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A massage therapist is a professional who performs massage and bodywork. The field of massage therapy is quite large, running the gamut from therapists who perform basic Swedish massage to people trained in more esoteric fields like trigger point. A massage therapist's goal is usually to relax his or her client while promoting general health and well being. Some branches of massage therapy are focused on treating specific health conditions, and on addressing congenital muscular problems.
People have been performing massage and bodywork on each other for thousands of years. A friendly human touch is believed to be important to psychological as well as physical health. Several cultures have developed their own distinctive branches of bodywork, such as lomi lomi in Hawaii and Shiatsu in Japan. Bodywork is often integrated into a greater holistic healing practice, like Traditional Chinese Medicine. Many people around the world consider massage as an important part of their personal health and beauty regimen.
As part of a massage therapist's job, he or she works with a wide range of clients. Many people seek massage therapy purely for relaxation and comfort, but some people come to a massage therapist for deeper work. A massage therapist uses his or her training to treat clients on an individual basis. He or she may work as a freelancer or in a spa or medical clinic, charging varying fees for different services. Some therapists offer additional services like facials, and body treatments to supplement their massage practices.
Training requirements to become a massage therapist vary; some regions regulate massage closely, while in others licensing is more lax. Many schools of massage offer basic certification programs which can be built upon to learn additional techniques like deep tissue massage or traditional massage like Thai massage or acupressure. Training also includes a familiarity with the anatomy and physiology of the human body, and a discussion of unique conditions which concern massage therapists, ranging from muscular tension to cancer. A good massage school also offers workshops in ethics and business practices.
This very old profession has an unfortunate reputation with some people because it is confused with another ancient profession: prostitution. Massage therapists prefer to distance themselves as much as possible from sex work, because their practices are focused on healing and professional touch. Although massage is often performed on a nude body, massage therapists do not provide sexual services. They also prefer the term “massage therapist” to “masseuse,” since “masseuse” is often a euphemism for “sex worker.”