Like any fast-growing profession, the field of massage therapy is evolving all the time. As licensing and certification standards rise, and more and more massage therapists graduate from education programs that treat massage as a holistic skill, the profession is gradually expanding from a focus mainly on relaxation and overall wellness to a focus on outcome-based treatments.
Outcome-based treatments allow qualified massage therapists to use evidence-based analysis to create highly personalized session strategies focusing bodywork on achieving a specific goal or goals. Clients report longer lasting relief from pain and therapists get intense satisfaction knowing they have created real and positive change.
How is it outcome based massage different?
When you seek out a massage therapist, your goals for the session can vary widely. Sometimes you want to relax, sometimes you have a specific complaint about an ache or pain, sometimes you’ve been referred by a medical professional or physical therapist.
In some cases, you’ll visit a general massage practice where the therapist, while fully trained, doesn’t always have the time, knowledge or experience to do really focused work. You’ll get a good relaxing massage, but the level of “tuning” of the session to your need may be small.
With outcome based massage, however, there is more of an emphasis on pre- and post-testing and using research-based techniques to meet the goals. This laser focus results in greater relief for the client.
Delivering this level of massage therapy takes a therapist who is well-versed in pathologies, evaluation and assessment, and who has a broad knowledge of bodywork techniques. Typically, to really master outcome based massage techniques takes experience and extensive study beyond the regular massage therapy program.
How it works
The biggest difference a client will see is in the intake process and the evaluation of the session at the end. The intake process will likely include more testing (ROM, flexibility, gait, balance, for example) and more specific questions to allow the therapist to create an effective strategy for the session.
A client comes in with a sore wrist, for example. The qualified therapist will conduct non-invasive tests to determine the location of the pain and the structures and muscles around the pain area, as well as any areas where referred pain is present. There will likely be palpation of the area, and a rating of the amount of pain present. The therapist may also ask questions about how this soreness has effected their daily lives (work, play). Finally, the therapist will also question the client about any diagnoses received from a medical doctor (like carpal tunnel syndrome, in this case) and then use all the information collected to create a specific massage session based on all this input.
After the session, the therapist will have the client repeat pre-massage tests to see if there’s a reduction in pain or an increase in range of motion. Then the therapist will offer home care tips helping the client focus on symptom reduction, or, in some cases, refer the client to a medical doctor for more investigation.
How do you find a therapist that can deliver more outcome based massage?
One way to locate a practice that specializes in this type of massage is to look at the business website and see what their focus is. Look for words like “therapeutic massage” and “medical massage”. Look for biographies of the therapists that suggest they have extra training and certifications. You can also look at the breadth of their offerings to see if it includes sports or event-based massage. Both these types of massage rely heavily on quick assessment of aches and pains and a more focused approach to the session.
An excellent resource for outcome based massage is “Outcome-Based Massage: Putting Evidence into Practice” (Third Edition), Carla-Kristin Andrade (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins)