Massage Therapy and the Skin (Part I)

Often a massage therapy career can be a bit of a grind, especially when a full schedule of regular clients keeps you seeing the same people and performing the same intake/massage. Fortunately, most licensing bodies require massage therapists to take continuing education credits in order to have their licenses renewed. Another way to stay fresh in your massage therapy career without taking a class is by picking up the AMTA’s Massage Therapy Journal (you can subscribe, go to the library, and access articles online).

Indeed, in the recently released, Winter (2010) edition of the MTJ there is a fabulously detailed article about massage therapy and skin (click here for a .pdf version of the article). It’s definitely worth the read, especially if you are in the mood to delve into a subject and expand your knowledge of skin and massage therapy.

I feel safe writing that last sentence because I doubt that all but a few people will have learned and retained as much knowledge of the skin and massage therapy as the article provides. The article starts with a detailed write-up of the two layers of skin (epidermis and dermis), then proceeds to describe how a massage therapist effectively analyzes skin when doing an intake and massage.

Successful observations should include making note of: skin color and any discolorations; moisture level of the skin; temperature of the skin; texture of the skin (rough or smooth); and elasticity. All these things can help a therapist determine the health of the client’s skin (healthy skin should be elastic or “spongy”) and locate any areas of injury or irritation, both before and after the massage.

If an irritation becomes apparent only after the massage, it usually means (logically) that something must have happened during the massage to trigger the reaction. Sometimes a massage lotion or oil can be to blame and its use should, of course, be avoided at future sessions. Conversely, the skin might take on a healthier complexion after regular sessions, in which case similar treatment should continue.

Sometimes a client comes in already having skin problems, and the MTJ article does a good job describing some common skin conditions to look for and how massage therapy can (or can’t) be applied. We’ll look at that next week.

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