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A myofascial therapist uses a focused massage technique designed to release pain that’s believed to originate in the myofascial tissues. Although certification is not required for practitioners, a credential can be valuable when marketing massage therapy to prospective clients.
Myofascial therapy, also called myofascial release or trigger point therapy, is designed to target pain through cycles of isolated pressure and release. The pain is thought to originate in “trigger points,” hypersensitive points in the muscles. The pain occurs in muscles and sometimes in unrelated parts of the body, which is called referred pain. It occurs after a muscle has been contracted repeatedly, either through repetitive motion or stress. Pain can be sharp and intense, or it may be experienced as a dull ache.
In trigger point therapy, the therapist massages the targeted area directly on the skin without oils, lotions or devices. An individual trained as a myofascial therapist can detect areas of tension and apply appropriate sustained pressure. The gentle pressure applied over a period of time, along with deep breathing by the client, helps elongate muscles and release pain.
A session of trigger point therapy typically lasts about 60 minutes. Multiple treatments may be required to effect lasting change. The myofascial therapist may instruct clients in how to treat the pain themselves through various stretching exercises.
Education requirements vary by state and locality. Most states require that massage therapists have completed an approved therapy program and passed a licensing exam.
Massage therapy programs are available from public and private postsecondary institutions. A high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required for admission. Depending on the school, students complete 500 to 1,000 hours of classroom study and hands-on practice. Coursework typically includes classes in anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, physiology and pathology, along with classes in ethics and business management.
Training in myofascial therapy is usually offered as an elective, in continuing education classes, or at an advanced training seminar at a school of massage, bodyworks and healing arts. Seminars and continuing education offerings usually take place over two to seven days, with an average cost of $350 to $500 per seminar day. Continuing education credits in myofascial therapy are usually acceptable as recertification credits for occupational therapists, physical therapists and massage therapists.
Myofascial release certification is granted by written exam through the Certification Board for Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists (CBMTPT). Although you’re not required by law to practice or to advertise your services as a myofascial therapist, the credential can enhance your job opportunities and credibility with clients.
Massage and myofascial therapists work in a variety of settings, including physicians’ offices, franchised clinics, fitness centers and spas. Some hotels and resort centers also employ massage and myofascial therapists. Other massage and myofascial therapists work as independent practitioners, either in a fixed location or by traveling to clients’ homes or offices.
Myofascial therapists work from a standing position. They must have excellent interpersonal skills, both to provide instruction and to listen to clients’ needs and concerns. It is essential that myofascial therapists maintain a professional relationship with clients to ensure that the clients feel comfortable and safe during hands-on therapy.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks data and makes projections for nearly all civilian occupations. Myofascial therapists are considered massage therapists for the purpose of BLS classification. According to the BLS, the median pay for massage therapists in 2018 was $41,420 per year, or $19.92 per hour. Median pay means that half in the profession earned more, while half earned less.
Earnings as a massage or myofascial therapist vary, depending on a variety of factors, including geographic location and employment status. According to the BLS, the job outlook for massage therapists is strong, with a projected job growth rate of 26 percent through 2026. That’s much faster than average compared to all other jobs. Interest in massage, myofascial and other natural therapies is expected to drive the demand.
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