to a spa in your area. Day spas have crept up all over the country and if you are a regular, you can schedule your massage with the therapist you like best every time.

Massage-in-the-box establishments like Massage Envy are popping up all over San Antonio in strip malls and near grocery stores so you can get inexpensive massage sessions near your home, but the massage therapist will most likely be different each time you go, depending on when you go and how busy they are.

Helping the massage therapist

One other place to get a good massage is at a massage therapy school. You will not be able to use the same therapist over and over because student interns provide massages as part of their schooling, but you will get a good quality relaxation massage cheap.

You will also be doing the massage student interns a big favor because they cannot graduate until they have completed a set amount of massages. I had to do 40 in Texas before I could graduate. That number did not include the massages I did everyday in massage class or at home after class. So don’t worry. The massage interns have had plenty of practice at giving massage before they work on you and they are completely supervised while they are at the school.