What Can a Registered Massage Therapist Do for You?

Beyond the basic feel good massage, RMTs are trained in many styles of therapy designed to eliminate your pain

Credit: iStock/leezsnow

While Swedish massage is focused on symptom relief, registered massage therapists offer many other treatments types

Before you book a massage to relieve sore muscles or an injury, understand how to choose the massage therapy services that are best for you

As I’ve embarked on my new career as a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), I’ve been surprised by how little the general public understands about the treatments a licensed RMT can offer, and the difference between a Registered Massage Therapist and some of the other massage practitioners available.

RMT Education and Training

RMTs are licensed with a provincial governing body and receive up to 3,000 hours (this equates to 2.5 continuous years) of education in orthopaedic and physiologic health sciences. We must pass a rigorous written and practical provincial registration exam before becoming a fully licensed RMT.

All RMTs are required to obtain annual continuing education credits to maintain registration status with their respective governing body; in BC it is the College of Massage Therapists of British Columbia (CMTBC). So with all of this education, what exactly can an RMT provide?  

Swedish Massage vs. Corrective Treatments

Most people associate massage therapy with the kneading and rubbing of muscles and soft tissue which falls under the treatment modality of Swedish massage. This style of treatment is the foundation taught to all RMTs in the early semesters of school and can provide excellent therapeutic results. It is the “feel good” massage and is very effective at relieving stress and general tightness of muscles. 

Swedish massage is focused mainly on symptom relief, but there are many other styles or approaches that can help eliminate, and more importantly, solve your symptoms.  Corrective treatment is a loose term used to categorize the different techniques designed to solve clinical symptoms. 

There are many different treatments that fall into this category, such as:  joint mobilization, muscle energy technique (MET), neuromuscular facilitation, myofascial release therapy, visceral manipulation, craniosacral therapy and manual lymph drainage. All of these treatments are targeted toward different symptoms and desired outcomes. For example, neuromuscular facilitation can have tremendous benefits for patients recovering from strokes and spinal cord injuries, as well people dealing with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis. The focus of this technique is to help “re-train” muscle and movement patterns while working with both the peripheral and central nervous systems; the systems that actually govern our muscle function.  

Benefits of Myofascial Release Therapy

I have experienced excellent results with myofascial release therapy. This type of treatment is becoming increasingly popular with not only RMTs but with other health care providers as research on fascia continues to progress. This treatment style focuses on reducing fascial adhesion throughout the body’s musculoskeletal structures. Fascia is a very interesting and unique type of connective tissue that is found thought the entire body making an intricate, web-like network of support that plays a crucial role in protecting injured tissues. If not treated properly, fascial problems can lead to pain, dysfunction and impaired performance.  

The best advice I can give anyone new to RMT treatment is to ask what techniques can be confidently provided by the RMT. Any good therapist will have a network of other RMTs or other health care providers they will refer you to if they aren’t familiar with the specific type of treatment you need.

If you’re seeing an RMT for that feel good treatment, ask what other techniques could be offered to help alleviate your symptoms. As RMTs we are not allowed to say we specialize in any type of treatment, however most RMTs (after a few years of practice) tend to focus their treatment styles to one or two types of modalities, and this is something to look for when shopping around for a therapist.  

So, I challenge you to not be afraid to ask your RMT questions the next time you receive treatment. You may be surprised at how much more they can offer.

Matt Thompson is a recently graduated RMT who likes playing in the great outdoors. He practices at the Active Orthopaedic clinic in Vancouver.