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February 21, 2018

7 Massage Therapy Buzzwords: Demystified

Whether you regularly spend time at massage therapy appointments or have considered a career in massage therapy, you’ve probably heard a few words that seem a bit confusing. Each profession has its own jargon, massage therapy included! Don’t be afraid to become well-versed in these massage buzzwords; knowing them can make you a better guest and a better massage therapist!

1. Bodywork

Bodywork is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different therapeutic treatments for the body. For example, massage therapy, trigger point, and myofascial release are all forms of bodywork. This is why we include the word ‘bodywork’ in our name, because we teach so much more than massage therapy alone.
massage therapist doing deep tissue massage for a client

2. CMT

CMT is the common abbreviation used to shorten the title certified massage therapist. But not every massage therapist is a CMT, there are also the abbreviations LMT and RMT for licensed massage therapist and registered massage therapist, respectively. It’s good to know this stuff in case someone throws it out there.

3. Certification

In some states, like California, a massage certification comes after completing the proper education, testing, and registering with the state. In other states, ‘certification’ is earned from an approved school, after which graduates take a test and are awarded a massage licence. Though the distinction may seem semantic, if you’re interested in practicing massage therapy professionally, it’s important that you know the difference and which is available in your state.

4. Modality

When you hear the word ‘modality’ used in reference to massage therapy and bodywork, it refers to an individual approach or set of techniques for treating stress, tension, and pain in the body. Some modalities are more general while others treat specific conditions. Examples of different modalities include:

5. Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a massage technique (or modality) that originated in Japan. It follows the same principles as acupuncture. Pressure points are the focal point of this treatment.

6. Trigger Point

Trigger points are exactly what they sound like! They are sore points in the body that hold tension that can trigger radiating pain. Bodyworkers trained in trigger point therapy can release these painful spots and return the body to pain-free function.

7. Myofascial Release

Myofascial release, also sometimes called ‘deep tissue’ is another modality of bodywork. Like trigger point therapy, it is easily defined by its own name; ‘myo’ means muscle and ‘fascia’ refers to connective tissue. This therapy focuses on specific work treating muscle and connective tissues to relieve pain, improve flexibility, and increase joint mobility. Though this modality is often seamlessly woven into a Swedish massage, it is a modality unto itself.

hand massage therapy

What Words Do You Want Defined?

Are we missing any important words on our list? What buzzwords have you heard that would help clarify your treatment or help you become a better massage therapist? Make sure to let us know in the comments below!


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San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork

School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
Student Clinic
– Located at the School Campus
475 Valencia Street – 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103